By Mary L. Flett, Ph.D.  Sunday, January 14, 2018

Have you ever fretted over a decision?  I have a whole chorus of frets — Am I doing the right thing?  Is this the best time?  How do I know how this will turn out?  And the anxiety just goes up (at least for me) when the decision is REALLY important.  Like “Should I move?”

Truth of it is, we make hundreds of decisions each day. Most of the time, we get good results. Sometimes we make mistakes or feel we could have done better.  In working with my patients, I came up with a handy decision-making tool that breaks down some of the anxiety associated with coming out with the right decision more often.  I call it Ready-Willing-Able because you need all three to optimize your decision and insure that you are covering all your bases.

To determine if you can move ahead with a decision, you need to answer three questions:

  • Am I ready?
  • Am I willing?
  • Am I able?

Thinkers vs. Feelers

Before answering these questions, you need to identify whether you are a “thinker” or a “feeler”.   ‘Thinkers’ and ‘Feelers’ have different ways of knowing when they are ready, willing, and able. Thinkers may need hard evidence (facts!). Feelers just “know” when they are ready!  Depending on whether you are a thinker or feeler, you will need to pay attention to how you know.

ThinkerFeelerBasically we are looking at making a decision based on ‘right-brain’ or left-brain dominance.  We each have our preferences.  According to most brain scientists, we actually use both left and right hemispheres to make decisions, but this condenses it into an easily understood framework.


What are all the possible decisions you can make when determining if you are ready, willing and able?  Plotting your answers gives you a visual to use to get yourself to the optimal decision point.

R-W-A Matrix

R-W-A Matrix #1: Possibilities

Looking at this matrix, you can see how many possibilities for decisions there are!  For example, you may find yourself ready, but unable or unwilling. You may think you are willing, but just not ready or able. Or you might be able, but not be ready or willing.

Rather than going ahead a making the decision when you aren’t Ready-Willing-Able, how about you identify where you need to make adjustments so you can get into the “Optimal Zone”!  Knowing which of the essential elements is out of alignment will tell you what you need to do to get that result!

R-W-A Matrix #2: Missing Pieces

Sometimes we are not even sure we are ready to act. We may have doubts (fears), or the timing is just not right, or maybe we don’t have enough information. Here is what you need to know. It is OK to not make a decision if you are not ready. As a matter of fact, if you are forced into making a decision when you are not ready, willing, and able, you are more likely to change your mind completely and regret the action you took. Knowing which piece is missing is just as critical as having all three pieces in alignment.

R-W-A Matrix-open

A bit more definition is needed.  Let’s look at each of these three domains in more detail.  First I’ll define what each means, and then I’ll walk you through how thinkers and feelers apply them to decisions.

How Do I Know I am Ready?

  • Readiness means you are ready to commit
  • Readiness means you have resources
  • Readiness means the timing is right

What gets in the way of being ready?

  • Impulsivity – “I want it now!”
  • Not having enough information.
  • Doubts, fears, past experience of failure
  • Not having the right tools, support, mind-set, resources.
  • Your idea is great, but the timing is all wrong!
  • Lacking patience.Being Ready
Thinkers rodin-the-thinker-auguste-rodin
Committing means you have intention and plans to act.
Resources can include money, time, energy, support, and plans
Timing includes patience, punctuality, presence, and persistence.  Sometimes you need to wait for the right moment, be where you need to be, show up and stick around
Feeler Feelers
Committing means you feel right about what you are going to do; you may not know how, but you feel that you can and will!
Resources most likely include support systems including people who will act as your cheerleaders.
Timing is your forte!

How Do I Know I am Willing?

  • Willing means you see the possibilities within reach.
  • Willing means you can mute your inner critic.
  • Willing means you won’t back down.

What gets in the way of being willing?

  • Inner critic
  • Fear, doubt, past failures/successes
  • Worry that you won’t be able to succeed
Being committed means you have thought through the risks and benefits and have decided to go for it. rodin-the-thinker-auguste-rodin
We all have an inner critic. You know how to reason with your inner critic.
Not backing down means you are willing to keep your word and stay with the process until the end.
Feeler Being committed means you feel this is possible.
Your inner critic will need to be muted, and you are willing to do this.
Not backing down means feeling good about what you are doing and confronting any fear that may arise.

What does it mean to be able?

  • Able means you have the capacity to perform
  • Able means you have the means to achieve
  • Able means you are prepared to act now

What gets in the way?

  • Practical barriers (time, money, expertise, prejudice)
  • Emotional barriers (fear of failure, ambivalence)
  • Physical barriers (access, skill, lack of accommodation)
  • Mental barriers (“I can’t!”)
‘Capacity’ means you have taken an inventory of assets and found yourself in the plus column. rodin-the-thinker-auguste-rodin
‘Means to achieve’ implies you have a plan and the ability to follow it.
‘Able to act now’ means there are no obstacles or barriers.
Feeler Capacity means you have the bandwidth to manage the ups and downs.
Means to achieve implies you are in the flow and able to tap into your intuition.
Acting in the now means you aren’t just dreaming you can, but are ready to manifest

Zone of Optimal Alignment

The power of alignment is similar to gravitational pull.  Once you are in the zone of alignment, the pull will bring things together.  Not too hot or cold, too confident or unsure – just right (neutral!).

If you are making your decision from this place, you are optimally positioned to make any changes necessary to move in the direction you want to go and to respond to any challenges that may pull you back.

Wait a Minute!

Are you thinking “optimal” means everything is exactly aligned?

It is very RARE for all things to be exactly aligned at one time. More likely, it will look like this . . .


Getting to the optimal zone means pulling things into the center.  Once you see where you are out of alignment, you can take steps to shift.  For example, maybe you don’t have enough information to make your decision.  Once you have the information, you can move from unsure to neutral.  Or, maybe everything sounds good about that retirement investment, but you just are waiting for the annual report.  Once that information comes in you can move from “over confident” to neutral.


For more information on decision-making, check out the following:

Dan Gilbert on Happiness:

Ways to not overthink decisions:

Planning Good Decisions:




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