Become More Comfortable Making Bold Decisions

What happens when you are faced with a decision that requires a leap of faith?

Most of us want to fight these types of decisions and get away from them. Leaps of faith make for great scenes in a movie, but in real life they fill us with stress and uncertainty, two emotions that are not comfortable for the human brain. In fact, according to researchers, our brain actively strives to reduce uncertainty about future outcomes in order to escape those feelings of discomfort and stress.

The big, complex decisions we face are the ones that have the biggest impact on our lives and futures, and are often the decisions we are most proud of. Recently, I taught a business school class in decision making in Portugal, and I asked students to share the best decision they ever made. Over and over again, they expressed those big, complicated decisions like “Buying my first home,” “Saying a job,” “Getting a divorce,” “Living alone,” and “ Traveling alone.”

The students’ responses mirrored what I heard from corporate clients, who said their best decisions included “Taking risks and following my passion,” “Getting married,” and “Deciding my to have a son.”

If uncertainty makes us so uneasy, why do so many of us look back fondly on bold decisions? And how can we be more comfortable doing it?

To face the discomfort of a leap-of-faith decision, we can take advantage of a revealing data set we often overlook: our past decisions. Every choice we have made provides information that will inform our future decisions. When we look back at our decision-making history we can see patterns we might not otherwise notice — providing a critical perspective for understanding (and solving!) the unique and complex problems of the present and future.

To help you find your personal decision data set, I’ve developed a planning tool I call the Bold Decision Barometer (BDB). It provides a series of steps to identify and examine variables from previous decisions so you can reduce uncertainty and increase comfort as you take your next big leap of faith.

1. Identify the decision you need to make.

When we are trying to solve a serious problem, we often have to sort out a lot of conflicting information. So the first thing to do is to identify the decision you have to make.

Rhianna, the CEO of an international travel company, faced a tough call: Should she update and reorganize her board of directors — the entity she reports to and the group that could fire her? She had inherited the current board from her predecessor, and they had a great team as she was just starting out and needed a board of supportive carers. But in her first two years at the helm, Rhianna had expanded the company’s international operations, and now needed staff who could contribute to a dynamic and growing organisation, bringing skills and knowledge that the board did not have. current. On the other hand, she was concerned that recommending this to the current board could be a quick trip to forced resignation.

Of course, Rhianna had the choice to keep the board as it is, but he wouldn’t be acting on his own decision, with consequences. Assessing the implications of being cautious, rather than being bold, can help you be willing to be bold.

2. Examine your past bold decisions.

Think of a choice you made in the past when you were excited about the outcome. What decisions did you face? What actions did you take in relation to those decisions?

Rhianna reviewed her tenure and identified two bold changes she made to the organization: She removed a member of her senior leadership team, and she converted a non-profit part of the organization into a non-profit.

Looking back, Rhianna reviewed the steps she took before making each decision. In the case of the senior team manager, she had heard hints of problems and suspected they stemmed from this person’s leadership. But she knew she had to test her assumptions against evidence, so she conducted a financial review of the manager’s unit and spoke with key lieutenants under her supervision. When it came to deciding on a change of business unit, Rhianna recognized that she did not have the experience she needed with non-profits. So she met with fundraisers, lawyers, and other experts to educate herself about it.

3. Ask yourself what characteristics or similarities are shared between the bold decision you are considering and the decisions you have made in the past.

By looking for similarities we can find patterns that give a sense of order to things that might otherwise be unique or chaotic. Additionally, by identifying and understanding recurring commonalities, we are better able to make educated guesses or assumptions that allow us to form hypotheses. Not only does this help us develop our critical thinking and problem solving skills, it provides information that strengthens our confidence to do something new or bold.

Rhianna noted that she reached out to people with expertise in both of her previous decisions. She also realized that she had spent time imagining the possibilities of what the organization would look like after making bold decisions. For example, she envisioned how the change to her senior leadership team might introduce some short-term volatility, but in the long-term it would demonstrate her commitment to improving the organization’s culture. Finally, she recognized that in both of her previous decisions she was willing to incur some personal and professional instability in exchange for the long-term benefit of all.

4. Consider whether there are characteristics of your bold decisions in the past that may hinder your ability to get a good result from your current decision.

When we’re happy with a bold decision we’ve made, we can often look back on the process with rose-colored glasses. But it is worth looking again at the missteps or the unintended consequences that you may have done to help you understand what could go wrong and prevent those risks from occurring.

Revisiting her previous decisions, Rhianna realized that although she consulted with other senior leaders, there were lower level staff who would find it easier to adapt to the big changes which she did if she had consulted them or informed them earlier. For example, when she fired the senior manager, she assumed that the three managers working under her could easily take over her role. But he didn’t have the experience or comfort with his responsibilities to make a smooth transition. Rhianna recognized that, although she could see the results of her bold decisions, others may have felt — or even were — left in the dark.

5. Apply the lessons from your previous data to your current decision.

By recognizing what worked well in previous tough decisions and what didn’t, you can “learn as you go,” putting your past to work for you. Of course, examining the past can’t guarantee success, but it can remind you when, why, and how you made courageous choices—and prevent you from making mistakes. again.

Examining her previous decisions, Rhianna realized that she needed to spend some time imagining what the organization would look like if she could reorganize the board and what steps she would have to take. to guide the board through the process in a collaborative manner. She reminded herself that she was comfortable absorbing some short-term instability for longer-term change, but she knew that she needed to carefully and thoroughly consider who else she should consult with or bring to the table. information about the potential change, and how the interim instability would affect others. within the organization.

Rhianna made the bold decision to make the case that there was a need to change the existing board to better meet the current needs of the organisation. She said she wanted to hire an outside consulting firm to review the board and make recommendations regarding the professional development of members. Although the board realized that the organization was growing and that Rhianna had made some major staff changes, her presentation highlighted the need for a different kind of leadership from the board. Operations had become more complex, and critical specialist knowledge and experience from board members would further the organization. After Rhianna made her case, the board eagerly agreed to her plans.

. . .

For most of us, a big, heavy decision can be scary, but it can also be exciting. We all want to be the captain of our own ship, and making big decisions with confidence allows us to do this. By using a Bold Decision Barometer, we can learn from the data in our previous decisions. While this can’t guarantee we’ll make a good decision, it can give us questions to think about that will alleviate some of the risk and uncertainty we feel about making leap-of-faith decisions so we can make them anyway .

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