by Jenna Kutcher
I haven’t always been super decisive, in fact, in the past I would categorize myself as a wishy-washy human being who was more of a people pleaser than a certainty queen. Can you relate with that? You want to make everyone happy and you kind of just keep to yourself and let others make decisions in life like where to eat for dinner or what movie to watch. I used to be like that, too. Now Drew would probably argue that I’m a little TOO decisive, but I know what I want and now I don’t really waiver or question my decision.
Making fast decisions and being a very decisive person has gotten me really far in life. I want to walk you through how I became a better decision maker, the things I ask myself when making big decisions, and how you can implement a few simple steps to become better at making decisions, sticking to them, and not doubting what you decide. This one skill has saved me hours of deliberation, seasons of questioning, and it’s given me the clarity to say my best YESes!
Three Steps for Better Decisions
I believe making decisions ALL starts with being REALLY clear on where I am heading. I know what I want for my life, I know what I want my year to look like, I know what will move me forward (and what would take me away from that goal) and so it all begins with knowing where you want to go. When you can set up a really clear benchmark that you are chasing down, it’s easy to put a ruler up to a decision and deem it a clear “yes.”
I want to grow the podcast and it’s reach while maintaining a high quality of content and to make it the BEST free resource for creative entrepreneurs, specifically women. I want to serve my students and make my online courses the best out there with updated and current content that leads to big results. I want to put my family first and make sure that I am home, present, and able to be a part of the big moments and milestones.
When I get faced with a decision to make, I measure it against those three big goals for next year. Will this support my goals for keeping the podcast a top resource and allow me to create free content? Will this help me create better courses and serve my students in a new way? Will this decision help or hurt my desire to put family first and to show up for them in new ways? When I know what my best year looks like, it’s easy to decipher if opportunities are worth taking or saying “no” to. When I ask those questions to see if a decision is aligned with my three main goals for 2019, it helps me to really see if it’s a worthy yes or if it needs a “no.”
Now let me tell you: I get a lot of offers disguised in shiny wrapping paper. I get a lot of things that sound too good to be true or opportunities that make me feel FOMO even before I say no. I get pitched campaigns, workshops, opportunities to keynote in places I’ve dreamed of going but I’ve also learned from a lot of experience that those opportunities are usually growing someone else’s business or brand and not really supporting the vision I have for where I want to go.
Step One: Get really clear on your big picture
How do you want to feel each day? What do you plan to accomplish? What is the vision you have for your life? The more specific you can be here, the better off you’ll be. Close your eyes and visualize the perfect day, week, or month and think of the things it includes and what it definitely doesn’t include. How do you want to feel each day? What do you want to accomplish? What would be the end result for you of a successful, fulfilled day? I love to think about this often because how we spend our days is ultimately how we spend our lives.
For example, If I visualize myself at home, waking up with my family, and enjoying pancakes at the breakfast table with Drew and our baby, would I commit to a trip that would take me to a random location where I have to spend days in a hotel or at airports? No. Even if it was shiny and offered money, what would the cost be of saying “yes” and is it worth it? As I’ve grown my business and my vision’s gotten clearer, it’s helped me to really protect my best yes-es because even if there’s a paycheck involved, I know the cost of being away might not be worth it to me (I also know what I can accomplish in a day that might otherwise be spent in an airport). I would rather bet on myself and my vision than someone else’s.
Step Two: Create a list
You need to have an actual list of what you will commit to and what you will turn down. When I set actual and clear boundaries and put them down in writing it really made me firm in the ability to turn things down and know what the best yes-es were. Take a piece of paper, divide it down the middle and have a YES side and a NO side. Think of the past 6 months: what did you commit to that excited you, that moved you closer to that bigger vision and then think about the things that you said “yes” to that you dreaded, that sucked your energy, that held you back or distracted you from the bigger work?
I call all of this my “gut game.” I know in my gut if something is a good fit or a bad one right off the bat! I’ve had to silence a lot of the entrepreneurial noise over the years to really tune into my gut and it’s helped me to create a very clear list of what is in the “yes” category and what remains in the “no.” For example, as a wedding photographer, when I committed to weddings past daylight savings time, I always dreaded them because the sun set super early, the days were really long, and in order to create the work I wanted to create, I had to change up how I scheduled everything. Since I realized I dreaded them, I made a quick rule that I wouldn’t take ANY weddings between daylights savings time… Yes, I took about 6 months off each year from shooting when I was solely a wedding photographer.
More recently, as I prepared for maternity leave, I decided that I wanted to take a year off of the speaking circuit so that I could travel less and be home more with our baby and so I made a decision early in 2018 that I wouldn’t be accepting any speaking opportunities for the year of 2019 unless they were my DREAM stages and my family could come with me. Making a really hard rule that we would turn down these “opportunities” made it a lot easier for my team to say “no” so that I wouldn’t be tempted to say yes to things that maybe sounded shiny but didn’t actually move me to my dream.
Because I’ve gotten so in tune with my gut game, it’s been easier to make decisions but in case you’re still not in tune with what is the right move for you, the next step is.
Step Three: Decide and Move On
One of the biggest things that holds entrepreneurs back is that people become so paralyzed with a decision that they just don’t make one. They put it off and sit on it for too long because they aren’t sure which is the best response. If you follow steps one and two of knowing your bigger vision and why and you’ve created a clear list of what you will say yes to or no too, then you should already be on your way to knowing what decision is the best for you.
If you need more help reaching your decision, make a list of pros and cons. I tend to just do this in my head quickly and can see which way the scale is tipping but if you actually need to write things out for you to really think through them, DO IT. The biggest thing is to get closer to seeing which way is going to be right for you.
Once you make a decision, I want for you to stick with it and have confidence in it. If it’s not a “hell yes” then it shouldn’t be a yes and if it isn’t a hard no, then it shouldn’t be a no. Certainty will carry you further than overthinking ever can, so I want you to get good about making a decision and moving on.
Shedding the Fear
One of the biggest gifts I’ve given myself as an entrepreneur is the fact that I don’t overthink things. I make a decision and then I move on to the next one without agonizing if what I chose was right. If I am in tune with my main mission then I should trust that compass to lead me without fear that I am going off of the path. Has worrying ever gotten you anywhere productive? Has overthinking things ever lead to more clarity? I don’t think so. As a true entrepreneur and CEO you will be faced with numerous decisions daily, so getting clearer on how you make decisions, the better you get, the faster you get at making them, the more time you will have to be a true visionary and to really make decisions that support where you’re headed and not just where you are right now. So maybe at this step, fear has a way of sneaking up on you and sneaking into your process – don’t worry, that’s normal. I learned a trick that totally has helped me in a giant way.
When I was making the decision to leave my corporate job and plunge headfirst into entrepreneurship, I had a ton of fear. Rightfully so, I was walking away from a salary and seniority and benefits, all the things I thought I wanted and so when fear crept in I created a system to manage it. I wrote down my biggest, baddest, scariest fear – I allowed myself to go there to the worst case scenario and wrote it down and then I created an action plan of what I would do if that worst fear came to fruition.
Example: My business would fail, I’d make no money, and my dream would come crashing down on me as I was the laughing stock of my friends and family… Dramatic, I know, but that was what I was afraid of. So I wrote out the whole scenario and then I created my plan for what would happen if that was my reality.
I would update my resume, I would take the job references I had from my corporate gig, and I’d get back out an interviewing. I had a degree, I had experience, and I had a strong work ethic.. Would going back to my corporate roots really be a failure? Was it really scary? No. That fear lost it’s power when I said: I see you and here’s what I’d do if you decided to show your ugly face in my life. I started doing this in other areas of my life when we were faced with big decisions like purchasing a condo on Hawaii or hiring a new team member and adding on another salary, I would write down my fear around these decisions and then create an action plan which would give me confidence to make the decision in the first place, it would relinquish the control that fear had, and it would give me clarity that if it all hit the fan, I had a plan that I could execute.
Leave Emotion Out of It
The last piece of advice is this (and it’s a hard one) remove as much emotion from decision making as you can. I’ve gotten really good at pumping the emotional breaks and looking at things with as clear of a business mind as I can muster. When you remove the emotion from things, you can start to see with a clearer head and if you’re emotionally driven, you’re more likely to make decisions that you will second guess. When it comes to business it’s really quite simple: is this a smart move for my business or brand, will it move the bottom line, and does it get me closer to the business I’m working to build. The moment you muddy the water with too much emotion is the moment you decide that you really aren’t ready to make a decision or one that you can truly stand behind. I’ve gotten pretty great at removing the emotion from business and then pumping emotion into my relationships – compartmentalizing these things didn’t come naturally but it’s helped me immensely.
The Big Picture
Over the years, I’ve gotten really good at making decisions. I don’t get emotional, I decide, I trust, I move on. This system has helped me to not just build this business but to lead a team towards the bigger vision. I’ve given my team the ability to make decisions in their roles, I trust them, and they don’t have to come to me with every question – I want them to take ownership, to take imperfect action, and to continue to grow in their role and confidence. At the end of the day, imperfect action makes things happen and when you can start just taking little imperfect steps forward, you’ll start to actually move in the right direction. I’d love to tell you that I’ve made perfect decisions every step of the way but I’ve absolutely messed up, chalked up those times not as failures but as experiments that didn’t quite yield the right results, and I’ve constantly looked inward to stay aligned with the bigger vision that only I can lead.
Wouldn’t you rather be moving then be stuck? Wouldn’t you rather learn than be paralyzed? Wouldn’t you rather do something than nothing? When you start to really pay attention to the way that you make decisions, big or small and you start implementing the tools I’ve given you today. I can honestly say one of the biggest skills I have and one of the biggest gifts I recognize is my ability to be decisive, to be clear, and to move forward each day. I can only hope that after today’s show you feel like you have been given the tools to take your decision making to a new level.