There are two types of decisions: ones you’ve made before and ones you haven’t. Every decision starts as one you’ve never made before. It’s only with experience that decisions that would have fallen into the latter category move into the first.
Easy decisions are the first ones you’ll make. Options appear to reason through, and you choose a course based on your values and wisdom.
As time goes on and the easier decisions have been made — or systematized in such a way that others can make them — leaders are left with the hard decisions. Ones that are entirely new in their subject matter, stakes, or the ambiguity of whether a right decision truly exists.
Instinct is the gradual shift of new decisions into familiar decisions. It’s the pattern recognition of seeing how our guidance can shape the world, and an understanding of the fallibilities of our ego, impatience, and fear.
The whole world is a series of decisions made individually and collectively. It’s easy to become paralyzed by a challenging new decision, but take comfort in humility. Decisions of similar scale have been faced before, and it’s unlikely that the stakes are ever as large as they seem. Most likely a decision will simply create further decisions to consider.
When making decisions it’s vital to reflect beyond the situation at hand to what you most value. Imagine a future where your values are realized. What decision at this moment in time makes that future most probable? What could prevent that reality from coming to pass?
As a leader, each day is nothing but decisions. Where experience provides instinct for a decision, use it. Where a situation is entirely new, approach it with humility and care. And be grateful for the experience it will bring to the next decision you’ll be asked to make.