Lisa McLeod: Are you trying to make the wrong decision?

  • Posted: Sunday, March 31, 2013 12:01 a.m.

Do you worry about decisions that you don’t have to make yet?

I call them the decisions after the decision. Worrying about them will totally derail you.


A client of mine was interviewing for a big promotion. She was excited. On paper it looked like a great opportunity for her. But there were also some unknowns. The job might require a move, and she was concerned about the long-term future of the project team.

As I helped her prepare for the interview, I could hear the anxiety in her voice. What if she got the job and they asked her to move back to headquarters? Should she do it or not? What if the new president wasn’t supportive of the group? There was so much uncertainty, what should she do?

My advice?

Stop it.

She was so worried about what she would do if she got the job that she was decreasing her chances of making that happen. All of that anxiety would be in the back of her mind during the interview, and it would likely have a chilling effect on her performance.

My college-age daughter did exactly the same thing recently. She was interviewing for summer internships and was stressing out about which one she’d choose if she got offered more than one.

I gave her the same advice I gave my client. Stop it.

I told her, if you get more than one offer, then you’ll have to make a decision. But that hasn’t happened yet, so for now, go for it. Walk into every interview and give it your all. Act like this is the job you want more than anything, because the reality is, if you don’t get any other offers, it will be the job you want more than anything.

You don’t have to decide until it’s time to decide.

Worrying about decisions you don’t have to make yet creates an anxiety-producing talk track in your head. It impedes your performance because it distracts you from being fully present and it has a chilling effect on others.

Imagine going on a first date with someone who spends the entire evening wondering if you’re “the one?”

Actually you don’t have to imagine it. Watch an episode of The Bachelor. Almost every woman on the show acts like a total nut case, constantly assessing how the future might play out from the moment she meets the guy.

It’s human nature to want to settle unknowns. Our minds aren’t comfortable with uncertainty, so we try to make sense of it by playing out all the possible scenarios.

Yet while we often disguise this activity as “planning,” in reality it’s an attempt to control panic.

We’re desperate for the one right answer. The one that will assure us of the right job, the right mate, the right house, and that everything will be settled once and for all.

Too bad life doesn’t work that way. Nothing is ever settled, at least not permanently.

Life is not a SAT test. There’s no one right answer. There’s no perfect score.

Trying to decide too early doesn’t propel you forward, it holds you back. Next time you’re facing an uncertain situation, instead of flashing forward two steps, stay in the present. That’s where the best decisions are always made.

Lisa Earle McLeod is a sales leadership consultant. Companies like Apple, Kimberly-Clark and Pfizer.

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