Question: Sometimes when I’m trying to make decisions I begin to have doubts. There are so many external factors that could impact my decisions. How do I get past this paralysis?
Answer: We are so inundated with information these days it’s easy to become overwhelmed. And when we’re overwhelmed the paralysis you reference sets in. Sometimes rather than becoming paralyzed, this crush of information causes us to reach false conclusions and we act irrationally. The best example of this is the stock market. The day starts out with good economic news and the Dow Jones Industrial Average soars. So does the NASDAQ and the S&P 500. Early in the afternoon word of political issues in a foreign country cause a major reversal and the markets close substantially down. The next day, the markets rebound and close higher. How can a seemingly unrelated event in a foreign country have that much impact on our economy and on our financial markets? It shouldn’t and it really doesn’t.
It’s all just noise. Markets move on fear and on jubilance. Neither really makes much sense. But we’ve become conditioned to volatility in the financial markets and the overload of information permeates the rest of our lives causing similar volatility in our decision-making process . . . or just paralysis.
It’s important that we recognize noise when it’s present. The best way to do this is to have a clear understanding of the goal or objective we are pursuing. That goal has attached to it a series of decisions that must be made. Is there information that we sift through that might have a true bearing on this goal? If we always measure against the goal we can then block out the noise. For example, let’s say that my goal is to renovate an historic building in a small town and convert it to apartments. A lot of data will come flooding at me every day. I’ll hear about political strife in another country; political strife in our country; the stock market rose/fell 200 points; oil prices may be rising; a competitor just abandoned an historic renovation project (what does he know that I don’t?); interest rates may increase; the cost of lumber may increase; new regulations may be implemented by OSHA, and my favorite restaurant is closing. What to do?
I focus on my goal and I quickly process the information deluge. Of course there are a lot of unknowns, but if I’ve properly assessed the risks of my project, I have a mitigation plan for things like rising interest rates and higher material costs. The rest of it . . . I ignore.
Life is full of noise. The trick is to turn it into white noise that is in the background with no discernible impact on our daily lives. We do that by remembering our goals, our assessment of the risks and our plan to mitigate those risks.
This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.