Author: Charles P. Bosmajian, Jr., Ph.D. is a psychologist at the National Center for Telehealth & Technology.
One of the most important qualities of leadership is the ability to make decisions. Resilient individuals do this well because they trust in themselves and in their own judgment.
Resilient individuals know what brings joy and happiness into their lives. They are able to define themselves in terms of who they are– their beliefs, values, tastes and opinions and they make firm decisions based on that information. When necessary, they are able to defend their positions when they are challenged by others. Don’t mistake this for being rigid or controlling however. Part of being resilient is being flexible, but flexibility is not code for a lack of conviction. Individuals who are resilient are able to change their views, but only when there is significant evidence that such a change will lead to an increase in their well-being, provide a better understanding of the world, and create better decisions. They understand that there is no such thing as absolute certainty so they don’t seek it. This often means moving forward based on a “best guess” about how to proceed. Resilient individuals are able to do this because they have developed a sense of “arbitrary rightness” in which they decide that their course of action is the right one at the moment, even when other plausible courses exist. But don’t think that this means they approach life in an arbitrary manner–far from it. Resilient individuals gather as much information as possible before making a decision. But unlike many people, they understand the difference between seeking information on the one hand and seekingaffirmation on the other. They have very little need to have others affirm their choices or decisions once they are made.
Those who don’t trust their own judgment struggle with uncertainty. These individuals rarely make decisions by themselves and when they do they are often filled with anxiety. They inevitably find themselves asking others for advice. You may be wondering if this means that soliciting input from others is a problem. On the contrary, it’s frequently a good idea. But using the opinions of others as the sole source of input in the decision-making process is a major problem. Many times these individuals have a standing “committee” for example, composed of family and friends with whom they discuss their decisions. In the absence of confirming input from this “committee”, they can feel paralyzed. When they do express an opinion, they are easily swayed if it’s challenged by others. As they struggle with uncertainty they are indecisive, they hate to make decisions, and they easily give control of their lives to others who are willing to make decisions for them. Because they are not comfortable with “best guesses” as they make decisions, they open themselves to significant anxiety because all plausible courses of action are repeatedly considered in the futile search for certainty. And unlike resilient individuals, they fool themselves by believing that seeking affirmation, “what do you think?” is the same as collecting information. This is not true decision-making, but actually involves asking for a show of hands as to the best course of action.
Allowing others to vote on the direction we take in our lives is not good decision making and certainly interferes with developing personal resilience.