A couple weeks ago I ended up in a tough situation as a coach. I was supporting the team at a local race and soon after arriving the skies opened up— pouring down hard rain, with no end in sight.
The swim was soon canceled, turning the “triathlon” into a bike/run race. As I huddled under our tent with the athletes, I could literally feel the uncertainty filling the air. When they opened up the transition area to allow for people who were choosing to not race grab their stuff, I was approached by many of my athletes wanting to know how big the risk was to ride in the rain. I had to tell them that it isn’t as safe, but it is also doable. I had to let them make the best decision that honored their own need for personal safety and fulfillment for their day.
I had to force them to make a tough decision— and quickly. Most of them chose to head home. A few of them stayed and raced. Thankfully, they all ended up staying safe. And my hope is that they all were also able to believe that although it was a tough decision to make, it was the best one for them. (And after checking in with most of them they remain happy with their choices).
Tough decisions are so hard to make. Sometimes we drag our feet with minds clouded with fear and uncertainty. Other times we sincerely want to have both, or be in two places at one time. Some of us need comfort in statistics, or in the idea that there is a “right” or “wrong” answer to decide. Others truly don’t want any of the options. Many of us might, or might not want the immediate consequences, but do, or don’t, desire the long term effects.
I knew that day that I couldn’t give the “right” answer for any of the athletes. I wasn’t able to offer up sound decision advice in the form of several experiences or safety stats. I informed them of what I knew about riding in the rain and then let them decide for themselves.
Life is full of choices. Some of them are definitely not as simple as walking away from a triathlon, but are life altering tough. And others, like deciding on patio furniture, (one of my extra long choices years ago) are blown out of proportion. Big decisions can definitely wear us down. But small decisions can too if we don’t make them. (Not making a decision IS a decision!)
We can greatly benefit in all aspects of life from learning how to make decisions quicker and more confidently. So if you are someone who “can’t make a decision to save their life,” or a self-proclaimed “bad decision maker,” check out these few tips to help you free up some brain power to connect to others and your experiences, rather than spend too much time mauling over things in your own mind.
Get to Know Yourself Better
Of course, my top tip. If you know yourself well when you are stuck between possibilities, you can think about what you really want. Learn, know, and understand your core values, your overarching “why,” and how your choice can honor these.
At the race, each of my athletes knew why they showed up that day— and none of them were there to practice bike handling in the rain. They had to decide if the risk versus reward was worth it for them on that day. If they were going to enter a realm of more uncertainty than they planned on, they had to know WHY.
Don’t Do What You “Should” Do
Once you identify what you really want, you’ll need to quiet the voices in your head—or of skeptical people in your life—that tell you that you should want something else.
That day at the race, everyone had to align with what they needed at the moment, not the preconceived ideas of who they are and therefor how they “should” react, or the choice they “should” make. If your gut is telling you that it doesn’t feel safe, but you know that everyone considers you the person who will “tough out anything,” it may be harder to walk away. Always keep in mind that you know you the best. You can trust you. And you will be the one dealing with the consequences of your decision.
So, if you’re feeling pressured into making the decision that looks good, or makes other people more comfortable than you, step back and examine your reasoning. If you can’t come up with a good answer, you know it’s not for you.
But Do Something!
Do not stay paralyzed by your inability to make the “best” choice. Practice being decisive by making small decisions. Don’t spend the whole day deciding when you will exercise. Decide and follow through at that time (if you know me you know I recommend first thing in the morning, but I also believe some people can train just fine in the evening too). Don’t spend more time scrolling through Netflix than watching that half-hour show, or keep telling the waiter that you still need more time before you decide what you’d like to order. Set time parameters (like 30 seconds), decide, and stick with it.
Does this give you anxiety? Ask yourself what the worst-case scenario is if you pick wrong. If you choose a movie that isn’t great, you can turn it off or choose a different movie the next time. If you don’t like your food, have something different at the next meal. My athletes who left might suffer in some regret, but they can likely sign up for another race. Making small decisions in a timely fashion will help train your brain to think through questions more quickly. When you delay making a decision because you’re afraid of making the wrong, nothing changes (and you keep being distracted by the need to make the decision). When you’re proactive, you’re choosing to move ahead—and that’s one of the best decisions you can make.
Make tough choices. It will help build self-trust that will permeate all of your life and give you the greatest gift of all— being good with being you.