Progress by choosing the next best alternative

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Eammon Percy

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” – Vincent van Gogh

Eammon Percy
Eammon Percy

Excellence is always the long-term goal. Unfortunately, some people get bogged down in the details while seeking excellence; they lose focus, excellence fades and they hit a dead end. This causes them to freeze or become overly inhibited by the fear of making a mistake. They end up doing nothing and the initiative stalls.

I have learned over the years that circumstances are never perfect, so you have to work with what is immediately in front of you. A big part of building something important is constantly making decisions using the best information available. These decisions can and must be made. Decide, Act, Learn, Repeat!

Resist the temptation to procrastinate, and put all fear of making a wrong decision out of your mind. Instead, when you are prevented from taking the ideal course of action, progress by choosing the next best alternative and act immediately.

Why does this approach work?

  • Deciding on the next best alternative creates traction and momentum, and immediately improves on the status quo.
  • It reinforces your ability to make a decision, which will ultimately move you forward
  • While the next best alternative is not the final outcome, it creates a different perspective. This may enable you to see the problem in a new light and generate new creative ideas and possible solutions.
  • You reduce your risks by making many small decisions. If your decision is a poor one, your failure is small and limited.
  • Choosing the next best alternative builds your action muscle.The human condition is about progress, innovation and fulfillment of potential, and action is one of the best ways to make this happen.

 How to choose the next best alternative:

  1. When faced with a difficult decision, immediately determine two or three short-term actions you can take.
  2. Quickly consider the pros and cons of each action, but focus mostly on which option moves you closer to your long-term goal.
  3. Pick one option and execute immediately.
  4. Don’t second-guess yourself. Put all self-doubt out of your mind.
  5. Repeat whenever you are faced with a similar situation.

The key is to move beyond the fear and paralysis that can engulf you by taking a small step forward. Don’t lose sight of the big picture, which is to ultimately achieve excellence.

Eamonn has a B. Eng. (Electrical) from Lakehead University, MBA (Finance) from University of Toronto, and has completed Executive Education at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He lives in Vancouver, Canada. Follow him on twitter @EamonnPercy.