Give Me The Fish (GMTF): Knowing how to stop being indecisive is an important step to taking control of your life. We all face decisions and most of them don’t matter as much as we think. So, by creating a system that makes a default choice for us, we not only stop wasting time and limit our stress, but we give ourselves a plan to adjust off of. When you haven’t moved down any path in life due to indecision, anything you do equates to forward progress.
All Of These “How To Stop Being Indecisive” Articles Suck
There are so many articles about how to stop being indecisive, but honestly, they all suck.
They suck to the point of being comical. They offer these non-tangible solutions that are hard to grasp. And, they almost always advise people to “fully analyze” their current situation to make a better-informed decision.
Assuming you’re intelligent, what a waste of time.
Of course, you’ve done that. If you hadn’t already fully analyzed the situation, you wouldn’t be looking for a straightforward way to make a hard choice.
Even worse, these articles don’t give you anything concrete. Nor do they teach you anything on actually how to stop being indecisive.
Now, I’m a big fan of philosophy, and understanding why you do things. But (anything before the but doesn’t matter), if someone is looking up how to stop being indecisive, they probably don’t need a more analytical approach to help them further understand the situation. That’s a recipe for creating more analysis paralysis.
Stop Analysis Paralysis By Simplification
Here’s the big trick:
Out of all your options, just pick one.
I know, easier said than done. But there is a way to make it as easy as it sounds.
If you are stuck between two decisions, it’s because you have already agonized over the pros and cons. Which means you have probably already thrown out the useless options and are probably stuck with only a couple of decent ones.
The answer is not further analysis. And I there is a way to combat complexity, it’s to simplify.
Maybe you need a coin toss, maybe you need to ask somebody else just to tell you, or maybe you should just decide that you will always pick the first one in the alphabet. But chances are, the choice you make either doesn’t matter as much as you think or, it’s impossible to know the outcome of either unless you jump in.
Regardless of which one it is, there is no sense in dwelling on the unknowable. Find a repeatable process that you will use for deciding for you, and make two rules.
- You will always use this rule when you are stuck.
- Once you decide you need to follow this rule, you have to pick the choice you made, unless, while following your rule, you realize that one of them is stupid.
It’s Not That Easy…Or, Is It?
Years ago when I was in the Marine Corps, my Platoon and I were deployed out in the middle of the desert somewhere, and a huge sand storm came through. The storm destroyed everything that was not tied down.
Tents, Cammie netting, and clothing went flying. And, if there were small children around they might have gone flying too.
Shortly after this happened my Platoon was told to set up a massive 100 by 100 ft piece of Cammie netting that had been torn down in the recent windstorm.
It wasn’t just one piece of Cammie netting it was multiple pieces and a lot of these pieces were shredded and torn as bad as this guy’s ACL will be in a few years.
Besides the other more official reasons for why you would want to camouflage an armory/ammo storage, we had the added incentive of wanting to be in the shade. Especially with it being 110 degrees out with 80% humidity while spending 30-60 minutes loading or unloading ammo.
First Step Is Always To Create A Plan
So there we are, after our shift, it’s midnight and the Platoon is gathered around waiting for instructions on how to put up the netting.
Well, my Platoon Sergeant and I explain the situations to the Squad Leaders, put the Platoon guide in charge, and tell them that they can set it up however they want as long as it shades the armory and the Marines under it. Preferably in a way that won’t blow down again.
So, we take a step back and we just watch the chaos unfold. And when I say chaos, I mean chicken with its head ripped off chaos.
Before you know it, the three squad leaders and Platoon Guide are arguing among themselves what the best way to put the netting up is. After arguing for 10-15 minutes, they finally come up with a decision and they start telling everyone what to do.
15 minutes later they’re putting one piece of Cammie netting up with a pole underneath, and another Marines comes out and says this is stupid and they have a better way. This guy is what is known as an “idea fairy”.
After giving a logical reason for why it should be set up a different way, they tear down what they started and start over.
So, before they even get past step one they are back at zero.
Over the next hour, the same thing occurs. Then it continues to occur with slight deviations over and over and over again.
Plans Are Meant To Be Adjusted As Long As Each Adjustment Is Forward Progress
I’m about 100 yards away leaning against a concrete barrier and working on some paperwork watching this whole thing unfold. The situation is so mind-boggling, it’s distracting and keeps pulling my attention back to the ensuing stupidity. My Platoon Sergeant and I have to physically restrain ourselves from just taking over.
I generally have a rule, where if someone is not causing anyone injury and hasn’t asked for help, I don’t intervene. It’s better for people to figure things out for themselves. Not only does it usually give better results, but they will be able to handle the situation better in the future.
But this is so painful to watch it’s hard to not just step in. And, it’s starting to seriously cut into our sleep time.
Finally, I hear the last, “let’s do this instead” from a Sergeant standing on top of a shipping container with a sandbag leaking sand by a steady stream.
And, I head into the fray and pull everyone in.
I immediately launch into a diatribe. “It’s starting to look like we all need to learn how to stop being indecisive. Who thinks spending a couple of hours setting up a piece of Cammie netting is B.S.?”
Every junior Marine raises their hand. “Me too”, I tell them
“None of this matter that much, any single plan you pick will probably work, if it doesn’t, adjust as you go. But from this point forward you’re not allowed to start a new plan, only forward progress” I look over at the Platoon Guide and ask “So, what’s your plan for setting up the netting?”
He quickly runs through what he wants to do.
“Great,” I say, “Do that”.
After that quick talk, they set up the entire Cammie netting in 45 minutes in a much better way than I could have come up with (repairs included).
In total, they had probably spent an hour-and-a-half arguing and changing their minds, only to completely start over and set the entire thing up in 45 minutes.
Why Was This Plan Better Than The Others?
This plan was no better than any other plan. Here’s the thing, if you didn’t put any thought into this at all, the first thing you would do is stick a pole underneath the middle of the netting and see how that looks. If you stopped there, the whole thing would fall.
So, the next logical conclusion is to find a way to make it stand up. What do you do from there? You tie a rope to it.
If you only tie one side, the thing will fall.
Naturally, you’ll put up another rope. Eventually, over time and with enough ropes that pole will no longer move.
The same principle applies in this situation regardless of how big the netting is, what obstacles are in the way, or any other environmental concerns that are going on.
The idea is you just need to make forward progress and make a decision.
In this case, the Sergeant had lots of solutions, but none of them equated to forward progress. He did not know how to stop being indecisive.
He failed to realize, that no plan is going to be perfect, and no plan is probably going to be followed to a T. Life is to unexpected for that.
So, Why Plan?
Plans are just starting points. They are a foundation to build and adjust off of. Without that foundation to work with, you have no origin to direct changes.
Plans give people a mental framework, not a solution, and not a key to success, just a guide. Some plans are stricter than others, but all plans can and probably will be adjusted.
Being indecisive is being stuck between multiple decisions or plans and not knowing what the correct one is. Here’s the thing, you have a reason for why you think either plan will work.
If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be being indecisive.
Enter The 70% Solution
We live in a complex and data-driven world. If you want it, you can have endless amounts of information pouring in.
The issue with the amount of data that is available is that it becomes almost addicting.
We start wanting to review every piece of information and see the problem from every viewpoint possible before we decide anything.
The problem soon becomes a drowning effect due to information overload causing a form of analysis paralysis.
The truth is, we don’t need this much information to operate. The truly successful come up with solutions for screening and limiting the non-essential information. This allows them to focus on just what is important.
In the Marine Corps, it’s called the 70% solution. This principle is taught in the numerous schools that their Officers are sent through as well as harped on in their doctrine.
The fact is, life is too complex to ever fully understand a situation. And, as you gather info, your efforts have a diminishing return. To top it off, regardless of the effort you put in there will always be unknowns.
This is the point of the 70% solution. This idea is a forcing function to stop trying to reach the impossibility of perfection and make you act.
Understanding that you only need 70% of the available information to make a decision is essential to learning how to stop being indecisive.
Even in the most ultimate tests of man vs man, decisiveness wins out time and time again over the need for more information. History books are filled with examples of why gathering too much information is more deadly than just making a decision. (see General McClellan)
So, keep it simple, don’t worry about all of the details, and focus on just what matters.
How To Stop Being Indecisive
So, if you want to learn how to stop being indecisive, all you need to do is create a method that decides for you.
The solution could be the first thing that comes to your head, or you could pick the first one in the alphabet, or pick something else, but whatever it is create your rule this exact second and know that for now on that is what you’re using.
If you are reading this with a specific scenario in mind.
First I want you to pick the legal option, then I want you to pick the one that your mom would be okay with, then if there are still choices left. Pick the first one that came to your mind and if you don’t know what that is, assign each one either a side of a coin (if it’s 2), or a number on dice and pick that one (whichever number you pick first).
Now flip your coin or roll your dice. There is no going back unless at the moment of the toss you had a second of clarity (see Blink by Malcolm Gladwell for why this exists)
Now, just like that, you have a decision.
At the end of the day, your decision doesn’t matter as much as you think, as long as they both have a plan behind them. Find your 70% solution and just pick one. All plans work, some work better than others, but as long as it equates to forward progress it’s not a bad decision because you will at least have something to build from.
So, find a plan, find a way, or find a rule that you go by that will always be a tie-breaker for you. It doesn’t have to be this elaborate thing and it doesn’t need to be complex. It just needs to work.
It should be stupid simple. Remember the only wrong decision, is no decision.