Split Second Decisions: Your Decision-Making Power

“I’m just not feeling it today.” And in a split second she turned around and left. Have you ever had one of those days?

Whether you’re dealing with personal challenges or business challenges, family matters or health matters, or any array of stressful circumstances, some days can simply defeat you.

Do I Stay or Do I Go?

As we all stood there under the green awning of the Fitness Center, I noted one of our usually upbeat, talkative members was extremely quiet. We were waiting for the rain to stop and the dark clouds to pass so we could begin our outdoor water aerobics class. I turned to her and quietly asked if everything was okay. I could see the angst on her face and she struggled to speak, appearing as if she were holding back tears. She mustered a weak reply, “I’m just not feeling it today.”

I tried to discern if she was concerned, or even fearful, about the weather and the possibility of lightning, or if there was something else going on. Her next comment, in a defeated tone and with a visibly crushed demeanor, clarified my curiosity. She mumbled something about how challenging these times are right now and how she spends her days just reading books cooped up in her house. Now, if you’re a book reader, that might sound glorious. But if it continues for weeks on end, in isolation, without interaction and connection with others, you might find yourself in a funk, too.

She went on to say how overwhelming it all is with the ongoing chaos in the world and not knowing if or when it will ever end. And then…she turned around, and abruptly left.

The rain stopped and the clouds started clearing almost simultaneously in that exact moment. I debated going after her, but decided not to intervene. She felt the need to remove herself quickly from the situation. I surmise she cried.

However, I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I was sorry she hadn’t stayed but a few moments longer. If only she had jumped into the pool and started swimming, it may have lifted her spirits.

I was sorry I had asked if everything was okay. Maybe it triggered her “escape.” And it occurred to me that, for any of us, the difference in what we do or how we react to something; well, it occurs in a millisecond. For my classmate, in a split second, she exited the building.

The Business Application

So, what does all this have to do with business and leadership?

Our current business environment is presenting challenges for many, myself included, unlike we’ve ever experienced. We’re making more decisions, faster than ever before. The decisions are urgent. Action is vital. For many, the pace these days is frenetic and furious. A sense of overwhelm can easily set in.

When facilitating virtual programs and conducting online webinars, I have clients ask, “Are you going to tell me if I should close my business?” The answer is “No.” That’s not my decision to make. But I do help them sort through a maze of ideas and a litany of facts to improve their decision-making power. I help them evaluate their options.

Weigh Your Options

When I was young and having a conversation with my mom, she used to always say, “I’ll have to weigh that.” Whether it was about an opinion or a decision, she was always “weighing” something, evaluating its value. I would often roll my eyes.

Early on, I’m not sure I even understood what she meant by the word until one day I spelled out the word she was using. “Oh! She has to WEIGH it” (not “way” it, as my young mind initially interpreted). She has to consider it, ponder it, evaluate it, or assess it. I still rolled my eyes. Why? Because I never knew how long she was going to weigh it. And I never knew if she would make a decision.

However, we’re talking split-second decisions here, where a decision in the moment, will impact you immediately…forever and a day, one way or the other. Yes, I want you to also “weigh” the outcomes, but, unlike my mom, you have to do so in a millisecond. And after you do, I want your decision to ignite the best, most positive action you can take at that very moment.

Yes or No?

Here’s an exercise to help you with rapid decision-making. I call it my Yes/No/Impact/Act model. It’s really quite simple and can be used when a split-second decision is about to happen. Action will occur immediately after that decision.

If you’re wavering between a choice of two actions, you want to choose the action with the greatest long-term benefit. Yes, sometimes our actions may deliver a short-term fix, but there’s often a longer-term impact as well. You can actually condition your mind to differentiate between immediate gratification and longer-term reward based on which decision you make. Doing so will influence your split-second decision process.

Build Your Capability

Here’s the exercise. You’re presented with a situation where you have a choice between two actions. Before choosing one over the other, quickly and consciously evaluate the impact of both decisions in terms of short- and long-term benefits. Understand the short-term benefit may be the easiest choice with immediate gratification. Choosing the action with the longer-term benefit may require a bit more fortitude. But if you can readily embrace the long-term benefit and tap into the feelings associated with it, you’ll find the strength needed to definitively make more positive, productive, and powerful decisions.

An easy example is making the choice to eat a candy bar or an apple. For my friend at the pool, it was about going home or doing water aerobics. For others, it might be about closing their business or keeping their doors open. However, I don’t advise you to ever make that type of decision in a split second. But you can still apply the steps to your decision. Here are the steps:

  • If yes, then what? If no, then what?
  • Swiftly evaluate the short-term and long-term impact.
  • Emotionally embrace the outcomes of each.
  • Make your decision and act.

Making Instantaneous Decisions

So, let’s differentiate between situations where split-second decisions can be made and those that require more analysis before a decision is made. Some require you to weigh the facts, the details, and the input over a period of time (like my mom always did) before coming to a conclusion. Others can be made in-the-moment.

What I want for you is to improve your ability to make those split-second decisions based on better, longer-term outcomes. Join me in the pool for water aerobics. Eat the apple. Make quick business decisions that will positively impact the growth and success of your business. Pick up the phone. Make the call. Send the email. Finish the project. Collect the money. Say hello.

There are hundreds of split-second decisions you make every week that impact the state of your business. Take a moment to reflect on the quality of those decisions. If yes or if no, then what? Practice swiftly evaluating the impact of each one this week. Make the decision.

Are you making decisions for short-term gratification or long-term impact? You may actually be surprised by what you discover when you you become cognizant of your actions.

Here’s the test. Are you going to take on the challenge to observe your split-second decision-making power this week? Yes or no? I hope you made an instantaneous decision and said, “Yes!” Get started now and let me know how it turns out.

Copyright 2020. Joanne Cumiskey. Joanne works with small business owners who want to grow and revitalize their companies and leaders who want to leave a legacy of success. She can be reached via:

For more information on business growth and development solutions check out: www.joannecumiskey.com.

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