Stop Second Guessing & Start Making decisions

Stop Second Guessing & Start Making decisions

Welcome to the ReloWomen Podcast Episode 43.  This week we are talking about second guessing ourselves.  Did you know it can be a good thing?  Sure…It can also lead down a rabbit trail to nowhere.

When we make decisions we want to be careful.  We want to make good decisions.  We want to be seen as being thoughtful and our decisions well thought out.  Whether we are on a PTA committee, on a project or choose whether or not to let our kids go for a sleep over, we want to make the right decision.

To do this we take a look at all the information we have as well as forecast or take educated guesses as to what could happen with each set of variables.  By taking time, seeing and forecasting we can then make good decision based on what we know and can reasonably predict as humans of a certain age.

Making good decisions assumes that decisions are being made. 

When we get caught up in the process BEFORE  the decision is actually made…well that is when things can go haywire.

When we get caught up in the process we keep asking or seeking additional information.  We tell people that we are not ready to make a decision.  We delay and delay and delay all under the guise of not the right time or that we need to know more…many times to the confusion of those around us.

When we do this we are second guessing.  We are actively delaying decision making, kind of like Scarlet in Gone with the wind“I will think about that tomorrow.”  But tomorrow doesn’t quite ever get here.

Merriam Webster defines second-guessing two ways:

The first definition is to criticize or question actions or decisions of (someone) often after the results of those actions or decisions are known

The second definition is to seek to anticipate or predict

Both of these activities can be effective and even desired in good decision making, but when we use both at the same time and use one to delay the other…well that’s when second guess becomes a stall technique and is no longer helpful.

So why do we second guess to a fault…to our or our project’s detriment?

Perhaps we fear being judged as a bad parent.  Perhaps we are afraid our decision will hurt someone else.  Perhaps a fail will cause us to be demoted or fired.  

When our decision has potential consequences, consequences we are not in full control over.  Consequences that could change our life or the lives of others, and not for the positive our knee jerk reaction, the one we don’t initially control can be to delay.

And that delay looks like requests for more information, time to research and “what if-ing” and potential issues to death.

Though we may be delaying here, though we may be judged for not making a decision, though a project may be delayed and such the benefit to all of this is that we are safe.  It may be uncomfortable, but the current situation is known and we are physically safe.  

You hear me talk about this a lot on the podcast, our human brains and how its number one priority is to keep us safe and alive.  Remember new equals danger so, if it keeps us in the current situation, we are alive and safe.

The brain is successfully doing what it is designed to do.

If you are smack dab in of second guess delay, congratulations, your brain is working just as it should.  This is normal.

I can hear you now “But this isn’t what I want!?!?  I am stuck second guessing! I thought this podcast was going to help me out of this!!”

And I will, but we can’t step off of anything with really seeing where we are right now.  Awareness creates a solid step to push off from.  Anything less is sinking sand and has a high fail rate of change.

So here we are Second guessing, you may call it ruminating or spinning ~ all the while with a brain functioning just as it should and keeping us safe. 

There is a decision to be made and we are invested in making what we consider to be a good decision.

The first things we need to do from here is to recognize how we are being held back.  In the 3 perhaps statement above, what was the driving emotion?

Perhaps we fear being judged as a bad parent.  Perhaps we are afraid our decision will hurt someone else.  Perhaps a fail will cause us to be demoted or fired.  

That’s right fear.  Some version of fear typically drives second guessing and even continues to feed it.  Have you ever been in the middle of trying to GET YOURSELF to make a decision and can’t quite make it happen?  The reason you and I can’t cross that finish line is because of fear and all of our actions driven from that.

Think about it.  If I keep repeating to myself, “don’t screw this up…don’t screw this up” what do you see that I am concentrated on?  Yes screwing it up.

I heard a story years ago about the southwest desert and how along the highway the electrical or telephone poles are placed about 100 or so yards apart.  Year after year did cars crash into the desert or into a pole?  That’s right into a pole.  There was far more desert than pole statistically and yet the poles were hit far more often.

Can you imagine getting sleepy on the monotonous highway and be thinking don’t hit the pole, don’t hit the pole.  What is hit?  The pole.

It is the same in decision making.

If we concentrate on not making a bad decision, chances are we will never make a decision and we most definitely won’t make any decision from that place.

In order to make a decision we have to be in a different mindset or emotion.  Stepping out of fear and second guessing and creating another mindset or emotion is imperative to make a strong well thought out decision.  And we all want to do that.

Now I am NOT talking about an exercise in positive thinking.  Though what you may choose may be positive it also must be believable.  To who?  You!  Otherwise your brain will double down on how impossible all of this is.  And yes give more fuel to extend the second guessing fire.

To make this as easy as possible on us let’s work it backwards.  Sometimes that is the best way for me to figure out how to shift out of a spin cycle.

Consider you are on the otherside.  A strong decision has been made.  You don’t know the outcome yet, but the decision has been made.  How did you have to feel in order to decide?  Think about a one emotion. Just one.  What emotion would be pulsing through your body that would make deciding easier, perhaps not super comfortable but still willing.

Your emotion might be willingness, confidence, openness, comfortable, capable

I love that one capable – I use that one especially when I don’t have the level of information I like.  I remember that I am capable and making decisions from that place isn’t so scary.

Now with your emotion word in mind.  What would you have to truly think about yourself, the situation or the prospects to actually feel that way?  The thing about this question is that it directs our brain to come up with all the potential answers.  Our brains thrive on direction.  As thoughts come to mind test them out against the feeling.

Does thinking “I am able to make good decisions” drive confidence?  Does “I have pulled together everything available to make this decision” drive being willing or open to see how this turns out.  Does “I have a good track record making decisions like this” drive capable?

When you test out the thoughts that come to mind, the believable ones will drive distinct emotions.  It is almost like it “rings true” if you will.  You will know it when the test is a success.

The bonus to landing in this place with a thought and positive emotion that drives decision making is that we also see more about the circumstances and potential outcomes.  When we are calm, open and perhaps confident…when w are not fighting ourselves and the fact that we can’t make a decision, we are in a place where decision making becomes clearer and easier.

This is the place where we can trust ourselves and practice new ideas.

The last concept I will leave you with is in the vain of practicing new ideas.  Sometimes effective decision making requires well, decision making.  When we are out of practice it can seem too big to take on.  But through practice we get better at decision making.

To practice consider that what is learned on the backend or through the results of the decision is data.  The act of making the decision creates additional data for us from which to refine future decisions.  AND by making this decision, we will make even better decisions in the future.  What emotion comes up with that thought?  Curiosity maybe.

So if we step out and try something (make a decision) and we fail, what I want you to remember is that this becomes a learning.  This experience of trying and failing becomes a refinement tool for future decision making.

I love the Walt Disney “keep moving forward” quote in the movie Meet the Robinsons.  At one point one of the characters is sharing how valuable failure is to any project.  She says…

“Through failure we learn.  Through success”  and she pauses. “not so much”.

I want you to remember that as you dare to move off of second guess yourself and the situation and into a place where you are willing to make a decision, a strong decision right where you are.  Because from making decisions we step into the believe that life can be different and we have the power to create it our own way.


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