What is “Sitting on the Fence” Costing You?

Have you ever found yourself sitting on the fence about something that’s really important to you? It could be related to a career decision, going for what you want personally or professionally, or making an investment in yourself. Well, I’m here to tell you that the road ahead is full of new opportunities and possibilities…and you can make some different choices than you have in the past.

I have the privilege of working with talented leaders every day to help them get results they couldn’t before. And what I often see is that despite their success, at times even they find themselves sitting on the fence instead of moving forward.

Here are three common traps they fall into:

1. This isn’t a good time.

This is what I like to call “playing it safe.” There are so many reasons to stay exactly where we are and not take action. The lists are endless. Do any of these sound familiar?

  • “If I can just finish this project or get past the next two months, then I’ll have time to focus on this.”

  • “There’s already been a lot of change in the company. I don’t want to rock the boat.”

  • “I can’t ask for the company to invest in a coach or a training program for me, even if I can quickly recoup the investment. Budgets are tight.

Whether the reason is time, money, or something else; it’s up to you to make the business case:

  • What does make this the right time to take action?

  • What positive outcomes could occur if I move forward now instead of waiting?

  • What’s at risk personally or professionally, if I wait?

2. I need more information

If you find yourself in an endless cycle of gathering and analyzing data, the question to ask yourself is “What do I have to know to move forward with this?” By focusing on the one or two most critical things, you can put aside the “nice to have” but less important information that’s muddying the water. We will never have all the information we want or need, so use the 80/20 rule and focus on the 20 percent that matters the most.

3. What if it doesn’t work out? Or, what if it does?

Sometimes the fear of getting what you want can be scarier than the fear of not getting it—because at the end of the day, it means change. And change is hard, even when it’s positive. So, you may find yourself lacking energy and enthusiasm to move forward, even when it’s something that really matters to you.

Ask yourself, “If I move forward with this, what could happen? What would be different?” Play out your worst case and your best case scenarios as if you were watching them on video. Describe what is happening in as much detail as possible. By playing them out, you will get a better sense of how likely they are to happen and what’s really underlying your fear.

Just remember that we all find ourselves sitting on the fence at one point or another. The key is to not be there long enough to get splinters. Whether your response is a “yes” or a “no” on whether to move forward on something that really matters to you, sometimes it’s important to just make a decision. So answer the questions above, and consider working with a coach or someone who can help you figure out what’s making you hesitate. That’s the first step to getting off that fence.