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How to make great decisions: What I learned from my 5th grade acting career

Think about ONE area of your life that is not working out as well as you would like. Take a second and make sure you have one… is it your career, your love life, how you manage your time?

Odds are, you are stuck because you are being one of two personas:

The Adventurer

Look at the picture in this blog. You will see 10-year-old Samantha, hair dyed grey and standing on a stage. Opening night. I was playing a lead role in my class’s production of the musical The Pirates of Penzance.

What this means is that I had the privilege of opening with a LONG 3-minute solo, all by myself, in front of the school and parent body.

Was I an accomplished singer? Nope. Had I acted before? Not unless you counted plays I put on with my sister in my living room.

And yet, months prior, I had told my teachers that I wanted a BIG role in the play. After all, as every kid knows, bigger is better. Only later did I learn that this meant an all-eyes-on-me solo in front of those stage lights.

It turns out that I actually enjoy performing on stage, so diving into the role was a great choice and likely influenced my later career in public speaking. But it could also have been abjectly terrifying and turned me off.

My Pirates experience is how I approach many decisions: I dive in headfirst because things sound interesting, oftentimes without fully considering what they might entail. I call this type of persona an Adventurer. We adventurers are quick to say “Yes” to new ideas or opportunities.

An Adventurer takes action and may be more likely to end up with quick successes. The disadvantage is that your decisions may not align with your ultimate goals and passions. You might one day wonder, “how did I get here?"

The Analyzer

The opposite of the Adventurer, Analyzers think through decisions. Carefully. You are a master at examining pros and cons, getting other people’s opinions, and evaluating how things could be better. The only problem is that you don’t always act on your insights.

Had I been an Analyzer in 5th grade, I would have questioned if I was good enough, brave enough, and had enough time for a big role. I would have studied the play,and examined my competition. In the end, I probably wouldn’t have asked for a “ big role" because I lacked singing and acting experience.

An analyzer thinks things through and may have a more “ realistic” understanding of the situation. You only commit to those decisions that truly feel right. The disadvantage is that you may not take action because you see potential downsides… and if even if you do take action, you may be slow to do so.

Think back to that area in your life where you are stuck. Which persona are you being? Do you dive in head-first, or do you sit back in analysis paralysis? The key is to balance these two personas.

Here’s how to build up your “weak suit.”

If you are an Adventurer...

  • Connect with your bigger goals. Where do you want to be in one year? Five? By being focused on the big picture, you resist saying “yes" to choices that don't keep you on target.

  • Understand your patterns. How do you keep living the same day, job, or relationship over and over again? How can you set an “alarm” to catch yourself early if you are engaging in the pattern again?

  • Ask for opinions. While you get used to connecting to your bigger goals, go to your friends or a coach and run big decisions by them. Make sure they know your bigger goals.

If you are an Analyzer...

  • Turn your brain off! Once you have made a decision, stop debating it. Practice telling your mind “no thank you” to the new angles it might try to feed you.

  • Set deadlines. Simple and obvious, and yet we blow off personal deadlines all the time because they don’t affect anyone other than ourselves. Tell your coach or your friends so they can hold you accountable.

  • Give up on perfection. Sometimes we overanalyze because we are afraid to make a decision that is less-than-perfect. Embrace your humanity and go for great, not perfect. It’s ok.

What is ONE action you will take to balance your inner Adventurer and Analyzer?

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