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Results or Regrets: Break Through Indecision and Procrastination Barriers

by Gary Horsman

Once I make up my mind, I'm full of indecision. ~ Oscar Levant

We all find ourselves procrastinating at times or we find that we are struggling with a key decision. To procrastinate or delay due to being indecisive limits what we can (and do) accomplish.

Here is some advice to break down the barriers related to indecision.

Do Not Fear Failure

Fear of failure can be debilitating. This fear is the root of much indecision. Moreover, it can get worse as you get older. As you gain experience you feel that people expect you not to fail. You have to protect your reputation and NOT FAIL! A kid building a startup can be wrong, fail, and feel no shame: "I'm a kid. what do you expect?" Not so for someone with an established reputation to protect. This fear of shame is destructive. It is also useless. Let it go.

Trust Your Instincts

Malcolm Gladwell argues in his book Blink that to mistrust emotion-driven decisions can be dangerous. What you refer to as "your gut" is actually a wealth of knowledge marbled with empirically validated facts that you may not be cognitively at the forefront but that are none-the-less within you. Sometimes you just know and you don't know why you know. Learn to trust these valuable instincts.

Eliminate Things (anything eliminated is a decision)

People can over think things when they have too many choices. In my family we had a riddle that we called the children's riddle. It was called the children's riddle because children tended to get the answer but adults rarely got it.

Here is the riddle.

What's greater than God and more evil than the devil? The rich want it, the poor have it and if you eat it you die.

Adults looked at the riddle, in its entirety, and struggled. Children broke the riddle down into the individual pieces and then answered each simpler question to gain the full answer. Be careful not to make your list of options too long. It could become unwieldy. If you can eliminate options then you are making progress. Answer to the riddle at the bottom of the article.

Choose the High Road

I am a Woodstock Rotarian and if is always helpful to look over the 4-Way Test when in need of a critical decision. This simple yet effective test has been translated into more than 100 languages. It works!

The test is as follows:

  • Is it the truth?
  • Is it fair to all concerned?
  • Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
  • Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

Never take the lower path.

Accept the Limits of Analysis

Data-wielding sports scouts draft college players who fail to make the cut. It is not because they lacked data. Avoid paralysis by analysis. Act, examine your results, make adjustments, and move on. This approach, by the way, is gaining serious traction in the world of technology.

Flip A Coin

"When you have to make a choice and don't make it, that is in itself a choice." The eminent psychologist / philosopher William James said this, and he was dead-right. If you feel like a hung jury that's taken 18 successive votes and is still deadlocked, use a coin to break your psychic logjam.

Remember: Indecision is all about avoiding:

1) The choice between two negative alternatives, one of which has to be adopted, or

2) The choice between two fairly equal courses of action. In both cases, the solution may well be heads or tails.

  • The answer to the riddle is: Nothing!
    • What's greater than God: Nothing
    • More evil than the devil: Nothing
    • The Rich want it: Nothing (debatable)
    • The poor have it: Nothing (also debatable)
    • If you eat it you die: If you eat nothing you die


  • Gary Horsman is a member of the Rotary Club of Woodstock, Vermont.
  • The opinions expressed in this Make-up article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Rotary eClub One and its editorial staff

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