According to Webster, a tumbleweed is a plant (a Russian thistle or any of several amaranths) that breaks away from its roots in the autumn and is driven about by the wind as a light rolling mass.

I use the word to refer to people who — like a tumbleweed — seem to let life happen to them. They avoid making decisions, and seemingly let even light winds push them into action. They do not base their actions upon thoughtfully made decisions.

Making decisions is not easy, but essential to being a good leader in your professional or personal life. We often fear making a mistake. Others are frequently impacted by our decisions and we feel responsible. What if our choice is not a good one? What if our choice angers or hurts someone?

We can never know for sure if our decision if going to pan out, but here are some tips that should help you avoid  “tumbling along like a tumbleweed.”


Make sure that it works for you

You have to feel good about the decision you make and it has to impact you positively.  It may seem selfish, but you don’t want to do something that you will regret.

Consider your family and co-workers

Whether you are making a decision as a family member or as business manager, consider all of the possible outcomes for your family or your coworkers. Talk with those who will be impacted by your decision and ask for their perspectives. List all advantages and disadvantages and evaluate the risks. Many decisions have unintended consequences. Think about what those might be.

Reflect on past decisions

How did you make them?  The problems don’t have to be similar for your method or process of reaching a decision to work. Whether it was a good or bad decision, we learn from all of the choices we make.

Take responsibility

This is a scary one and something that can often turn folks into a tumbleweed. If it’s a big decision, you might consider having a back-up plan.  Again, you need to prepare for the consequences, both good and bad.

Create an implementation plan

This will enable you to see any potential bumps in the road and to either change your strategy, or plan for them, if necessary.

Assess and update

Having made your decision and put it into action, it’s important to continually assess what’s going on. Is what you’re doing getting you where you want to go? If it’s not you may need to make a different decision. It seems obvious and yet it’s amazing to notice the number of people who think that once they’ve made a decision they have to stick to it. Even if it’s not getting them what they want!

Permission to change

Give yourself permission to change your mind. Always. At any time.  If you made a commitment to something in the past that is no longer useful for you, you are allowed to give up that commitment. Changing your mind may be the first step to changing your life and learning something new.

And remember, while it sometimes seems easy to “be a tumbleweed,” and allow life to move us along, think about how much richer, more rewarding and impactful your life could be, if you make the choices about where you want to be and how you want to get there.