March 15, 2021

Even the most confident leaders have moments of doubt—it’s only human. But if you are second-guessing yourself all the time, that may be detrimental to your team, especially since it can cause more stress and hamper you from doing your job effectively.

In Sydney Finkelstein’s book, Superbosses, he exposes the deleterious effects of second-guessing and procrastinating over decisions. For instance, second-guessing a new hire you had just made, could very well turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Co-author of Own the Room, Amy Jen Su, also agrees that second-guessing decreases productivity. “When you’re spinning on a decision, you’re not moving forward,” she says. Hence, to avoid analysis paralysis, here are seven ways to help you trust your judgement and lead with confidence.

Practise acceptance

Second-guessing is often associated with not being able to let go of all the cerebration that exists in decision-making. Instead of fretting over things that cannot be changed, embrace an attitude of acceptance. This also compels us to take ownership and responsibility for our actions. When we learn acceptance, we start to live in the present, rather than mull over the past or worry relentlessly about the future. Although you may ultimately dislike the outcome, take it in your stride and work out the next steps from there. 

Change your perspective

Once you start accepting reality, you can start to channel your thoughts into a more constructive space. Stop operating on negative and unhelpful self-talk like thinking everything will be a disaster. Replace these toxic thoughts with positive ones. Ask yourself practical questions that could open up new possibilities like: How can I make the best out of the situation I am in? Or how would I, as a third person, advise a close friend on how to resolve this? In most cases, the costs of being wrong are actually not as major as we think. Figure out which decisions actually matter, and don’t sweat the insignificant ones. Worrying is counterproductive because it takes your time away from the more critical issues that you have to deal with.

Use your intuition

When considering if you should proceed with a decision, use your intuition as a guide. Trusting your gut can help you save a valuable amount of time, as it will not lead you astray. Those on the fence can start a journal chronicling all their intuitive decisions and see if they have led you in the right direction, resulting in positive outcomes.

Call in the experts

Another way is to gather a trusted group of people who can act as your sounding board. This coterie of advisers should include people who have had prior experience dealing with similar situations before, so that they are able to give solid suggestions, or are well-versed in that particular area of concern—allowing you to draw on their wisdom to bring new perspectives to the table. Seeking counsel can validate your decisions. 

Train yourself to be adaptable

No one can be a hundred per cent right about everything all the time, and mistakes are part of the learning process. Often, we place immense pressure on ourselves to make the “right” decision, but sometimes it isn’t so clear-cut. And the last thing you want is to be fearful because growth doesn’t happen without some level of risk. To safeguard yourself,  establish a roadmap to course-correct and get back on track.

Review your decisions 

The best way to stop second-guessing a decision is to set a fixed date to review it down the line. This appraisal could take place a few weeks or even months later. Keeping track of your decisions helps you to stay on course, or pivot if need be. In the meantime, stop questioning yourself until it’s time to revisit your judgment again.

Make balanced decisions

People tend to approach decision-making from two extremes: either from an emotional standpoint or a completely logical one. However, in order to make a sound decision (that you won’t second-guess), it’s important to remain objective and explore multiple perspectives. If you tend to make decisions based on “feelings,” then try to even it out by looking at it from a more rational viewpoint. If you are often too cold and clinical, try to consider things from a different angle than you normally do. A good decision is often a marriage between both logic and emotion.