Learn to trust your gut.
Practice separating the strands of feelings and logic; listen to both, but don’t rely on either one. Stay suspicious of ego. Trust your gut.
Take your time. Don’t let yourself be rushed into important decisions. Give yourself room to breathe and tap into your own wisdom. If necessary, take a step back and unplug. Think of it as the care and feeding of your decision-making capacity.
Once you make a decision, follow through and act on it decisively. Don’t second-guess yourself.
After you take action on your decision, take time to sit down and examine how you made the decision and what happened as a result. What was your gut telling you? Did you follow it or not? How did that work out? Or were you swayed by emotional pull or rational argument? You can’t avoid making poor decisions, but you can use them to hone your decision-making skills and deepen your ability to trust your gut in the future.
Curate your environment.
Take an inventory of your environment, including what you read and what media you consume, including mass media and social media. Does it genuinely inform you? Does it challenge you, inspire you, stretch you?
Take an inventory of the people you spend time with. Do they build your knowledge, your confidence, and your abilities? Do they stretch you? Are you surrounding yourself with excellence, knowledge, and wisdom?
Seek out the perspectives of those with greater experience in every area where you are challenging yourself, as well as greater life experience in general. Cultivate a circle of colleagues, mentors, and advisers who challenge you to raise your game.
Master it first in your mind.
Pay attention to your thoughts; become aware of the conversation in your head. Speak the words out loud, without filtering or editing, so you hear what that internal monologue is really saying.
When you notice your thoughts going negative, stop and reframe. Sort out what you’re currently thinking, and what positive thoughts you would replace it with. Write this out, if it helps. Give yourself positive language to frame what you want to see yourself doing: connecting bat and ball, as opposed to avoiding the strikeout.
Hone those positive thoughts like a razor, so they send a clear signal to every part of your nervous and endocrine systems. See yourself vividly walking through the sequence of actions you want to master. And focus on doing it right. Remember that mental rehearsal takes just as much discipline as physical, maybe more.
Start in your comfort zone, then stretch.
Isolate the fundamental elements of the challenge, and practice those under relaxed conditions until they are accurate and complete.
Now apply repetition and refinement, gradually ramping up in speed, volume, scale, or whatever aspect or parameter you need to increase.
Push the limits. Floor it! When you start losing accuracy, scale back again to within your competence zone until you have it fully back under control. Then start pushing the limits again. Take it as far as you can—and then 5 percent further.
In other words: start within the limitations of your current competence and then build on that. Crawl, walk, run.
When opportunity comes, seize it.
Don’t get stuck in endless prep. Understand that practice and rehearsal can take you only so far; don’t let “I’m still getting ready” become an excuse for failing to take action when the situation presents itself. You’ll never be fully “ready.”
Tune out the bullshit, whether it’s coming from yourself, your friends, or detractors. Don’t fight it or respond to it; just tune it out, period.
Get out of the echo chamber.
Examine your fear. Is it about a challenge directly in front of you, in the here and now, or is it in reaction to events long behind you? Are you shadowboxing with the distant past?
If your fear is about a clear and present danger, then flip the switch and focus on what positive actions you can take to meet the challenge.
If it is a pattern of reaction to echoes of the past, then identify that—write it down if it helps—and let it go. And then focus on positive action. Let the past be in the past, the future in the future, and engage in the present.
Don’t let anything stop you.
Think back to the last time you made a bold decision, but then hesitated before taking action. Did you equivocate, second-guess yourself? How long did you stay in that place? Was it because you were still genuinely working through the decision, or were you simply hesitating for hesitation’s sake?
Think back to the last time you were faced with a risk your gut was telling you to take, but people around you were saying “Don’t do it!” What did you do? With the benefit of hindsight, did you make the best choice? Sometimes the world is right, but sometimes it’s wrong, and only you can decide.
Resolve that the next time you find yourself in that hesitant gap between decision and action, you will cut the moment short—and simply act. If you are genuinely not sure and need more time to consider the decision, then step firmly back from the edge, climb down from the diving board, and take whatever steps you need to take in order to process the decision. But once you’re as decided as you’re going to be, then refuse to allow yourself the luxury of gratuitous hesitation. Just jump.
Make a habit of asking for what you want.
Whether it’s a career advancement, a new position, assistance, or a favor, practice asking for what you want. Don’t wait for the light to change from red to green. Be the green light.
You won’t always get what you ask for; however:
If you never make the request, your chances of getting it drop to near zero;
Developing the habit of asking makes you a more decisive and action-oriented person;
Making clear requests fosters good communication with others and also helps to clarify in your own mind what it is you want.
Identify what matters most.
Make a list of everything that is most important to you. Don’t worry about what order the entries are in, or about the list being complete. You can come back and add to it later. Just get it down.
Now go back over that list and make each item concrete and specific. If you wrote down a value, such as “freedom,” “truth,” “contribution,” or “success,” what specifically does that mean? If you wrote down something about people, such as “friends” or “family” or “relationships,” then who? And what about them?
Go through it once more, and this time ask yourself these questions about each entry on your list:
How much time am I devoting to this each week?
How much of the money I earn am I investing in this?
How much of my energy am I investing in this every day?
If I knew I had one year left to live, would I change any of those three answers above?
How can I start implementing those changes right now?