“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”
From The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1951) by William Hutchison Murray
If you want to make the most of your life, you have to be decisive. The opposite of decisiveness is not carefulness. It is hesitancy. If you dwell in hesitancy, you’ll never know what you want or what you need to do. Hesitancy sucks your time and energy, your most important assets. Instead of using them to get things done and achieve extraordinary feats, you’ll be wasting them. Hesitancy is inefficiency. It sucks the life out of you. It kills you slowly.
Overanalyzing, overthinking, and being too cautious are all manifestations of hesitancy. They are counter-productive. If you’re hesitant, you’ll never make any progress in your life. You’ll never accomplish anything significant. You’ll go with the flow and end up where life takes you. It might not be the place you want to be.
The alternative is to make firm decisions. To take your life into your own hands. Being crystal clear about what your intentions are, long term and short term. Knowing exactly what you want at every moment in your life and going after it.
Being decisive is scary. Your decisions will have consequences and you have to deal with them. You can’t come up with excuses anymore. You can’t play the blame game. You can’t be the victim and beg for sympathy. You’re vulnerable to failure. If you fail, there’s no one to blame but yourself. It requires a lot of courage. It might be out of your comfort zone. It might require willpower to follow up. You might risk public humiliation. Are you ready to face all the consequences and to deal with them?
Flex Your Decision Muscle
Decisiveness is a mental muscle like courage and willpower. The more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. Like any muscle, start exercising it with appropriate weights. Start with your everyday life. You can’t decide whether to wear causal or formal? You don’t know if you want to go to a cinema or a cafe? You can’t decide whether to eat Asian or Italian for dinner? Make a decision right then and there. If you don’t know, toss a coin. Then move on to heavier weights and flex your mental muscles on harder decisions.
Just Toss a Coin
If you find a decision really hard, that means there isn’t much difference in both options. In that case, just toss a coin to decide on one option and follow up on that decision. That is way more productive than wallowing in hesitancy.
Be Decisive at Work
Sometimes, we have several tasks at work and don’t know which one to start with. We start with one, dabble on it a little, and move on to the next one. We switch back and forth between tasks without actually completing any one of them. That’s a great opportunity to flex our decision muscles. Just pick one of the tasks and do not move on to another task before completing it. This can be painful if you don’t know how to tackle it, but stay with it. When you do that, the solutions appear right in front of you and you find a way to get it done.
Be Decisive in Life
“It would be nice if I lost some weight.” Convert that into a firm decision. “I am going to lose 50 pounds within a year.” “It would be nice if I made more money.” That becomes “I am going to increase my income by 20% within a year.” Set goals and make them crystal clear, so that when the deadline arrives, there’s no doubt whether you’ve achieved them or not.
Don’t worry if your decision muscle is weak now. Start with small decisions and work your way up to harder ones. If you lack motivation, think about what’s worse? Making a firm decision, failing, and growing as a result or wallowing in hesitancy, waking up in your deathbed one day, and realizing that you’ve wasted your life?
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.