How to know what to do next and the gap between decision and action

What if you DID know what to do next? We often answer with ‘I don’t know’, but I am going to argue that you do. And I do, too.

There are a lot of reasons why you might not think you know–sometimes the act of making one.more.decision can feel like too much with the nearly 2000 choices we make an hour. Maybe you’re afraid to make the ‘wrong’ choice. Or you’re afraid it will be the right choice and then what? Fear of success shows up an awful lot in our lives.

But hear me out–that thing you are wrestling with, big or small–you already know what you want to do and what you will probably do. It’s in the back of your mind as you ponder it.

So why do we sit in the energy suck of indecision?

Sometimes we don’t acknowledge that we have already made a decision because once that piece is in place, there may be a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle of other things we aren’t sure about. Staying in indecision keeps us from exploring what is past the decision.

Once you acknowledge that the choice has been made, it’s time to look at what is keeping you from the action of moving on that choice. What is keeping you from taking that first step of commitment to the decision?

Decision – (gap) – Action

They Sycamore Gap Tree – Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

What’s in the gap?

The gap is anything that is keeping you from having the confidence to take the first step of action. The gap is also where you probably get to grow in some way.

Is it a knowledge gap?

You want to take action, but you legitimately don’t know the first step to do so. You don’t know what you don’t know. The indecision for you is not ‘I don’t know what choice to make’ it’s, ‘I don’t know what to do once I’ve made that choice.’

Here are three things to try:

      • Get clear on what you don’t know. What questions do you actually have? Write them down.
      • Brainstorm what resources you have access to to answer the questions.
        • What can you do a web search for?
        • Who do you know who knows something about it?
        • Who can you ask for help? <–this last question is often the most helpful to fill the knowledge gap the fastest, so be brave
      • Research, make requests, ask questions. Fill in the gap.

Is it a skill gap?

Are you avoiding moving forward because you know that there is something you will need to learn how to do if you go that direction? You want to be a standup comedian, but you know you will need to take classes. You want to learn to invest, but it feels overwhelming to figure it out.

Here’s how to move on this gap: find the lowest hanging fruit to take a step of action. What is the tiniest step to move in the right direction? Don’t worry about the steps beyond that. Take one small step at a time and keep taking them. What can you do today to move you forward?

Note: it’s important that the small step is a task, not a project. Getting a website is a project. There are a thousand steps (and decisions) to get that done. But opening your computer is a task. Logging in to your old website account is a task. Doing a web search on the best web hosting is a task. Texting your web designer friend with a question is a task.

Is it a courage gap?

Do not shame out here. Life is full of hard things we will never do because we don’t want what is on the other side. Like tightrope walking. Super scary to me (I am the person at the performance who literally has the blood-curdling scream when the person ‘falls’, even though I know it’s staged.) I will not drum up the courage to do it. And guess what? I have no shame around that.

We start to feel shame around our lack of courage when we get into the ‘shoulds’.

I should be able to do that.
This shouldn’t be so hard.

What if you recognized that stepping into a gap was hard and that was okay? That hard was normal and nothing to fear. Hard means getting to grow in what you are capable of? Something about yourself that you maybe haven’t exercised in awhile, or ever, but you know it’s there. What if it was also kinda cool and fun?

If what you want on the other side of the gap means you get to be brave–do it. The world needs more brave people. You will not die. (Unless it is actually tightrope walking or some such, and then please be really clear about the other two gaps above.)

Is it a want gap?

My friend and colleague Joseph Barkley has a powerful book called Will > Want and he was the first person to introduce the idea to me that there may be things we say we want, but what actually matters is what we are willing to do about the things we want.

Will is greater than want. – Joseph King Barkley

Consider if you don’t really want to do the thing you think you ‘should’. Maybe you don’t want to make a decision of action because you really don’t want the thing on the other side. What if you released yourself from that? And could free your mind up to consider what you actually want and are willing to take action on. It’s okay if you aren’t willing to go after something. If you aren’t willing to get into the gap for it, the growth and any change in behavior, knowledge or belief. It really is okay.

Stop torturing yourself.

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, says:

“It doesn’t make any sense to continue wanting something if you’re not willing to do what it takes to get it.

If you don’t want to live the lifestyle, then release yourself from the desire. To crave the result but not the process, is to guarantee disappointment.”

If you are agonizing about a choice you don’t really want to make, stop. If the indecision is coming from not wanting to do it, get clear what you actually want to do and shut the door on the thing you don’t.

There are consequences of our choices, and there are also consequences of your choice NOT to make a choice.

What we think we are avoiding by not making a decision are the consequences of that decision.

Lemme say that again.

What we think we are avoiding by not making a decision are the consequences of that decision.

Maybe you worry that people around you won’t like your decision–delaying it isn’t going to make it any better. Perhaps you know a decision means making a change that requires something you’re not sure you have–knowledge, skills, courage or want. Figure this piece out. What’s in the gap between decision and action?

What’s keeping you from making a decision?

Decide. Get clear about the gap. Move on it.

You can do it. You really can.

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