How often do you fail to complete something because you struggle to decide on how to complete it? This must be why Mr. Hill says that decision making is how you master procrastination. If you look up the definition to procrastination it reads:
Procrastination – To be slow or late about doing something that should be done: to delay doing something until a later time because you do not want to do it, because you are lazy, etc.
To be slow or late at doing something comes down to deciding to JUST DO IT. When we procrastinate we basically struggle with deciding on how to or how well we can complete the task. If we decide not to complete it we won’t have to worry about letting ourself down and we won’t have to face criticism from others.
That’s what perfectionism is really about, not finishing the project because you expect it to be perfect, so we decide to do other things instead of finishing something that could be less than perfect. If this is you, then decide that it’s alright if you make a mistake, people may judge you worse for not finishing a project then only finishing it at a 90% level.
So decide to finish.
In this chapter Mr. Hill focuses on how the United States Founding Fathers, the people who signed the Declaration of Independence. They made a decision to liberate America from England. If those 50 Americans didn’t make a decision and follow through with their decision, who knows what flag would be flying over our schools now, some say it would be a Swastika.
One reason people struggle to make decisions is because they really don’t have a process to think through the decision making process. If you Google decision making process you’ll see a number of tools/steps to us. Here are six steps of an intuitive decision-making process from the Ethics and Compliance Initiative website;
- Step 1: Define the problem
- Step 2: Identify available alternative solutions to the problem
- Step 3: Evaluate the identified alternatives
- Step 4: Make the decision
- Step 5: Implement the decision
- Step 6: Evaluate the decision
Looks pretty easy, doesn’t it? Then why do some of us struggle with it so much? Is it because it’s so easy that we take it for granted, it’s something we have the power to do. But most of the time it’s what Phil McGraw said, “Sometimes you make the right decision, sometimes you make the decision right.” That’s what happens when you evaluate the decision, you tweak it. You need to manage your decisions constantly so that they stay relevant with changes and increased information and knowledge.
Like all skills and abilities, we can improve our decision making skills. Harvard Business Review (HBR) June 2015 issue focuses on decision making and in the article “Leaders as Decision Architects” outlines these 5 steps to improve decisions;
Step 1: Understand how decisions are made. Human beings have two modes of processing information and making decisions:
- System 1 is automatic, instinctive and emotional.
- System 2 is slow, logical, and deliberate.
Step 2: Define the problem. Behavioral economics tools are most effective when:
- Human behavior is at the core of the problem.
- People are not acting in their own best interests.
- The problem can be narrowly defined.
Step 3: Diagnose the underlying causes. To determine whether poor decision making is a result of insufficient motivation or of cognitive biases, ask two questions:
- Is the problem caused by people’s failure to take any action at all?
- Do people take action, but in a way that introduces systematic errors into the decision-making process?
Step 4: Design the solution. Use one of the three levers:
- Trigger system one thinking by introducing changes that arouse emotions, harness bias, or simplify processes.
- Engage system 2 thinking by using joint evaluations, creating opportunities for reflection, increasing accountability, and introducing reminders and planning prompts.
- Bypass both systems by setting defaults and building in automatic adjustments.
Step 5: Test the solution:
- Rigorously test the proposed solution to avoid costly mistakes.
- Identify a target outcome that is specific and measurable.
- Identify a range of possible solutions and then focus on one.
- Introduce the charge in some areas of the organization (the “treatment group”) and not others (the “control group”).
Napoleon Hill points out that the educational system (at least in the 1930’s) didn’t teach or even encourage students the habit of definite decision. School is mainly made up of facts and figures, not necessarily on how to use the facts and figures to make decisions while seeking your ultimate purpose. Instead we’re lead to employment that we just follow processes, not to becoming leaders who make decisions to change and improve the process.
One of the main reasons why we don’t make decisions is because we struggle with internal barriers on making and even more likely, failing to follow through on those decisions. Making and following through with a decision takes courage, sometimes great courage and the willingness to push past the Six Basic Fears outlined in Chapter 15, “How to Outwit The Six Ghosts of Fear,” which are;
The fear of POVERTY
The fear of CRITICISM
The fear of ILL HEALTH
The fear of LOSS OF LOVE OF SOMEONE
The fear of OLD AGE
The fear of DEATH
As George S. Patton said “The time to take counsel of your fears is before you make an important battle decision. That’s the time to listen to every fear you can imagine! When you have collected all the facts and fears and made your decision, turn off all your fears and go ahead!” This doesn’t just apply to a battle that Patton was describing, it can also be the fears we face in everyday life that stops us from achieving our own personal battles.
So when you’re struggling to follow through on your decisions, which one of the fears is keeping you from moving forward? Unfortunately, those people closest to us could be the reason why we don’t follow through with our dreams. In fact Mr. Hill, in the chapter on “Organized Planning,” lists that the wrong selection of a mate in marriage and the wrong selection of business associates as two of the Thirty Causes of Failure.
Have you ever been laughed at when you told someone your dream? Have you ever laughed at someone who shared their dream with you? It takes will power, dedication and persistence to move past your fears. That’s why Napoleon Hill continues with the next chapter in Think and Grow Rich is on “Persistence.” Being persistent is how we follow through with our decisions until we achieve success, no matter how many barriers we face.
If you’re currently reading this book then take some time to reread this chapter and explore how you can increase your leadership skills to give you more soulutions.