Are you flip-flopping or changing your mind?
Last week the Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford, responded to escalating Covid-19 cases announced further restrictions to our lockdown. Included in those changes was the closure of playgrounds. I generally avoid getting too involved online with politics, but I did tweet my displeasure, and I wrote an email to his office.
I was delighted when the following day, the decision to close playgrounds was reversed. There was an immediate backlash, and people accused him of flip-flopping and making poor decisions. The media attacks focused on Doug Ford's leadership competency. He eventually offered an apology for the decision to take ownership of the situation.
I have thought a lot about decision-making. When we make a decision, we have chosen to commit to a specific action. We have thought through the options or considered the situation and said, "I will do this/buy this/show up for this."
And sometimes, we find ourselves resisting our decision and even changing our minds. It's OK to change your mind. However, it can be frustrating for people around you, And it can contribute to inaction and/or self-doubt. Or the dreaded flip-flop. When someone continually reverses decisions or doesn't follow through on their commitments, it erodes trust.
So how can you know the difference between flip-flopping and changing your mind?
A big part of it comes down to something I call 'decision quality' Taking time to think through your choices and commitments upfront can minimize the need to change your course of action or change your mind later. Here are some things to reflect on when it comes to making better decisions.
What were the messages you received growing up when it came to decisions?
We all have internalized beliefs when it comes to changing our minds on a decision we make. I grew up in a home where there wasn't much negotiation on decisions. My parents decided what we would do, and that was it. It could be harsh. When I skipped a day of school in Grade 8, they decided I couldn't go to my Grade 8 graduation dance. It was harsh. They took away a once-in-a-lifetime event. I remember begging to go, but they wouldn't change their minds. A decision had been made. It didn't stop me from skipping school, but it did contribute to recognizing the damage that can occur when someone refuses to revisit a decision at a very young age. And it also led me to be very shaky when it came to decisions in my life. I would change my mind easily to please people to avoid being like my parents. Understanding this event in my life and how it shaped me helped create better criteria for decisions.
Was there room in your family to negotiate on decisions? Or did you have to go along with what your parents told you? Like most of our attitudes, thinking about where you learned about decision-making can help you understand and make confident choices.
What messages did you receive in the communities you belonged to?
One of the ones I had to explore was, "Let your yes be yes and your no be no." It's from The Bible and has more to do with oaths and vows than everyday decisions, but I still have a lingering discomfort with changing my mind because of it. It's very rigid. I can avoid committing rather than change my mind. Decision avoidance can be the result of uncompromising messages like this one.
When someone changes their mind, you may feel that they are untrustworthy, like a parent who promised to take you to the beach and then cancelled at the last minute. Once you've become aware of some of your default behaviours around decision making and where they came from, you are ready to create some criteria for quality decision-making. Here are some further considerations:
When you decide, take the time to gather all the information to make the best-informed decision possible. It might be impossible to have all the data (like right now with the Covid-19 vaccine), but you can generally get a lot of information. You may not be 100% confident, but you can be confident based on the information you have available. And in a situation where new data is emerging quickly, like right now with studies on Covid-19, it's OK to say, "Based on the data I have available right now, I have decided to take this course of action." You might need to wait or delay a decision if you don't have the information you need.
Ask yourself if the information you are using to inform your decision is trustworthy.
One reason decision-making can be so tricky is because of the amount of information available to us. I ran into this when I was deciding whether or not to get a vaccine. I had to sort through so many articles, podcasts and YouTube videos on the topic. I avoided personal opinions from people who were not medical experts as much as possible. It can be challenging to feel confident in the quality of the information you are getting. Who can you trust? It would help if you learned to listen to your gut as well. It's tricky and takes practice.
Make sure your decision is aligned with your values. I recently impulsively purchased a dress from a retailer. I think it was one of those dangerous Instagram ads. I later regretted it because I have decided to buy clothing from businesses with ethical and sustainable practices in their manufacturing. I ended up sending it back. It happens.
Is your decision consistent with other decisions you've made? If you decide to treat yourself to a Spa Day after telling your spouse that money was tight and they couldn't spend money on something they wanted, you might find yourself backtracking when they question you.
Did you consult with anyone that would be impacted by your decision before you made it? I talk a lot about disappointing more people. There's a big difference between doing what you want even when people disagree with you and blindsiding them with your decision.
Flip-flopping happens to most of us when we are in a time of change. We can find ourselves going back and forth on decisions quite frequently. It's because you are in the midst of transition. You have a vision for who you want to be, and you are still operating from old habits and ways of being that are still pulling you back to the comfort zone. It's OK. You can revisit your decisions and say honestly to anyone impacted by them, "I know I said I would __________, but I've been rethinking my decision, and it isn't aligned with where I want to be in my life.
Second-guessing, questioning or reversing our decisions and procrastination can all be forms of people-pleasing. Self-doubt can also be present. If decision-making is a problem for you, email me and set up a coaching session. Save the flip-flops for the beach.