Life is a chain of decisions we make every day. And they range from the mundane to the life-changing.
So whether or not you’re deciding what to make for dinner, which task you should start at work, or which house you want to move to, pretty much everything you do involves making a decision.
But if decision-making is so integral to our lives, why do so many of us struggle with indecisiveness? And how can we overcome it to live a more fulfilling, assertive life?
What causes indecisiveness?
Struggling to make a couple of decisions every now and then is completely normal. But when you find yourself having difficulty making decisions on a daily basis, it might be a sign of a deeper issue.
Some of the reasons you may struggle with indecisiveness include:
If you suffer from perfectionism, you’ll know just how much pressure you feel to get everything right. And so, a simple decision such as “should I write on lined paper or dotted paper?” becomes a mammoth task with extreme consequences.
Because with perfectionism, you worry about what you may be missing out on by not choosing something rather than what you gain from the choice you made.
There is also a tendency to feel stuck by decision-making. You think that if you make a decision, you are locked into it forever, so the stakes are high, when in reality, almost anything can be changed if it doesn’t go the way you wanted.
Similar to perfectionism, the fear of making the wrong choice can often hold us back. Fear leads to a “what if?” mentality that causes difficulty when you need to make a decision.
Too many possibilities
Having a wide range of options to choose from can be incredibly liberating. However, with so much choice, which do you pick?
Having too many choices means having to weigh up a lot more options and finding that there are many more viable choices to make.
Whether it’s pressure from yourself, a family member, or a boss, some decisions feel big. There’s something important riding on the decision you make, and that is not a comfortable aspect to face.
This type of indecisiveness is especially felt by those with big responsibilities such as leaders, emergency services staff, and parents.
When under extreme stress, it’s hard for our brains to function at all, let alone make a decision. And so it’s no wonder stress impairs your ability to make choices!
If you don’t know what you want the outcome of your choice to be, how can you make a decision? For example, if you are choosing between buying a laptop or desk computer, but you don’t have a clue what the primary use would be, it would be pretty hard to make a decision!
How does being indecisive negatively impact your life?
As we said at the start of this article, life is a chain of decisions. So it’s fair to say indecisiveness has some pretty disruptive effects!
If you can’t make decisions, you’ll never be able to get anything done. Likewise, if you think of tasks as a flowchart of decisions, you can’t move towards the end product before you make your next choice.
When this becomes a pattern, you’ll find yourself in a constant state of half-finished projects and, as a result, low self-esteem. After a while, it will start to feel like life is passing you by, and you don’t get to partake.
Luckily, there are some great ways to stop being indecisive so you can get your life back on track and live the way you want!
Five tips to stop being indecisive
Deal with your perfectionism
The most important step for anyone suffering from perfectionism-induced indecisiveness is to tackle the root cause. Which is much easier said than done.
The main focus here is to change your mindset about how important decisions are and how you need to execute them. That includes dismantling the belief that all decisions are final and have to be done perfectly for them to be worth making.
An excellent way to do this is to work on your self-esteem and become friends with the concept of “good enough.”
Remind yourself that any decision you make can be changed, and any forward momentum is good.
It takes a lot of time to dismantle perfectionistic thoughts and may sometimes require help from a professional therapist. Still, you’ll find it easier to make decisions with confidence over time.
Use a decision map
If your primary concern is worrying about the consequences of making a particular decision, you might benefit from creating a decision map. This is especially true if you have a sequence of decisions to make. Much like a flowchart, you’ll get an idea of what direction each decision will take you in.
So, grab your journal and a pen, and let’s get started.
Start by writing your goal at the top of your page. From there, you can start to plot your decisions and how each one would benefit or hinder your overarching goal. This will help guide projects and give you the confidence you need to make decisions.
To illustrate this point, let’s look at an example. Let’s say you are a social media copywriter that needs to write a caption for a client’s post. This client has asked you to write about buying one of their clothing products.
So, with the brief in hand, you’ll have a series of decisions to make to complete the job. And this is the perfect time to implement a decision map. In this scenario, it might look like this:
As you can see, each decision that needs to be made has been considered, and the best course of action has been decided.
It can be as simple as the example above, or you can go into more detail – use whatever method best serves your needs.
Take the pressure off decision making
When decision-making leaves you feeling paralysed, it’s time to step back and remove the pressure.
This might look like talking to the people putting pressure on you and asking them to give you the space you need to consider your options and come to your own conclusions. However, advocating for your personal space and mental health is always a positive and will help your self-confidence to make decisions.
This might also look like reminding yourself that it’s not important to make the “right” decision – and that actually, it’s possible there is more than one good option to decide from anyway.
Shifting your mindset to take the pressure off will ensure your ability to react decisively and reduce your stress.
Re-learning how to make decisions confidently is a tall order. Unfortunately, just because you want to be decisive doesn’t mean you will be straight away.
So, it’s best to start with small decisions that have very small (if any) stakes and work your way up. Maybe it’s making a choice between which shower gel to use or which pen to write with.
The important thing is building the confidence to make a decision so that you feel more capable of making more significant decisions later on.
Don’t look back
There is a phrase we’ve repeated in this article: “what if…?” And it’s that phrase that fuels almost all indecisiveness.
“What if I made the wrong choice?”
“What if I’m not good enough to do it?”
“What if I regret my decision?”
The truth is, you’ll never know if any of that is true until after you make your choice anyway. And in most cases, there is no reason to dwell on these questions.
And the best way to stop asking these questions is to stop looking back. Once you’ve made a decision, commit to it and move to the next step. And if you are unhappy with your choice, don’t look back and berate yourself for your “poor choice making skills” – hindsight is 20:20 anyway. Instead, accept where the decision took you and pivot to a new decision. Always look forward and focus on the next step instead of miraculously trying to undo a decision.
Indecisiveness is a paralysing problem that stops us from moving forward in life. Often it’s because we care too much. And that’s not a bad thing in itself. But it is important to learn to overcome this obstacle so you can start living the life you want with confidence.
So, if you’re ready to take this journey to a more decisive mentality, make sure you prepare to commit with kindness. Change is not easy, and it won’t always go the way you want. But take it in your stride, learn the lessons and keep moving forward.
Once you get into the habit of making decisions, you’ll realise there was nothing to fear after all!