By Wilma Bedford
There are so many decisions to make every day, from the small, insignificant ones (What shall I wear? What will I have for breakfast?) to major, life-changing ones (What career should I choose? Should I marry this person?). Some people seemingly have no trouble making decisions day in and day out, but then there are those who suffer from chronic indecisiveness.
Chronic indecisiveness is more than ordinary indecision. It is a behavioural problem and those affected may be so consumed by the possible consequences of a wrong choice that they overlook the results of taking no action, or they may just get stuck, procrastinate, forget or avoid because the consequences of any decision could take them down the wrong path, end in dire results, or produce regrets.
Chronic indecisiveness can arise from different issues. Here are some of the more common ones.
- Fear of failure. The prospect of failure can be paralyzing. Fearing the outcome of a choice can keep you from taking risks and trying new things. Doing nothing feels safer. Keeping a situation unresolved can give the illusion of avoiding a bad outcome, while ignoring the consequences of inaction along the way.
What to do: Realize that failure is a part of life. It doesn’t make you “less than”. Some of the greatest lessons come from failure. It can be a great stepping stone to something even greater. When you dare to stand by your decision, you learn to find your feet in tough situations.
- Fear of regret. Anticipatory worry about deciding often starts with “what if?”. Action might produce regret. You might become so preoccupied with imagining the possible negative consequences of making the wrong choice that you overlook the loses involved by taking no action. These include losing windows of opportunity; remaining stuck in unsatisfying circumstances; being left behind by peers, friends, and family; disappointing others and engendering self-criticism.
What to do: What is the absolute worst thing that can happen? Be honest and realistic. What are the chances of that actually happening? A lot of times, negative consequences of the worst-case scenario may be uncomfortable – but they’re usually manageable. Examine the worst-case scenario for each option, and choose the one you’d be most comfortable with.
- Paralysis by analysis. Making the best choice involves deciding among alternatives. You repeatedly go back and forth; nothing stands out as the one to choose. This is over-analysing, which will worsen your ability to make a prompt decision.
What to do: Make a list of the pros and cons. Once you get them out of your head and onto paper, you can see them better and evaluate them more easily, but put a time limit on it, then make a decision. It doesn’t have to be perfect – you can make adjustments later. Take action, make changes if need be, and move forward. No good comes from stewing about it endlessly.
- Fear of Missing Out. This is wanting to follow all opportunities and keeping all options open. It is not deciding because of a profound sense that making one choice precludes the alternative. This might show up as being unable to choose one professional path because it closes others. Or being unable to settle down with one plan of action, giving up another equally attractive choice.
What to do: Conditions and choices will never be flawless. Simply go for it and make peace with your decision. Fear of missing out could result in you missing out on everything.
- Often the desire to be one hundred percent sure of the accuracy/correctness of your decision makes you indecisive. While this aspiration is laudable in most situations, it can trigger excessive stress and lead to a lack of self-trust. If you strive for perfection in everything, chances are that you will put off making a decision for as long as possible because you fear failure.
What to do: There are no perfect decisions. Let go and just make the best decision you can right now.
· Being a People Pleaser. Nothing leads to indecisiveness faster than letting the desire to please others dictate your actions. Everything, from choosing a new dress to deciding what to eat, seems like a life-altering choice because you are allowing peoples’ views to drown your voice.
What to do: Recognize what you’ll tolerate and what you won’t. If you know and remember your core values it makes your decisions a bit easier. When you make decisions that are aligned with who you truly are, they end up being better, more satisfying decisions later on down the road. You cannot make everyone happy. Only you can make decisions that are right for you, so focus on your own likes and dislikes. Don’t make a decision just to please someone else. The goal here is to see more clearly so you can make the decision that is best for you.
- Having countless choices. Research shows that excess of choices can baffle you and drive you into decisions that are not in your best interest. Limiting the number of options helps us make better decisions and offers us more satisfaction after the decision has been made. Having six or less options (as opposed to 24) help people make decisions better, and make them feel more satisfied with their decisions.
What to do: Try to narrow your options down to about two to three options, but definitely less than six.
Finally: Every decision you make comes with a certain proportion of risk attached to it. If you find it difficult to make decisions, take heart. Everyone suffers from it at some point in their lives, even those people who have lots of fame, money, and high-powered careers. Be aware that you don’t have to be stuck with indecisiveness your whole life. Identifying your own difficulties in making decisions can be the first step toward building the inner strengths that will make your decisions less agonizing and ultimately, most fulfilling. When you can confidently make decisions in a timely manner, you feel better about yourself, you gain the respect of others, and you will experience greater satisfaction in all aspects of your life.
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Martin Self. 9 May 2021.
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5 Ways to get out of the indecisiveness trap.
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What causes indecisiveness.
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