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Good Decision Making: Trust Yourself

When I was in college I wrote a paper making the case that most of the decisions we make are based on fear. My professor told me that I wouldn’t want the grade she’d put on the paper and told me to rewrite it. Clearly, she disagreed. Many years later, I still believe the premise of what I wrote. Much of our decision making is fear based.

We make decisions based on fear of what will and won’t happen.

Is that a good decision? What will happen if I say or do that? Will I get in trouble? Will I get what I want, or will there be negative consequences? Will we make or lose money? Will I lose my job? What impression will that decision make on other people?

Fear is pervasive. It hides in our brain and guides our decision making, without us even being aware of its presence.

I’ll never forget driving up to an ATM machine with one of my closest friends from high school. We were 30 at the time, long past high school, and were in a very quiet and safe  neighborhood. And yet my friend told me not to go to the ATM machine after dark because it wasn’t safe.

Says who? A long time ago, someone told her that it wasn’t safe to go to an ATM machine at night. And she believed that she’d be robbed at night, at any ATM machine, anywhere, throughout her adult life. Not sound decision making nor a rationale fear.

Regarding decision making, who is running the show, you or your past?

When decision making, you know what’s best for you. When you quiet the noise in your head and listen, you know what to do. Trust yourself.

Trust yourselfTap into your real desires. When desire overtakes fear, the world will be at your feet. But it can take a lot to even identify that fear is running the show and to know what those desires are.

Trust yourself. Not your fear. When fear rears its head, go to a quiet place, literally and figuratively, and ask yourself:

What do I really want? What should I do?  You’ll know. Don’t ask 100 people what you should do. Or do ask other people for advice, but be careful with the answers you get. Underneath all that worry and concern, you know what you want. The key is to listen and be willing to trust yourself.


Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training throughout the U.S. Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at

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5 Responses to “Good Decision Making: Trust Yourself”

  1. Jill says:

    This is such perfect timing for me as I go into a meeting with my HR people, President of the company and my new boss to discuss communication issues and what is becoming a hostile work place. I have been so afraid of doing what is right that I have been sick to my stomach about requesting this meeting. I have my notes but know my voice will quake as I try to find a resolution to our problems. Thanks so much.

  2. Ann says:

    So, can we assume you decided to rewrite your paper out of fear of getting a bad grade, thereby proving your original thesis? I wonder if your professor saw the irony.

    • Shari Harley says:

      Hi Ann, I did not rewrite the paper. I think I took the D out of principle. Went down with the ship. I hope all is well with Ag Choice. I was working with the PA School Board Assoc literally across the street from your main office and didn’t realize it until I was leaving for the airport. Wish I’d realized it earlier. I would have swung by to say hello and make sure you’re all still using your Candor Questions!

  3. B. Thomas says:

    Very timely and an excellent perspective. I once heard someone say…what would you do if all your dreams came true. Sometimes we have a fear of things working out and it being a success. Instead of trusting ourselves to be able to handle the next level.

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