What Surfing Can Teach Us About How To Make A Decision

I used to have a hard time making decisions.

I would make a list of pros and cons.

I would pray and listen for guidance.

I would sleep on it.

I would ask for a dream to give me insight.

I would waffle back forth and change my mind a dozen times.

Often, I would make the decision by default . . . because the opportunity passed me by.

I didn’t realize that I had trouble making decisions . . .

. . . Until one day, my coach heard me explaining a new idea I had that was better than the plans I had previously made.

She asked me, “Do you have a hard time making decisions?”

She summed it up in just a few words . . .

“Successful business owners make decisions quickly, stick to them, and take decisive action.”

Suddenly I realized that my inability to stick with my decision, commit and follow through was a problem.

And it was blocking my success.

I decided to do something about it. So from that point on I became a student of decision-making.

Here’s something I’ve learned.

Decision-making is a lot like surfing.

I can hardly call myself a surfer.

When I was in college in land-locked Arizona State University, I took surfing my first semester.


It was at this wave park called Big Surf. I did catch a few waves, but my main memory was of driving my 2 girlfriends to Big Surf in the chocolate brown convertible Triumph Spitfire my mom had bought me.

(I’m trying to track down pics of my friends and I in our bikinis for this post 🙂

And the bruises I got on my skinny hip bones from laying belly down on the hard surf board.

My second surfing experience was a few years ago in Costa Rica.  I was in a surfing class for a week, with a fit gang of 20-somethings. The instructor called me “La Señora.”

Actually, that’s where I learned what I’m about to tell you. I learned it from watching those strong youngsters let wave after wave pass them by.

What do you DO while surfing?

Most of the time spent as a surfer is actually NOT spent riding waves, but sitting on the board and waiting for the good waves to show up.

Imagine you’re surfing.

So here you are sitting on your surfboard, waiting for BIG wave.

When a good wave comes, you go down on your belly and begin paddling like crazy.

So that when the wave hits, you’ve already got a little momentum and the wave will catch and carry you.

You stand up, ride it and the wave carries you to shore.



What if you miss the wave?

In surfing, the energy of the wave is available just for a brief time.

It approaches, it’s under you, it either takes you with it or it’s heading to shore without you.

The same wave will never come again.

It’s a one-time thing.

You cannot control when the wave comes.

It comes when it comes.

You can’t force it and you can’t predict it precisely.

You need to be awake, alert and ready if you want to catch the wave.

What happens when a surfer misses the wave and they need to get to shore on their own?

brazil-1153983_1920They have to lay down on their belly and paddle to the shore.

Well, first of all, it’s going to be a lot of work.

They’re gonna to have to paddle to shore on their own power.

It will take much longer than riding the wave.

In other words, it will take more time and more energy than it would’ve if they had caught the momentum of the wave when it came through.

So what is the business equivalent of an ocean wave?

It’s an idea, a creative impulse, an opportunity.

It can feel like a rush of excitement, passion,  enthusiasm.

It can feel like resonance. The resonance you feel when something strikes a cord inside you.

You might be suddenly covered with goose bumps.

This wave of momentum could be caused by watching a video and feeling a connection to a teacher or coach.

It could be a new online or local class starting and you want to join it.

It could be a coaching program that feels like it could help you meet your business goals (or even dream them up first!)

Momentum in your business shows up as something that is interesting or compelling or attractive to you.

What’s the problem with making decisions slowly?

If you spend time doing the things I used to do like making lists of pros and cons, sleeping on it, asking for guidance, asking your friends, all that stuff . . .

. . . you’ll miss out on the wave of momentum that only sweeps through for a moment.

It’s not likely that your business is surfing, so the momentum you’ll  experience is not a wave of seawater.

I make decisions fast now.  I decide, take action and learn from what happens. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, but I ALWAYS learn.

I’m always in motion.

My business is more fun, I’m making much more money.

And my life is more of the adventure I love living, all since deciding to decide.

Here’s how you can too.


So what do you have to have in place in order to be able to take advantage of that wave of energy and momentum that just comes sweeping by with the opportunity?

  1. GOAL: You must have set your goal in advance.  What do you want?  Write that down.  In surfing, this is picturing yourself riding the big wave.
  2. DISCRIMINATION: When you know what the goal is that you are aiming for, when the opportunity comes along, you will quickly be able to determine whether that opportunity is one that is likely to lead you to your goal or not. In surfing, you need to let the smaller waves pass by. They don’t have the size and energy to go all the way to shore.
  3. DECIDE: Quickly assess – is this an opportunity that is likely to lead me to my goal? If yes, then decide!  If you’re surfing, this means to paddle like hell, stand up and start SURFING!
  4. TAKE ACTION: Go for it!  Start moving.  Ride that wave.
  5. COURSE CORRECT: Once you’re moving, you can keep going, change direction or hop off the board.  None of those options are available if you didn’t catch the wave in the first place.