How Do You Choose?

What really puzzles me about elections is how many undecided voters there are even up to the last week before the election. Most made their decision months ago, perhaps years ago.

And if you’re one of those people (as I am) we wonder why it’s so hard for people to make a choice, to move forward with confidence and stop worrying about it.

But the truth is, we all have troubles choosing. If not in the election, in other areas of our lives. Take marketing, for instance. A good example may be our uncertainly about choosing a particular marketing strategy to pursue.

Should we do networking, or speaking, or publishing, or social media, or whatever? I’ve talked to a whole lot of people who are considering doing one or more, but just can’t make a choice. So they sit in the very painful place of indecision.

Often people want someone else to make the choice: “You choose for me, I can’t.” And some get huge amounts of information and still can’t choose, “There are too many choices; I don’t want to go in the wrong direction.”

One source of this indecision is the fear of making a mistake. 

Let’s look at that one for a minute. If you’re afraid of making a mistake, you probably have the underlying thought, “I need to do this perfectly.”

But how is that possible? Nobody does marketing perfectly. The best of us do it adequately. Forget perfection. You simply want to gather the best advice you can and then make the choice to do the thing that you feel most comfortable with right now.

Another issue is second-guessing ourselves. 

This is when we make a choice to do something and then immediately conclude we’ve made the wrong choice. We never give ourselves the chance to give that choice an honest try. So we’re always starting, stopping, and starting, building no momentum.

All of this tends to result in “paralysis by analysis.” 

This is where we over-think everything. We gather a lot of data, more than is necessary, but it never feels like enough. But there is always the illusion of control, “When I have enough data, I’ll make a choice.” But when you do choose, it’s as if you have your brakes on while moving forward.

But how about the people who make choices quickly and easily?

The thing about these people is that once they choose, they rarely change their minds. They make the choice and go for it. They worry little about making mistakes or being perfect, and they don’t second-guess themselves.

In many cases, that’s my process:

1. Commitment: I first make a choice to choose. That is, I make a commitment that I will choose to go one way or the other on a particular plan or project. I often give myself a deadline.

2. Analysis: I start thinking about all the options available to me. I’ll do some research. I will often write some of them down and think about the pros and the cons.

3. Feeling: Next I look at the success potential of the plan and then feel what it might be like actually doing it. Can I see myself not only succeeding at it, but enjoy doing it?

4. Action: And then I choose. I commit to a direction and strategy and start to put that plan into action without hesitation or delay. I focus and build momentum.

I’ve used the above process on five major marketing projects in the past 12 years where each have generated from $250K to $848K. So I’ve made this work for me.

But I think the most important steps are one and four. It is very easy to get stuck in two and three. This is where you can over-think, second-guess yourself and worry about doing it perfectly.

I’d been doing this in trying to write my second second book, “Marketing Ball.” I literally spent 5 years on two and three, but very little on one and four!

One day I “woke up” and realized how I’d been stopping myself. 

Then at the end of last year, I committed to moving forward and just started, not knowing exactly where it would go. Ultimately, I wrote the full book in just 18 days, with very little struggle.

My conclusion is that commitment, and action are a whole lot more important that analysis, options, research and over-thinking things. And although these can be integrated into the process, they can be be deadly, getting in the way of actually just choosing and making something happen.

By Robert Middleton of Action Plan Marketing. Please visit Robert’s web site at www.actionplan.com for additional marketing articles and resources on marketing for professional service businesses.

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