As leaders, we make hundreds of decisions every day…nothing new with that statement. Here is a question that may put a different spin on making decisions – “What is your state of mind when you make the decisions you make”?

Your state of mind is critically important. Let’s take a simple analogy. Do you tend to spend more money at the supermarket when you are hungry or when you have a just finished a meal? This analogy describes the state of your stomach, yet what about your state of mind?

Consider the following:

  1. Where is your focus at the moment of decision? Whatever you focus on will determine what you feel, even if what you feel has no basis in fact. If you focus on conditions or circumstances, your decisions will reflect this. For example, if you view situations as problems vs. opportunities, you will tend to make decisions that are defensive or protective rather than take an appropriate risk.
  2. Who establishes your focus? Most of us don’t control what we tend to focus on; rather, we let the world around us do it for us. Consider the exponential increase in number of messages we receive daily. I’ve said before there are thousands of messages we receive daily from the 24×7 news cycle, marketing and social media outlets that are attempting to hijack our focus. If you want to make the best decisions for you and your organization, ensure you control your focus.

    I’ve said before how important it is to finish your day on paper before you begin the actual day of work, meaning you intentionally plan when and what you will spend your time on and identify the results you are seeking to achieve before you actually begin the day.

  3. Do you focus on what you can control? Those who can control their focus tend to feel more in charge of their lives. Have you ever noticed those whose focus is on what is out of their control are more depressed or pessimistic compared to others? Think about that and I think you’ll agree with me.

    Those who focus on what is out of their control can be overwhelmed by becoming a victim of those outside circumstances rather than in charge of their outcomes. Take control of your focus – think into what you can do and how you can respond rather than being limited.

  4. Do you ensure you have an accurate picture of the present reality? An important function of every leader is to define the present reality. If you are focused on unsubstantiated rumors or assumptions, your decisions will tend to ignore the present reality and therefore not be the best decisions possible.

    I recall working with a client a few years ago on diagnosing a significant issue of organizational dysfunction. I asked him to tell me the assumptions he and his leadership team made 12 months ago to define reality at that time. When he gave me a half dozen of those assumptions, I asked him when the last time he validated those assumptions. He had that “deer frozen in headlights” look because he realized he or his team never validated the assumptions.

  5. Do you focus on the past, the present or the future? The most successful leaders in business (and in life) focus on the present, to define the current reality, and the future to create opportunities. Those who tend to focus on the past are actually limiting what they can do in the future. This model is a recipe for despair because they are taking the situations of the past and defining them as present reality.

What is the application? Think for a moment of the last decision you made that had some impact. Think through that decision in light of the 5 elements above. Did you view the situation as a problem or as an opportunity? How influenced were you by the tone or urgency of messages and outsiders clamoring for your attention? Did you focus on what you could control rather than be stymied by things out of your control? Did you focus on facts or assumptions? Where was your focus – on the past, present or the future?

I hope this message provided some good food for thought as you think into the myriad of decisions you will make today, tomorrow and each day going forward.

As always, if I can help you by being a thinking partner, please let me know.

Best regards,
Bill