Getting Unstuck (How to Make the Right Decision)

Several years ago, my son and I had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory restaurant in San Diego. It’s a great restaurant, but it takes me forever to decide on a meal because it has a 20-page menu – and everything is good.

This particular night, Tim picked up the menu, glanced at the first page for about ten seconds, and put it back on the table.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Nothing. I’ve already decided what I want.”

“But you’ve only looked at one page,” I countered.

“Right. I’ve learned to just read through the menu from the beginning until I find something that looks good, and that’s what I get. The next time we come here, I’ll start from that place in the menu and move forward and do it again.”

I think that’s a healthy way to live.

Have you ever been “stuck” in a tough decision, and you couldn’t figure out what to do? It could be anything from selecting a project team, to considering a new job, to buying a new car to moving to a new house.

Or it could be as simple as deciding what to order for dinner.

  • There’s more than one option, and there are advantages and disadvantages to each one.
  • You’re afraid that if you make the wrong choice, you’ll regret it later.
  • You’ve asked others for advice, and everyone tells you something different.
  • You’re worried what others will think if you make either choice.

Somebody called it “paralysis by analysis.” It’s when you don’t want to make a mistake, so you don’t make a decision.

The fear of regret keeps you from moving forward, so you get stuck in neutral.

If one choice has an outcome that’s obviously better than the other, it’s a no-brainer. But what should you do when both options would be OK?

  • You study both sides.
  • You consider what you’ll gain from making either choice.
  • You consider what you’ll lose from making either choice.
  • You take a walk to clear your head.
  • If the options are still about equal, you follow a simple principle:

Don’t worry about making the right decision.

Make a decision, then make it right.

Once you make the choice, don’t look back.

Sure, you’ll miss the benefits of the other choice. But once the decision is final, it frees you to put 100% of your energy into making that decision the best choice.

It’s time to put down the menu and enjoy the meal.

Senior Consultant at FranklinCovey; Speaker, Author of 5 books – including “People Can’t Drive You Crazy If You Don’t Give Them the Keys,” “I Wish He Had Come With Instructions,” and “Dealing With the Elephant in the Room.” (See Book page)

  • T

    I understand paralysis by analysis. My DH remarks on it lovingly about me from time to time. There’s also “act in haste, repent in leisure.” It’s the balancing act that can be tricky. Choosing your own lunch, affects you, choosing a couch affects the household. Emergency surgery v elective surgery is going to be at different response times, obviously or I hope. So while on the one hand, I think you’re right about making decisions and moving forward (avoiding unnecessary procrastination) that doesn’t mean one should take the first one that pops up in someone’s head and devote thousands of hours researching and justifying a costly, foolish, and unworkable plan, when a much better idea would have presented itself with a little forethought. I see too much of the “forcing forward bad ideas” lately, but maybe they lack the time to think on the important things, because they’re too busy reading the menu.

    • Thanks for your thoughts. Interesting points. I’m sure it depends on what the issue is . . . and I agree that it’s easy to rush to an inappropriate decision. I guess some people need to make decisions quicker, and others need to make decisions slower!