A courage for gaps

Most of us would agree on the importance of thinking things through properly before we act. Thinking time ensures detailed, thorough and sometimes creative solutions. The more important the decision, the more consideration it deserves.

But, at a certain point we need to stop deliberating and we need to find the courage to act. Even if we have not been able to dig as deeply into the issue as we might have liked. In most cases, it is impossible to achieve certainty, so we need some ‘courage for gaps’ in our thinking.

We need the conscientiousness to think things through and the courage to act. Both things are important. The trick is to get the balance right between the two.


Some people, however, lack the patience and/or the conscientiousness to think things through, and so have a tendency to act without giving as much thought as they should to what they are doing. This makes for rash decisions and the potential for costly mistakes.

The problem with these people is that their confidence can outweigh their competence; they sometimes have a misplaced confidence in their own abilities. This is the type of person who is inclined to express very firm opinions on subjects he or she knows little about.

The quiet ones

But there is an equal and opposite problem among people at the other extreme – those who are too conscientious (perfectionist) or too cautious; who lack the courage to take the leap. They can get bogged down in the detail and this can stop them from acting when they should, and so they sometimes miss out on the opportunities in front of them.

The problem with these people is that their competence exceeds their confidence. This makes decision-making very difficult. They know what they are talking about because they have put in all the work, but still lack the confidence to come to a firm conclusion. These are the quiet ones in meetings, who will keep their opinions to themselves unless asked directly. (And then their opinion will tend to be valid.)


I guess these two things are linked to assertiveness – being assertive to the point of overconfidence or even aggression on the one hand, and lacking assertiveness on the other. The one would be associated with extroversion, the second more with introversion.

Maybe that means that getting introverts and extroverts to work together in the same room, you can create some sort of balance – one compensating for the excesses of the other. These traits are fixed, so maybe that is the only option, but would it not be better for each of us to try to get the balance right between the conscientiousness to think things through and the courage to act?

– end –

Published by Peter Runkel. Reluctant business consultant. Lives life in PowerPoint.

Published by Peter Runkel

"Work hard and be nice to people." Anthony Burrill

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