Decisiveness: The Fresh New Key to Success

Harness your emotional energy to make decisions...and then don’t regret.

Posted Apr 28, 2017

Do you suffer making decisions? Have you flown over and over some decision for weeks or months, unable to finally land on a direction? Do you have to ask advice from everyone you know and even then, feel reticent to take a step? Do you sometimes feel paralyzed in the process?

Kamil Macniak/Shutterstock
Source: Kamil Macniak/Shutterstock

I have a solution for you. Incorporate this new approach into your life—decisiveness. Practice with small stuff and gradually transfer that new skill to bigger and bigger decisions. Try to gear the amount of emotional energy you expend making a decision to the level of importance that decision will have in your life. Don’t get confused—you need to be able to assess what’s really important with what is not. It’s about harnessing your emotional energy so you don’t squander it dithering about the same decisions over and over.

Anna Wintour, the powerhouse editor of Vogue, when asked her greatest gift, answered, "decisiveness."

What stops you from being decisive is fear of regret. Regret is one of the bitterest of emotions because it means that it was once within your power to make a different decision that would have resulted in a better outcome but that time has passed. Being able to tolerate regret means that you can forgive yourself for a bad decision and accept that you couldn’t have known what the future would bring at the time you made it.

Put some muscle into making your decision and then stick with it, continuing to move forward. If you later realize that you could have made a better decision, no matter. Just deal with the consequences of your decision and don’t waste emotional energy regretting. No one gets from birth to death without making mistakes, so accept your mistakes but keep moving forward.

It’s all about conserving emotional energy. Emotions like indecisiveness and regret use up a tremendous amount of emotional energy that could be better directed toward guiding your life forward. They don’t solve anything or do you any good. It’s like going through life with a constant case of hiccoughs. It’s annoying and distracting and slows you down. But, unlike the hiccoughs, it’s within your power to eliminate that annoyance by becoming decisive.

Decision-making using decisiveness is a four-step process:

  1. Describe the problem in a sentence or two (e.g., Should I buy the black handbag or the beige?).
  2. Outline your options (the black will go with more things but the beige is fresher for spring).
  3. BE DECISIVE (I’m getting the beige—it makes me feel happier).
  4. Once you’ve made your decision, move on! Don’t revisit it.

There’s a wise voice inside you that you need to listen to for guidance—the one that directs you away from impulsive decisions toward productive one. It’s in there, you just need to quiet the anxiety enough to hear it. Often your first instinct is the right one. Just don’t confuse impulsiveness with decisiveness.

People often come to consult with me saying that they’re confused when, in reality, they know exactly what they want—they just don’t like the consequences that will follow if they acted on it so they get stuck and feel unable to move forward. They’re unable to envision the path their life would take if they made that decision so instead, they just stall. They need to take a long view and integrate the fact that, in time, what’s extraordinary in life becomes ordinary. Just aim to live with integrity and decisiveness.

You need to tune in to the flow in your life. You want to keep moving forward, streaming past life’s boulders that may be slowing you down. Adopting an attitude of decisiveness will make that possible.

I’m a psychotherapist, family therapist and the author of Runaway Husbands: The Abandoned Wife's Guide to Recovery and Renewal; The Divorce Talk: How to Tell the Kids—A Parent’s Guide to Breaking the News without Breaking Their Hearts; My Sister, My Self: The Surprising Ways that Being an Older, Middle, Younger or Twin Shaped Your Life and the editor of Planet Heartbreak: Abandoned Wives Tell Their Stories. I can be found at and offer phone or Skype sessions.