This article was inspired by Taeyeon of Girls’ Generation.
Taeyeon on KBS’ talk show ‘Big Brothers’
In 2011, Taeyeon was on an episode of ‘Big Brothers’ with fellow Girls’ Generation members Yuri (you may remember her from a previous blog post), Tiffany and Seohyun. During that episode, Taeyeon revealed that she would like to inherit her parents’ decisiveness. We don’t need to look far to understand why Taeyeon wants to know how to be decisive.
Taeyeon is a very skilled artist. She is a well-known singer throughout Korea and other parts of the world. She has hosted radio shows, been a MC (Master of Ceremonies) on many occasions (which is her dream job), displayed her comedic skills on many television shows, voice acted in feature films, acted in a leading role in a musical, and won 20 awards (most of the awards were for her singing and a few were for her radio host prowess).
She also has other skills…
…but how she spends her days…
…explains why she wants to learn how to be more decisive.
First, a message for Taeyeon: Write the book that you wanted to write! Writing a story can be as much fun as playing a game. And you can draw pictures of your characters. You can do it!
Now, let’s begin the article…
How can a person be decisive?
First, we should look at what ‘decisive’ means. The word ‘decisive’ comes from the root word ‘decide’ which means ‘cut off.’
To be decisive, you must ‘cut off’ options until you only have one option left. Then you must choose to take that option.
How do you ‘cut off’ options?
By choosing a goal and ranking the options based on how efficiently and effectively they will help you achieve your goal.
Why should you rank your options?
Quoted from How To Craft a Story:
“There is also a limit to how important you should make something appear to be. When the audience understands the gravity of a situation, the audience can reasonably determine how important something should be. You should assume that, at least.
The ‘reasoning’ is based on the audience’s understanding of the problem. The audience looks at how important things are in comparison to each other and in comparison to the gravity in the situation.
The audience should already have strong emotional connections to things that have ‘gravity’ based on experiences in their own lives. If you tell the audience that it is more important to cook food than to eat food, the audience will probably not believe you unless you present that information to them within a context which is reasonable.
Every context will be connected to the ‘gravity’ in a situation somehow. There will always be some manner by which to determine importance.
‘Problems’ can’t exist in a world in which ‘importance’ is not determined.” — Emotionally Choppy, Chapter 13
To be decisive, you need to have a goal. The problem becomes, ‘How do I achieve this goal?’
If you don’t have a goal then everything that you can do, every option, carries the same weight or the same importance.
When everything carries the same weight, a person might become overwhelmed by ‘choice overload.’ Usually, when a person is presented with several options to choose from, a person weighs those options to try to decide which ones to eliminate and which ones to choose. When a person has many options to choose from, a person might feel overwhelmed when they try to choose only one, especially if many options are so similar that there’s no reason to choose one option instead of another.
That can also happen when a person has a goal and has many options to choose from, but doesn’t know how to rank the options based on how well those options will help the person achieve the goal.
How to be Decisive
Step 1: Set a Goal.
The goal should be something that you want to do or something that you need to do. If you don’t care about your goal, it may be easy to give up on it if trying to achieve it becomes tough or boring. You can be more determined to achieve your goal if you have a strong reason why you want or need to achieve it.
It doesn’t have to be a big goal. You can set goals when you want to be decisive about… almost anything.
For example, if butter is sitting on the table and you want to prevent it from going bad, you may want to put it in a cold place. The Goal is: Prevent the butter from going bad.
If you’re in a kitchen, the fridge and freezer are usually the only two places that are cold enough (unless you live in Canada and it’s Winter). So you would have to decide where to put the butter: in the fridge or in the freezer. The fridge keeps things cool. The freezer freezes things. Both those places can help you achieve the goal, but which one would be better for you?
That’s where you need a secondary goal!
How soon do you want to use the butter again?
And do you want it to be frozen when you use it again?
Answering those two questions will help you determine where to put the butter.
The questions were based on the current problem (the butter was on the table, so I assume that someone was using it) and on what would happen if you choose each option (cool or frozen).
Step 2: Rank Options.
After you set a goal, look at what options are available to help you achieve the goal.
Rank the options based on whatever criteria you find necessary to accomplish the goal.
What if all the options would allow you to achieve the goal?
For example, let’s say that you visit a café with your friends and you want to buy some coffee, but there are 20 options on the menu. What do you do?
You’ll have to find a way to rank your options.
Have you tried any of the menu items before? If you have, are there any items that you didn’t like? If yes, eliminate those options.
Are there any items on the menu that you have never tried before? If yes, then answer the question, ‘How adventurous do I feel?’
If you won’t mind trying something new then choose something you haven’t tried before. If you’re having trouble deciding, you can ask your friend or the cashier for a recommendation. Or you can choose something at random, or something based on it’s position in the menu. You can use any method you want to prioritize one drink over another.
If you find out that you don’t like the drink, you can eliminate it as an option next time.
What if you want to drink something that you’ve tried before?
You can use the same methods to prioritize your options.
You may want to consider choosing 1 or 2 ‘standard’ items and 1 ‘backup’ item if you want to order quickly without going through that decision-making process each time.
That way, you can order your standard drink or food. If your first ‘standard’ item is not available or you grow tired of it, you can choose your second standard item or your ‘backup’ item.
Warning: Too much of almost anything can be bad for you. Even if you have one or two ‘standard’ items, it’s good to have variety so that you don’t overwhelm your body with too much of the same thing.
What if your goal is bigger or more complex than that?
Alex Pirouz wrote an article titled The Inclination Point. In that article, Alex tells the story of how he challenged a group of children at the end of a Summer camp to write a list of 45 reasons if they wanted him to continue mentoring them after the Summer camp ends. When he met the children again, all of them made excuses for why they couldn’t write a list of 45 reasons… except one child. That one child wrote more than 45 reasons!
Alex decided to use that method for every goal he sets. After using that method for a while, he discovered a pattern in his list of reasons. The first 20 ~ 25 reasons were usually easy to think of, but he had to dig deep within himself to find the core reasons why he wanted to achieve the goal after he had written the ‘easy reasons.’ Thinking up 45 reasons caused him to reflect and to think about how his goal lines up with his core values. In that article, he said that he has achieved all the goals that he could write 45 reasons for.
If you can’t think of 45 reasons why you want to achieve a goal, maybe it’s not a goal that you strongly want to achieve.
Alex wrote 6 steps in his article that can help people write a list of reasons why they want to achieve a specific goal. I have copied part of the article below. If you want to read all 6 steps, I strongly encourage you to read his article.
“You need to find your place of comfort whether that’s your office, a quiet place in the park or even a coffee shop. It needs to be somewhere you can think.
2) Next you start with a blank piece of paper and at the top write down your goal. Your goal needs to be specific, measurable, actionable and time driven. This is important because this is how goals are correctly structured for success.
4) Start writing down your 45 reasons one after another. They should be positively stated e.g. instead of saying I don’t want to feel depressed anymore about my weight, you could change it to I want to feel comfortable and energized about my weight.”
If you have a big or complex goal, you may need to invest a lot of time, money, effort, etc. into achieving that goal. You may also have to let go of some things to be able to achieve your goal.
When you find 45 reasons to achieve your goal, sometimes you may discover that the goal that you have set is only one way to satisfy the motivation that your goal is based on.
Don’t be afraid to re-assess your goal over time and try to determine whether your goal is the right goal and whether it’s the best way to achieve what you desired when you set that goal. Don’t be afraid to determine whether your desire has changed since the time that you set that goal …but if your desire has changed, try to understand why your desire changed. Try to find the reason why your desire changed. Sometimes the ‘reason’ indicates a problem or sometimes it indicates that something in your environment has changed. Knowing the reason why your desire changed can help you understand the problem, solve the problem, or set a new goal.
It can be easier to make decisions regarding big goals compared to weak goals, such as deciding what to buy at a café, because big goals tend to have requirements that are more stringent than weak goals do. Stringent requirements makes it easier to decide whether an option does or does not meet the requirements.
There’s also a principle called ‘The Most Important Thing.’
Sometimes businesses have a goal that they want to achieve, but they also have many existing problems that they need to solve. If they spend all their energy, time and resources solving those urgent problems (solving those types of problems is called ‘putting out fires’ or ‘fire-fighting’) they may not have enough time, energy and resources to put toward achieving their ‘main goal.’
Some businesses manage that situation by putting a system in place to find ‘the most important thing,’ which is the thing that needs to be done most urgently. The goal is important, but it is not always the ‘most important thing’ all the time. Sometimes urgent things need to take priority.
Business tend to look at what needs to be done and prioritize them based on at least three criteria: How important it is, How long it will take to do, and By when it needs to be done.
If something is very important and will take a long time to do, it would be good to start doing it earlier than necessary in a schedule so that you can give yourself enough time to do it properly and to finish it before you run out of time.
If something is very important, but it doesn’t need to be done soon and won’t take long to do, maybe you should check whether something else needs to be done more urgently.
Things that aren’t important enough to be done urgently can be put on hold until there is enough time and energy to do them.
You may have noticed the word ‘urgently.’ In business, things have to be done within a timetable because businesses must continue earning money. Businesses have costs. Businesses hire employees. If the business is being run by one person, that person may need to earn money to pay living expenses. So there’s always some amount of urgency because businesses need to make money to pay people and pay operating expenses. That makes a business’s goals time-driven.
Some goals require an investment of time, energy and resources, but are flexible on how you achieve them.
For example, you can exercise 1 hour a day or 2 hours a day. If you exercise 1 hour a day, it might take twice as long to achieve your goal compared to exercising 2 hours a day. If you exercise for a while and then choose to stop exercising, you may lose the benefit that you worked to achieve.
Some goals are more time-sensitive. Things must be done within the ‘window of opportunity’ to be able to fulfill the requirements that are necessary to be able to achieve the goal.
For example, if you’re studying medicine or you’re in a surgery. There are time limits. And there can be serious consequences if things are not done within the ‘window of opportunity.’
When you’re comparing options, it may be best to first determine whether the options meet your requirements and how well they meet your requirements.
For example, if you want to buy a car and you’re choosing between two cars, think about your goal and the reason why you want to buy the car. Find out whether either of those cars meets the minimum requirements that you’ve set. Don’t look at the bells and whistles (‘bells and whistles’ are features that are not necessary to achieve your goal). Make sure that the car meets your minimum requirements first.
If one car does not meet your minimum requirements, try to determine whether something in that car can compensate for the requirements that the car does not meet. If the car can definitely not be used to achieve your goal, then eliminate that car on your list of options.
If both cars meet your minimum requirements, find out how well both car would perform on each point in your list of requirements.
If both cars perform equally well, then look at other serious factors about the car, such as warranties, known safety concerns, price, hidden costs, etc. Think about what you’ll do with that car and how you’ll use it in the future.
Think about serious things before you think about less serious things.
Compare the cars based on how they can best fulfill your requirements. If they both meet your requirements equally then compare them on less important points.
If you feel that your current options aren’t good enough, don’t be afraid to look for more options.
Being decisive should not be about ‘making a choice,’ it should be about ‘make the right choice.’ Because making the wrong choice, or making a bad choice, could cost you in the future.
I remember two sayings that my Grandpa used:
“If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well”
‘A person who hesitates is lost.’
That means that you should make the right decision and know that you made the right decision when it comes time to act on your decision.
Step 3: Structure the Goal
I put this here because sometimes people may need to choose a ‘main option,’ or a specific way of achieving their goal, before they can structure the smaller steps, or smaller goals, that they need to achieve so that they can achieve their big goal.
For example, if your goal is to ‘be famous,’ there are many things that you can try doing to become famous. The specific steps that you take toward achieving your goal will likely be different depending on which ‘main option’ you choose. For example, if you want to become a famous athlete, the steps that you take may be drastically different compared what you’d need to do to become a famous musician, a famous actor, a famous politician, etc.
Your ‘main option’ may be the general direction that you decide to go in to achieve your stated goal.
Whatever goal you choose, the steps to achieve that goal must be:
Your goal must be time-driven because the world is changing around you. Opportunities can come and go. You can’t afford to procrastinate if you want to take an opportunity that’s only available in a ‘window of opportunity.’
If you want to take an opportunity, you have to be in the right position to take that opportunity and you must be able to take that opportunity (you must meet the requirements). If you want to go fishing, you need to go where fish are. But it doesn’t help to be where fish are if you don’t know how to catch them or you don’t have the equipment needed to catch them. You need to be at the right place at the right time, but you must also be able to take the opportunity.
Your goal needs to be specific. A goal needs to be well-defined so that you can accurately determine whether or not you’ve reached the goal. You need to state your goal quantifiable – you need to have a clear border between ‘I’ve achieved the goal’ and ‘I have not achieved the goal.’
Your goal needs to be actionable. That means that your goal must be something that you can achieve and something that you can take steps toward achieving. Remember, an opportunity isn’t an opportunity for you if you don’t meet the requirements to take that opportunity. ‘Actionable’ means that you must be able to take opportunities that will let you achieve your goal.
Your goal must be measurable so that you can know how close you are to achieving your goal. It’s so that you can know whether what you’re doing is taking you toward achieving your goal. It would also allow you to measure how effective and efficient your efforts have been. That can help you find ways to improve how your method of reaching your goal.
Being more efficient and more effective can save you time and resources and maybe allow you to achieve your goal more quickly. Remember, time is a resource. Use it wisely.
If you have a goal and you have free time in a day, why not set aside some of that time and use it to help you achieve your goal?
Thank you for reading this article!
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