Should we hire her? When should we release the product? Should we serve bagels for the staff? How can we get better numbers from accounting? Should we advertise? Should I tweet this? Should I call a meeting? How should I respond to this customer?
Decision making can be frustrating and exhausting. It also can be incredibly consequential for you and all those affected.
The past is an imperfect predictor of the future. There is never enough information to choose perfectly.
How do you make the right decision? How do you avoid getting stuck, frozen, unable to act?Click to tweet
1. Fail early, fail often
Inaction happens when you are afraid to make a mistake. Learning any skill is about “failing.” A child learns to walk by falling, adjusting, and trying again.
As a business owner, you wear many hats, and you must continually learn new skills. Like the child, you must pick yourself up again and again, adjusting, making use of outer feedback and your inner compass. Through this natural learning process, you become adroit in your decision-making about sales, accounting, hiring, firing, running meetings, and so on.
2. Take the next action
If you can’t decide the direction, there is a good chance you can at least take a next step. Say, you aren’t sure whether you can afford to hire a new staff. You could start by spec’ing the job. Say, you don’t know whether to serve bagels at a meeting? You can ask the next person you see. Getting some momentum is often all you need for clarity.
3. Use the swiss cheese method
Perhaps, you have a major decision, and you feel overwhelmed. The key in the swiss cheese method is the same as taking the next action — just start.
When should you release the product? Nibble here, nibble there. You might, for example, identify your sign-off team; start a cost-benefit list; make an appointment with your most trusted customer. Pretty soon making the decision doesn’t seem so overwhelming.
4. Witness the mind as it spins
If you are an entrepreneur, you have an active, creative mind. That’s great until the mind starts spinning. If the mind had the answer, it would tell you. Confusion from so many unknowns can cause indecisiveness.
Step back. Recognize that the mind is searching for answers it doesn’t have. Innocently witness and let go of identifying with the spinning mind to create space for finding the answer.
When you don’t have the answer, the tendency is to blame yourself. ‘I should know what to do. What’s wrong with me?’ As with the spinning mind, simply recognize, don’t mind, and let go of disapproval thinking. The answer becomes more possible.
6. Do something else
If you don’t know what to do, take a walk; take a friend to lunch; take a bath. Disengage. Give the spinning mind a rest. Allow the answers to come.
7. Reframe the problem
Often a problem can be solved by looking at it from a different perspective. Deciding whether to fire a person can bring up lots of concerns. Will the company be better off? How will the person take it? How can I look the person in the face and tell them? How will it affect overall morale?
Suppose, instead of focusing on the actual firing and its effects, you look at the company’s vision. Does keeping the person align with the vision?
Part of the stated vision for my publishing company was always to do what we knew to be right. After agonizing, I fired an excellent, key employee, who had the habit of obtaining passwords and reading others’ email.
8. Talk or write
Extroverts find solutions by talking things out. Introverts think things out by writing. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle and should try both.
Talk to colleagues. Talk to people who know nothing about your business and explain the problem.
Just start writing, outlining, or mind-mapping. Whatever comes up, keep going.
Thinking becomes more concrete by speaking and writing, that often takes you to solutions.
9. Bring in a second element
I am writing a chapter for my book, The Meditating Entrepreneurs, about Ed Malloy, the mayor of Fairfield, Iowa. When he took office in 2001, there was a lack of mutual understanding between the meditating and native Fairfield communities.
Rather than deal with the problems at their own level, Ed formed a team consisting of half meditators and half Fairfield natives. He tasked them to create a 10-year plan for Fairfield that included a vision for Fairfield along with goals to achieve the vision. The team divided each goal into specific objectives. The team then approached individuals and organizations in Fairfield that resonated with the specific objectives to take charge. In just a few years the divisions disappeared, and shared pride permeated the city. You can’t solve the problem of darkness in the darkness. Rather, bring in the light.
10. “Established in Being, Perform Action”
Arjuna, the hero and mighty warrior of the Bhagavad Gita, faced an impossible dilemma. It was his duty to defend society and fight on the side of good. Yet, many of his friends and family were on the opposing side.
Not wanting to kill these people, Arjuna remained in a state of inaction. He turned to Lord Krishna for advice.
In his translation, Maharishi points to Chapter 2, Verses 45 and 48, as the essence of the epic and life. “Established in being, perform action.” That is, the most powerful and effective action comes from a state of equanimity, a state where you are not attached to the results.
From that state of silence, of harmony with the cosmic mind, you know what to do. Transcendental Meditation is a technique that establishes Beingness in conscious awareness from which we can make better business decisions. From his state of Beingness, Arjuna chose to take up the fight on the side of good.