On the Floor
When you're faced with an important decision, it's smart to ask for advice. However, there's a very good chance that you already know what to do but you don't want to do it.
This is frequently the case when accomplishing what you must do is unpleasant. Consciously or subconsciously you know you must do the unpleasant thing in order to move forward but the fear, anxiety or other negative emotion you feel about the act slows or stops you.
However, being aware of what you must do and not doing it also leads to unpleasant emotions. It creates internal tension and conflict because you are conscious that your emotions are holding you back. It also leads to self-criticism ("What kind of a coward am I that I can't just get this done? Wouldn't a real businessperson just charge right through this situation?").
Change The Question To "How Do I Do It?"
Ultimately, not wanting to do something is no excuse for not doing it. So, change your question from What should I do? to How do I do it?
Here are some of the tips and techniques I've developed over years in business that have helped me accomplish really difficult tasks, including ending a business partnership and commencing legal action.
Irrevocably commit to doing it. When I was a kid struggling with a decision, my dad would tell me the story of the boy who arrived at a high fence that was blocking his path. Uncertain of his ability to get over it, the boy took off his hat and threw it over the fence. Now he had no choice: he had to climb the fence in order to retrieve his hat. That story stuck with me and I often think of committing to a decision as "throwing my hat over the fence".
There are a few ways to throw your hat over the fence. One way is to tell someone (especially someone you are accountable to) that you intend on doing it. Partners (whether marital or business) are a good choice, and so is your boss. Another way is to set events in motion: book a meeting to discuss an unnamed "important issue", or tell your IT department to revoke someone's access to the company network, etc.
- Develop a creative approach to the unpleasant task. There is often a softer, more diplomatic and less unpleasant way to get things done than a first look may reveal. Suppose that you wish to sever your relationship with a problematic client because they fail to pay on time. Rather than approaching this issue head-on, you could tell them that the company has decided to focus on a different tier of business. It's true (the tier you're focusing on is the tier of companies that pay on time) but it lets them save face and makes the conversation easier on everyone.
- Ask for advice. If you know you must do something difficult, asking whether or not you ought to do it may not be a fruitful use of your time. But asking how to do it can bring substantial benefits, especially if you keep point #3 in mind and ask your trusted friend or advisor: "Can you help me think of a creative way to accomplish this unpleasant task?"
- Put it in writing. If you cannot bring yourself to deal with a situation in person, put it in writing. People appreciate a personal touch, but if you're finding dealing with it face-to-face too difficult, don't let that stop you from getting it done. Sending someone an email, writing them a letter, or leaving them a note is a very effective way of throwing your hat over the fence - but if you're able, simply state in clear terms what the issue is and close with, "Can we talk?" Then be prepared to meet with the person.
- Afterwards, ask yourself, "What did I learn from this experience?" Completing a difficult task is one of the best learning opportunities you'll ever have. Not only will you learn how to deal with future difficult situations, but you'll also learn something about yourself: chiefly, that you have what it takes to get hard stuff done.
As you proceed, never forget that personal relationships matter. Except when your desired outcome is a scorched earth where all parties are irrevocably committed to conflict (obviously this is not generally advisable), your approach should seek to minimize the amount of damage to personal relationships.
Not only will this decrease the chance of negative consequences (such as lawsuits), but chances are, you'll be meeting this person again, either in the context of doing business or just on the street. You'll feel much better if you treated that person fairly and empathetically while you sought to advance your interests.
Lastly, remember that whatever it is you're afraid of doing, chances are, it won't be as bad as you expect. And when it's done, you'll be happy and relieved in the knowledge that you made an important decision in order to move on.