Considerable Commonsense No. 9

Making decisions decisively – Part Three

It seems that one of the critical aspects of making decisions is that we make them. If we avoid letting others make them for us or allow circumstances to overtake us, then we have to face up to the need to make decisions.

We need to recognise the tendencies of avoidance and “paralysis by analysis”. The stories of this in my own experience are less interesting than your own. As you try to recall them, you may detect the emergence of regret. This regret sometimes hides in the “forest of complexity”. I want to suggest that this “forest” is of our own making.

Let me start by remembering what a friend of mine used to say to his anxious wife when on a car-trip, “Of course I am not lost! I know exactly where I am … I am here”.

While this clearly describes “avoidance”, it also is a somewhat defiant declaration in the face of the obvious. I think this is a helpful way to face up to complexity. It suggests that, over and above whatever else may be happening, the best place to start is where you are.

Let’s address this in another way. Sometimes we are indecisive because there are many complexities ahead of us and we feel intimidated. It is always worthwhile to put in the effort to look deeply into what may lie ahead, but resist trying to understand every possibility and all of the processes that lie ahead.

I wonder when the last time you planted a seed was. Maybe it was with your children, in wet cotton-wool. Perhaps it was yesterday in your garden. In any event, you did something that involves complexities and processes few of us comprehend. For instance, I am amazed that some seeds need only water to germinate, form the first root and produce the first two or three leaves – the seed contains all the energy to do all this.

How this happens, I do not pretend to know. What is clear, is that I understand it needs me to plant it and add water. I watch it happening without understanding all of what is going on. Is not making decisions a lot like this?

We have the opportunity to understand what we need to achieve and then we can commit to a complex future and many processes that we do not need to understand and work towards the hoped-for outcome.

Plan by all means. Over-elaborate at your peril. The moment things start to become too complicated, remember to simplify. The critical discussions leading to decisive action need to centre on the simple clarity of what you have to do to accomplish the desired outcome.  Many of these are not the product of elaborate planning and vast knowledge, just considerable common sense.

Pip Masterson

About the Author: