Several years ago, when my girls competed in cheer and gymnastics, my side hustle was coaching their sports. Now let me be perfectly clear, I'm not an expert in either of these sports, so I spent a lot of time working side-by-side with seasoned professionals, soaking up all the wisdom they could impart.
The physical training for these sports is incredible. Strength and endurance are required, so every practice included conditioning. Often we used stations so that each individual worked at her own pace. Each athlete chose to complete the whole set or cheat by reducing the number of repetitions. As coaches, we decided not to micro-manage this. Instead, we always remind the girls of this simple truth.
If you cheat on your reps, you are only cheating yourself and your ability to achieve your scoring goals at the next meet.
Today, I'm putting on my coaching hat and sharing a similar message with you.
When you need to make a decision and commit to an action, not making a decision is a decision to keep the current state, and you're cheating yourself if you pretend otherwise.
Inaction is a choice, and frequently it's the wrong one. Why? Because it is a passive acceptance in which active options such as the following are ignored.
Decision fatigue is legitimate. It is best to avoid important decisions when we are not thinking clearly. It is also different from the avoidance behavior resulting from fear that allows indecision on little things to grow into more significant problems.
Can you relate to any of these examples of fear-driven avoidance?
The next time you face a decision, and the thought of it makes you tired, be sure to ask yourself why you are feeling this way. If you don't have the energy to deal with it, put it on the top of the list for the next day. However, feeling dread or avoidance is a symptom of fear.
So, how do we combat our tendency to default to passive indecision when we're uncomfortable. The simple answer is to shift from feeling pressured to make a change to actively seeking more information. This response de-escalates our fear response and sets aside our default assumptions and judgments in favor of learning.
Looking at the examples above, consider this.
Instead of "confronting" your employee about their inadequate performance, ask questions to assess gaps in skills or knowledge before deciding what to do.
Instead of telling your customer, inquire about the impact of changing the deadline and whether it negatively impacts them.
As in the third example, sometimes you have to swallow your pride, face your fear, and own it. However, as the above examples show, often it is helpful to choose curiosity over decision avoidance.
Remember, when we avoid because of fear, we get a short-term respite followed by a more significant problem down the road. Your future self will thank you for avoiding the trap of passive indecision.