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A single decision can change the world for the better. But indecisiveness leads to procrastination, overthinking, and failure.

Decisions have the power to motivate and inspire. But lack of decision can lead to frustration and resentment.

In this episode, I discuss why indecisiveness causes businesses to fail and a framework for making your best decision (even in the worst circumstances).

Show Highlights Include:

  • The surprising factor that motivated employees to work their hardest for a company, and how to put it to work for you (hint: it’s not money) (1:31)
  • What your body has to tell you about making the decisions and why you should pay attention (4:24)
  • A golden rule to follow for guidance when the right decision to make is unclear (7:30)
  • The 3-pronged decision-making process that leads to the best action to take in your unique circumstance (8:56)
  • Why dreams are enough to move you in the right direction toward achieving your goals (9:33)
  • How a single decision led Beverly Cleary to sell over 91 Million books (13:19)

Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Click here to get the first chapter of Dr. Rick’s best-selling book, Lessons From a Third Grade Dropout, for free.

Read Full Transcript

Welcome to “How You Living?” a transformative podcast featuring best-selling author, inspirational speaker and minister, Dr. Rick Rigsby—and, now, Dr. Rick.

Dr. Rigsby: Hello, friends. I'm so glad you tuned in today. I'm thrilled to be able to talk to you about this topic. It's a topic that I love to discuss. It's a topic called “decisions,” why it's so important to make a decision. Really, to unpack this for a moment and discover perhaps reasons why we don't tend to make decisions that can really be counterproductive. Do you know that one decision can change the lives of many, people that you'll never ever meet? Oh, do I have a great story for y'all at the end of this podcast. Stay tuned. [01:01.3]

Let me begin with a study that Harvard Business Review did a few years ago. They asked knowledge-based workers one simple question: what generates the highest degree of employee satisfaction?

Now, the answer may not be what you might think. The top answer was not money, was not bonuses, was not time off, was not incentives, but when the employee sensed that forward momentum was occurring, they felt the highest degree of employee satisfaction.

Guess what Harvard does? They come back with a follow-up study: what are the behaviors among leaders that stop forward progress? The number one answer, indecision. Just for kicks and giggles, number two was withholding resources for no apparent reason. Number three was a self-righteous attitude.
So, what's wrong with indecision? [01:57.2]

Let me make this one point of clarity before we go any further. We ought to follow a process of due diligence. We ought to investigate all the pros and cons when it comes to making a decision. However, needlessly delaying decisions for long periods of time, that's not organizationally healthy. That's not personally productive and it sends the wrong message to all involved.
Psychology Today a few years ago had a great story, where they talked about the only bad decision is indecision. Why? Because indecision leads to a lack of action. Make a decision friends. You can always adjust on the fly.

I remember in my role as life skills coach at Texas A&M, we started every football game with a game plan, a set of decisions. Sometimes we would make it through the first quarter. Many times we wouldn't. You adjust. You have to look at the current situation and you have to adapt and adjust, and you have to overcome, but make a decision. In other words, encourage activity. [03:09.9]

See, indecision gets us stuck I think in a cycle of procrastination. Now, all of a sudden, our chief concerns are worry and fear, and I really believe there is a positive correlation between excessive deliberation and exacerbating the difficulty of making a particular decision.

Contrast that with the power of making a simple decision. You're encouraging forward progress. You're creating opportunities. You're encouraging collaboration. You're setting expectations. You're encouraging forward momentum and proactive actions. Great leaders lead with the information they have. Seldom will you have the information you need. [04:01.5]

Let me say that again. Great leaders typically lead with the information that they have. It's very rare that you'll have the information that you need. So, often it's important to understand this. The decision making process will bypass the brain to a gut feeling.

Have you ever made a decision based on a hunch? Sure. Based on a gut feeling. I’m not trying to minimize these impulses because hunches and instincts and gut feelings, they come from our values within. There's something that says, This is the right thing. We can't identify it. We can't codify it or define it. We just know that we know that we know. Friends, that's transformation, and transformation always begins within.

Here's a classic example. I used to teach this class called the Rhetoric of the Civil Rights Movement on the college level. I’ll never forget, in 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., bringing in a hobbling southern Christian leadership conference into Birmingham. [05:14.7]

They were faced with a court order saying, If you march, Martin King, you will be arrested, and Martin King said, “I don't know what to do, but I know something needs to be done.” He had a hunch. He had an inkling. He had a feeling in his gut. He decides to march, friends. Listen, history reveals it was one of the greatest decisions that a debutant of the civil rights movement ever made while he was in jail. The more militant factors of the civil rights movement get children involved, those children whose pictures were broadcast all over the world as being victims of police dog attacks and firehose attacks, literally weakened the chains of segregation. [06:06.7]

None of that would have taken place had a more moderate martin king made a decision not to do something, but he made a gut-level decision that he “had” to march, that he “had” to go to jail regardless. That's what I’m talking about. You can always adjust a decision, but make a decision. In fact, friend, you'll spend the rest of your life evaluating whether or not it was a good decision.

Why? Because determining whether it was a good decision takes time to materialize. It will cause you to go back and forth, but I would say, go for it regardless, because during the time of evaluation, there's lots of second guessing which leads to unhealthy emotions, doubt and regret. Have you ever experienced that? Have you ever made a decision, but didn't see the results materialized in the timeframe that you chose? And the immediate default is to go, Yeah, I shouldn't have made that decision. I don't know what I was thinking. [07:09.8]

Here's a golden rule that I try to follow, friends. When decisions don't materialize as fast as you'd hope, do not lose heart. Our tendency is to default to the worst case scenario. Then guess what happens? We begin to verbalize sentiments such as, Why did I do that? What was I thinking? I knew this wouldn't work.

No, you didn't. You didn't know those things, but now all you're doing is creating a negative space and even more drama for you to work through. Those negative emotions represent space that could be filled with positive activity—and think about it. That's not the language of greatness. I wonder why I did that. I should've never done that. That's not the language of hopefulness. We need to shift from “I knew this wouldn't work. I knew I should have done something different” to “I believe I made the right decision. I'm going to give it more time. I may have to adjust, but for now, I’m going to choose patience over panic. [08:19.7]

Oh, come on, patience over panic. My best decisions, friends, listen to me carefully. Please listen. My best decisions have been based on the following framework, decisions based on values, convictions and principles. Second, decisions based on the best interest of the most people that I can possibly get involved. Third, decisions that hold potential to make the world better, freeing yourself to make decisions based on your convictions, based on the best interest of most people, based on the potential that you're going to make your community better. [09:08.8]

Freeing yourself to make these decisions will encourage you to dream and dreaming is important. You should never be limited or confined, and so when you cease the dream, according to Malcolm Forbes, you cease to live, so you want to do anything you can to encourage forward progress and a dream is great forward progress.

Here's what I’m saying. When you make a decision based on your principles, based on your values, based on your convictions, when you make a decision that's in the best interest of as many people as possible, when you make a decision that holds the potential to make people better, to make your community better, to make the world better, you are making a decision that is seismic, that's going to make an impact. Whether you have to adjust it or not, it's going to be huge. [10:03.9]

Let me give you an example. Allow me to close today's podcast by introducing you to one of my heroes who made such a decision. Today, she's 104 years old, and it was nearly 70 years ago that she made a life-changing decision based on her principles, convictions and values, based on working in the best interest of others, based on me making the world better. Let me tell you about Beverly Bunn.

Beverly Bunn was born in McMinnville, Ore., in 1960. She started her life on a rural farm until her family moved to Portland. The move caused her to struggle in school. She wasn't a very good reader at first. She eventually caught up. She adjusted, fell in love with reading and really fell in love with the library. After high school, she attended the University of California, Berkeley, majored in English. [11:03.9]

As a matter of fact, while at Berkeley, she met her husband, Clarence Cleary. They married in 1940 and, a year later, Beverly was completing her master's degree in library science at the University of Washington. She began her career in Washington and Oregon as a public school librarian.

Now you probably know the name, Beverly Cleary. Let me keep going. As a librarian, Beverly would listen closely to the concerns of her students, students who had trouble locating characters in books that they could identify with. She would review the books and she couldn't find any books that appealed to the students. She would make recommendations to officials. Those recommendations on deaf ears.

Based on Beverly’s belief that children deserved books of the highest literary quality that they could relate to, she made a major life-changing decision. Beverly Cleary, librarian, decides to start writing children's books with characters young people can relate to. [12:16.8]

After a few years, Beverly published her very first book in 1950, 70 years ago, titled Henry Huggins. It was a book introduced to me when I was a third grader and it's among my favorite books. The characters are based on childhood experiences and the kids in her Portland neighborhood, like Henry Huggins and his dog, Ribsy, and his friends, Beezus and Ramona.

Today, at age 104, Beverly Cleary lives at an assisted living facility in Northern California. Beverly and Clarence were married for over 60 years until he passed away in 2004. But this is what I want you to do. I want you to listen to the impact one decision had. [13:00.9]

Beverly Cleary’s books have been published in over 25 different languages. She has won every major literary award from the National Book Award and the Newbery Medal to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. In fact, she won the Library Of Congress Living Legend Award in 2000 and the National Medal of Arts in 2003.

The university of Washington has the Beverly Cleary endowed chair of library sciences. There's a school in Portland called Beverly Cleary School. It was a school that she attended. There's a residence hall named after her at Berkeley and, at Grant Park near where she grew up in Portland, there's a statue of Henry Huggins, Beezus and Ribsy. Since publishing Henry Huggins in 1950, 91 million copies of her books have been sold worldwide. Friends, all of this based on a decision to offer literary quality to children. Beverly Cleary’s impact continues worldwide to this very day. [14:11.4]

My favorite annual events speaking personally is when I read to the students at Brazos Christian School’s library in Bryan–College Station, Tex. I read in that library that is named after my first wife. It's the Trina Rigsby Memorial Library, where my first wife, before she passed, was librarian. My choice of book to read every single spring, Henry Huggins. My older son and his wife presented me with a Christmas gift a couple of years ago, Henry Huggins, third printing, 1952.

Based on a decision to enhance the quality of literature for children to make the world better, Beverly Cleary simply and unwittingly changed the world with one decision. [15:04.2]

Friends, what's your next decision? Please don't approach that decision with negativity. “Well, I have to.” “Well, I’ve got to.” No, you get to. You get to make a decision based on values, convictions and principles. You get to make a decision based on what's in the best interest of most people involved. You get to make a decision that holds the potential to make the world better.
So, imagine adventurously. Hope miraculously and decide courageously, and make that decision. Oh, baby, I'm so fired up.
Friends, until we meet again, this is Dr. Rick, asking the most important question I can ask you today, how you livin’?

Are you ready to make an impact in your world right now? Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Dr. Rick wants to give you the first chapter of his bestselling book, “Lessons from a Third Grade Dropout,” absolutely free. Just go to www.RickRigsby.com/FreeGift to get the print or audio book right now.

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