The other day my UK associate e-mailed me the words to a poem she saw posted in the London Underground. It read:
For example, when one of your friends makes a mistake, you probably say something like, "Yeah, it happens. It'll be okay." You need to tell yourself the same thing when you make a mistake.
Then squeeze the lessons out of your mistake. See what you can learn from it, and then refrain from making the same mistake again.
If, on the other hand, you are determined never to fail, you're going to have a hard time making decisions. You'll be so anxious about the future outcomes of your decisions that it will cloud your ability to make good decisions today.
So you need to remind yourself that you can change your mind. Most decisions are not only adjustable but revocable. And this one insight can take a lot of the anxiety out of your decision making.
But even then you may not be able to trust those "facts." The "facts" you gather may be influenced by people's biases and "the way they've always done things." So look for solid evidence that goes beyond people's anecdotes.
Just remember, you'll never have all the facts. That's an impossible task. But decisions must be made anyway.
Richard Contino, attorney and author of "Trust Your Gut! Practical Ways To Develop And Use Your Intuition For Business Success," even says you should give your intuition a workout. He says, "The more you practice, the easier it will be to connect with your intuitive source on demand ... anytime you have a question about something or someone."
And is that important? Absolutely. After years of research, James Kouzes and Barry Posner concluded in their book, "The Leadership Challenge," that people follow leaders of integrity.
Jim, a senior executive at a leading advertising agency, knew that. Jim had a brainstorm while preparing a major TV ad campaign for a client who was introducing lightweight knapsacks. Jim pictured the knapsack on a mountain peak, an eagle suddenly swooping down, grasping it and carrying it away.
The client loved the idea. So Jim chose a picturesque setting and sent his staff to the site for the shoot.
A few days later, he got the videotape -- a glorious sequence with the bird soaring in, grabbing the knapsack and flying away. The client was thrilled.
As Jim was scheduling the ad on national television, two of his staff members slipped into his office. It seems that on location, when the bird swooped down he couldn't lift the "lightweight" knapsack. The crew's solution was to tie a thin wire to the knapsack, which they jerked up when the eagle grabbed it.
Jim told his client about the problem -- and solution. He didn't object. On film the wire was erased, leaving a visually flawless commercial that only a few would know was "false and fixed."
But Jim faced a tough personal decision. Could he live with himself if he let the ad be shown on TV? He decided he couldn't. So he pulled the ad, called his client, and offered to re-shoot the sequence at no extra cost. The client was so disappointed that he backed out.
Jim knew his decision jeopardized a lot of money and the business of a big client. But for him, that wasn't the point. He had to stick to his values if his long-term credibility and leadership were to mean anything.
When there's a lot on the line, when your decision has some potentially significant outcomes, make sure you also ask the experts. Get the input of your attorney, accountant or other professional advisors. And yes, it will take a little longer and cost more, but you'll minimize the risk of a bad decision.
And then, when your list of possible solutions slows down, go into your critical mode. Evaluate each possible solution to see which one is best.
Whatever you do, make the call. Make the decision. Putting off a decision won't make your tough circumstances go away. In fact, the more you stall, the more likely you are to wind up in a stressful situation forced to make a rushed and faulty decision.