I’d like to talk about an unhealthy behavior pattern I often witness, and offer some advice on how to remove it.

Here’s the unhealthy pattern: I see people who have a decision coming up afraid of the information-gathering stage as if it represented a commitment.

Let me be more specific with some examples. Let’s say you need a new car, and you’re anxious about the decision. Buying a car is a reasonably “deep” decision for most people – it represents a decent amount of money, is a decision you have to live with for a reasonable amount of time, and has many factors. Being a little anxious about such a decision is perfectly natural. But what’s unhealthy is if you avoid test-driving a car because you’re anxious about the buying decision.

I see it all the time from many people. They don’t want to go to an open-house, an interview, a test-drive, or an informal first date – because they’re nervous about the ultimate decision. But those things aren’t the decision itself; they’re the pre-decision checklist. At that stage, you haven’t made a decision yet, you aren’t committed to anything, and you still can change direction at any point.

Here’s the advice: Don’t make any decisions in the pre-decision stage.

“I don’t want to test-drive an SUV because I heard they’re hard to handle.” That’s the point of a test-drive.

“I don’t want to go on this interview because I don’t think I’d like a job in finance.” That’s exactly why you should go, to find out.

“I don’t want to look at houses in the north side because I’m worried they might be too expensive.” It doesn’t cost you anything to read a price tag.

Gather information first. Write a report to yourself if you have to. Be comfortable with the powerful phrase: “I’m not ready to make that decision yet, because I don’t have enough information.” Have a plan to get the information you need, and then go.

But don’t be afraid of what you don’t know yet.

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