Money guru, Dave Ramsey, is famous for saying that people buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, to impress people they don’t know. If I’m being honest, I have been guilty of doing this a few times myself. We all want to appear successful, cool, or the top dog in the room. But sometimes it doesn’t go as planned. Years ago, a young friend of mine rented a car to impress a woman on a first date. But then they really hit it off. The good news? He made a great first impression. The bad news? He had to show up for the second date in his beat-up Honda and ask for her understanding.
Many times, we attribute the success of an individual to a few significant decisions they’ve made that proved crucial. This is especially true when it comes to financial success. But with the exception of lottery winners, research indicates something different. According to Roy Baumeister and John Tierney authors of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength those who make good decisions in one area of their lives tend to do it in all areas. In other words, effective decision making cannot be isolated to one area of a person’s life. This has also been reflected many times in the interviews I’ve conducted over the past 30 years.
While Ramsey focuses his version of “don’t need – don’t have – don’t know” on finances, the same is true in our communications in the workplace, our career choices, and any other decision of significance. The best decision makers learn early on that paying attention to bright shiny objects, peer pressure, and offers guaranteeing instant success are the errands of a fool. If they’re lucky, they take some hard knocks, and learn to guard themselves against these endless temptations. In other words, much of success can be attributed to the denial of instant gratification.
Unfortunately, this self-denial has become excruciatingly difficult in a world that promises instant access, instant outcomes, instant beauty, and instant weight loss for only $9.95 a month. So, how do the best decision makers overcome these distractions and temptations?
Consider a few of the good decision makers you admire. Chances are, you will notice that they are strategic in their thinking and they are comfortable delaying decisions until they have thought through the ramifications of the outcome. Finally, they are mindful of their daily habits. They don’t binge on Downton Abbey, they avoid the donuts in the break room, and they surround themselves with others who practice the habits and thinking they admire.
Now, none of this is rocket science. And the cool thing is that these productive habits and attitudes are available for anyone to develop. Any good decision maker will tell you, however, that this is a journey. We all stumble occasionally. But our strength of habit and routine determines how fast we return to the self-discipline essential to “don’t need – done have – don’t know.”