Do you struggle with making decisions? They can range from more urgent issues like job offers or even trivial choices like what to eat for lunch. Every day we are faced with decisions. Our indecision often stems from fear. This fear is driven by the worry that we might make the “wrong” decision, as we often think there is only a right or wrong outcome. This is because we may suffer from a need for certainty and often, a need to be right (Blumenthal, 2012). We will discuss more about why it can be difficult to make decisions and how we can approach it better.
Why is making decisions so tough?
Making decisions requires us to go through a decision-making process that is often difficult and complex such that facing trouble with any steps in between can disrupt the entire process. Our brain often goes through this process whether consciously or subconsciously:
- Situational awareness – encountering a situation that requires us to make a decision
- Identify the decision – recognising that we need to make a choice and what it entails
- Establish your goals – involves figuring out what we hope to achieve with the decision and how important the goal is to us
- Gather information – involves researching or talking to people to find out more
- Identify options – what options are available
- Evaluate options – weighing out the pros and cons taking into account your goals as well
- Choosing the preferred option – choosing what’s best based on your evaluation
Going through this rigorous process may mean that we might often have to go back and forth between the stages of this decision-making process. For instance, after gathering information, we realise we may have to alter our goals according to what may be more realistic. Furthermore, this process can get quite mentally and emotionally demanding and draining. It can deplete our cognitive resources which we also use to exert self-control making it more difficult each time we have to make a decision – this is also known as decision fatigue. We might therefore perceive making a decision as unpleasant and thus, when we have to do so we may try to delay or avoid it as much as possible (Shatz, 2021).
There are also other important reasons that might cause us to be indecisive. This may include:
- Guilt – you may know what you want but because others may be influencing your decision. Learn to sit with your guilt and not be people-pleasing
- Insecurity – you may know what you should do but end up having second thoughts as you’re not confident in your abilities or intelligence. Recognising what you are good at and what skills you need to hone can build your self-confidence.
- Perfectionism – you may be too fixated on making the right choice because making the wrong one is too painful. This usually comes from being raised in a family where mistakes weren’t tolerated. Or perhaps your parents were indecisive themselves of which you might’ve picked some of it up as well.
- “Lack mentality” – you try to optimse every decision such as multitasking to save time, every decision becomes very complex. Ultimately, the one variable not being factored is usually what you desire (Weiss, 2017)
- Being naturally highly sensitive – this could be a gift but often can also be a big factor for indecision. Such a personality desires to take into consideration almost every aspect and over-analyse things. Thus, may find it difficult or less confident in making the “right” choices especially more so when it involves other people (Morrigan, 2019)
Pros of being indecisive
It may not necessarily be bad to be indecisive. Oftentimes this hesitation allows us more time to ponder about the circumstances. It gives us a chance to carry out the decision-making process more meticulously such as gathering more information and weighing our options. Usually, not being able to make a quick decision may mean that the choice is much more important to us such that we do not want to make a mistake. However, the crucial thing is recognising our indecision should not affect how we view ourselves and affect our daily living. (Legg, 2017)
Cons of being indecisive
Being indecisive could become a negative thing when it happens too often across the different areas in our lives. We may miss out on an important opportunity if we wait for too long or we may lose something that we have always wanted. Sometimes, mulling over the decision could make it even more complicated than when it initially was. Being indecisive can also become a decision by default. If we choose not to decide, we are relinquishing our power to decide. Moreover, it might seem a good plan to keep our options open, but this often leads to stagnation and a lack of accomplishment i.e., we prevent ourselves from experiencing anything at all. Although, one might think people would regret making the wrong choice, regret is more often due to a lack of action. Sometimes, a perceived wrong decision may be a better outcome than having no decision at all (Blumenthal, 2012).
We can’t know when we make a choice whether it will be successful. Success emerges from the quality of the decisions we make and the quantity of luck we receive. We can’t control luck. But we can control the way we make choices. — Dan Heath (Author of the book “Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work“)
Fortunately, all hope is not lost, if you consider yourself to be someone that is indecisive there are ways to help you start being more decisive.
How can we learn to be more decisive?
Try not to overthink the outcomes – it’s impossible to think about all outcomes as life can be very unpredictable, most often when we actually make a decision the outcome isn’t as bad as we perceive it to be
- So how do you identify if you’re overthinking:
- Having trouble sleeping – you keep replaying scenarios in your head imagining all the bad things that could happen and dwelling over your them
- Second-guessing your decisions – beating yourself up over decisions that have already been made, self-reflection could be a better alternative to help you learn from your mistakes
- Spending too much time worrying rather than trying to solve the problem (Morin, 2020)
- Prioritise around your values – being self-aware of what values you hold enable you to make choices based on what is best for yourself. You’ll be more certain when having to weigh your options and prioritise them, so they align to what is important to you.
- Build your self-confidence – trust your intuition and believe that you can take the most appropriate course of action
- Ask yourself what are some things you may not want to deal with based on the decisions that you make (eg. other people’s feelings, family situation and guilt) (Rodriguez, 2019)
- So how do you identify if you’re overthinking:
When making decisions, don’t be afraid to make mistakes or fail. Many times, the best decisions may come from doing what scares you the most. Even if you really felt that you have made a decision that was not the best, accept and learn from it. How you handle yourself and your attitude may have a bigger impact on the situation than making the decision itself. It could teach you to be stronger and more equipped to make decisions in the future.
Camellia Wong., MA., Sara Chiang
Blumenthal, B. (2012). Indecision and Its Impact on Your Happiness. Sheer Balance. https://sheerbalance.com/indecisions-impact-on-your-happiness/#:%7E:text=Not%20making%20a%20decision%2C%20however,a%20roadblock%20to%20finding%20happiness.
Legg, T. (2017). 5 Steps for Overcoming Indecision. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/5-steps-overcoming-indecision#you-can-change
Morrigan, L. (2019, September 23). The 7 Roots Of Indecisiveness And How To Overcome Them. Medium. https://medium.com/song-of-the-lark/the-7-roots-of-indecisiveness-and-how-to-overcome-them-c1acbe5b420b
Morin, A. (2020). Are You Overthinking? Here’s How to Tell. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-know-when-youre-overthinking-5077069#:%7E:text=You%20Experience%20Repetitive%20Thoughts,-Ruminating%E2%80%94or%20rehashing&text=But%2C%20when%20you’re%20overthinking,something%20bad%20happening%20many%20times.&text=As%20your%20mental%20health%20declines,to%20ruminate%20on%20your%20thoughts.
Rodriguez, D. E. G. (2019, June 15). Want to Improve Your Decision-Making? Here are the Top 9 Ways to Crush Your Choices. Medium. https://medium.com/swlh/want-to-improve-your-decision-making-here-are-the-top-9-ways-to-crush-your-choices-bfab81b95dac
Shatz, I. (2021). Why It’s Hard to Make Decisions (Especially Good, Fast Ones). Effectiviology. https://effectiviology.com/why-its-hard-to-make-decisions/
Weiss, S. (2017). 7 Reasons Why You’re So Indecisive, According To Experts. Bustle. https://www.bustle.com/p/7-reasons-why-youre-so-indecisive-according-to-experts-7427785