A great insight I once learned was the question of whether you can share something you didn’t really own. The context was a father who’d thrown a party for his daughter and immediately tried to get her to share the gifts she’d just received with all the other children at the party. She refused … and things got ugly after the father’s attempts to bribe her with chocolate and coerce her with threats of punishment both failed. (7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Steven R Covey).

Faced with a tough decision it’s easy to run out for advice without thinking the problem through, in this instance perhaps you’re losing ownership of the responsibility, in which case can you really share the decision? Put another way, perhaps you’re asking someone else to decide for you, and this is not the same as asking for advice. Equally, it may be more difficult to accept someone else’s perspective when you sense you’re losing control of the decision. i.e. You end up deciding based on instinct alone and lose out on potentially good advice.

This morning, faced with a tough problem with seemingly no clear path in sight, I decided to ask myself what I’d do if someone paid me (say $500) to come up with a written solution to the problem by end of day. I was actually borrowing a concept I’d written about in an earlier post where I talked about how funny it was that sometimes we won’t do something for ourselves, because we feel we’re not qualified, but throw in some deadlines and an impatient client, and suddenly we’re pulling out all the stops to get the job done. So I figured, why can’t I be my own client?

I learned a few things from this experience:

  • Even people who consider themselves to be decisive, can be at risk of completely delegating important decisions to someone else
  • I think we all have great potential to be decisive on what we think we should do. We just need to temporarily silence the part of ourselves that’s hung up on a lot of the unknowns
  • Once you have an idea of what you think should be done and why, you get a much clearer picture of what sort of advice to ask of someone else

Before I end this post I want to clarify that I’m not saying that asking for advice is in any way wrong, I’m trying to emphasize that you’re more likely to get the best advice if you first figure out what you think you should do and why.