The scenario: You come to a decision-making crossroads. Faced with adversity, risk, or uncertainty, you freeze—and wait. There are too many unknown variables. You don’t feel confident enough to choose a direction and move forward. The stakes are too high. You claim you’re being patient—you don’t want to make a rash decision. But as much as patience can provide discipline and a rational outlook, it can also become a vice when it isn’t followed by decisive action.
Step one: Divine inspiration will not strike.
The white knight does not exist. The market or some other phenomena will not miraculously reveal the answers. There is no right moment—there are just a series of moments, and you choose how to use them. It comes down to you. And while that feeling of responsibility can be intimidating, it’s as equally empowering of your independence and your ability.
You have the control. Don’t go into the office to punch the clock. Go in to make something happen. Most successful individuals operate on this ‘no one is coming’ philosophy. They are all busy relying on themselves to make their vision a reality. It doesn’t mean they can’t work well with a team, but they don’t depend on the team to make their success. Continually seeking counsel from others in order to make a decision can actually become a crutch or a distraction. Even if you have a talented, motivational mentor, you are still responsible for your own career.
Assess your role and responsibilities. What falls under your leadership or management? Determine what needs to be done. Then take the reins. And go.
Step two: Map out your strategy.
Yes we said ‘go,’ but you still need a plan first. Identify your goal and make it specific, relevant, time-bound and achievable. Too often it feels impossible to take the first step because the goal itself is impractical. But we all know that if you are standing still, you are falling behind.
If it’s a major initiative, start small. For example, instead of “rebrand the company,” break it down into a series of milestones or phases. Work backwards from your goal and set a series of benchmarks in order to measure your progress and stay on track. Devise a launch or presentation strategy—when, where and how. Think about your audiences and how they prefer to receive communications. If you aren’t sure, it never hurts to ask. It shows you value their input.
Step three: Develop tactics.
You can have the best-laid plan in the book, but if you don’t execute on it you are nowhere. For every strategically planned initiative, ensure you have actionable tactics in place to implement it. Brainstorm: “What will be most effective in achieving my desired response or reaching my goal? What is relevant and appropriate?” Then allocate tasks and responsibilities to develop the physical components or deliverables—again following a reasonable timeline.
Count on this: There will always be things you didn’t anticipate. If you get delayed or derailed, work with everyone involved to adjust your timeline accordingly. Be flexible! Resetting is smarter than continuing down a path that is no longer realistic. It will save you a lot of anxiety and stress, which stops you from responding to the project in bold and intelligent ways. Falling into a “just get it done” mentality will have you revisiting it again a couple years later. Conserve your resources and do it right the first time.
Step four: DO.
There’s always a point when you find yourself checking and re-checking every minute detail. If you’ve followed your plan and invested your time and resources in a quality solution, you need to stop over thinking it and hit the send button. Trust that your experience has gotten you this far—you are the expert. There is no perfect way. At the end of the day, if you can look back and say you improved the project, situation, your client or your company—then you’ve done your job. The King of Pop said it so well, “I’m starting with the Man in the Mirror.”