How many times have you needed to make a decision, but it felt so overwhelming and so confusing that you kept it putting off? Usually you’ll justify it with something like, “I need to think it about it some more,” or “I’ll figure that out later.”
Except, how often does “thinking about it some more” really clear things up? How likely is it that you’ll actually come back and figure it out later?
What’s much more likely (for most of us, at least) is that your indecisiveness will trail on indefinitely and lead to total analysis paralysis. And in the mean time, you’ll stay exactly where you are.
Not only has this been a major struggle for me personally in the past, it’s also been coming up over and over again with my clients recently. Whether it’s making a decision about going back to grad school, applying for certain jobs, moving to another state, ending a relationship, or even just choosing which classes to take at the gym this week … so many of us get stuck in indecision and wind up choosing nothing at all.
So what’s the deal? What makes it SO difficult for us to confidently say, “I want this. I choose this”?
WHAT BLOCKS US FROM MAKING DECISIONS
Indecision always comes from plain ol’ fear, but fear comes in a whole variety of flavors. Here are a few you’re probably most familiar with when it comes to making a decision:
- Fear of choosing wrong and regretting your decision later on
- Fear of missing out on something else
- Fear of what other people will think of your decision
- Fear of leaving people behind
- Fear that maybe you’re just not a good decision maker
- Fear of not having all the facts
- Fear of rocking the boat and somehow making things worse
- Fear of an uncertain outcome
- Fear of disappointing people
Maybe one of these is your go-to fearful excuse for not making a decision (I’m partial to “fear of disappointing people” and “fear of an uncertain outcome,” myself). Or maybe you have a mash-up of all of them when it’s time to make a decision.
These fears feel very real and very heavy, and it’s no wonder so many of us sit in indecision as long as possible in order to avoid them. But there’s a nasty side effect of indecision that outweighs fear every time.
WHY INDECISIVENESS FEELS SO TERRIBLE
Every time you go into indecision, you give away your power.
Think about it … when you don’t make decisions, decisions end up being made for you.
Someone more assertive will step in and make the decision for you.
Opportunities will come and go while you sit paralyzed in indecision.
The simple passing of time will change the circumstances and your options will fall away.
Not only will you probably not like what gets decided on your behalf, but you’ll feel annoyed, powerless, self-critical, and resentful that you didn’t make the decision for yourself. And those things are way more insidious than the fear that blocked you from making the decision in the first place.
When you don’t make decisions, decisions are made for you … and you may not like the outcome.
MAKING YOUR OWN DECISION FEELS ENORMOUSLY POWERFUL
One of my newer coaching clients has been feeling stuck in her job situation for a while. She knows that she wants do something else, and she’s thought about all kinds of other options, but she just can’t seem to choose … and so she’s stayed exactly where she is for way longer than she intended.
Finally, though, she did make a decision … a decision to get some support.
Right after she submitted her paperwork to get started with coaching, she emailed me to say, “I’m already feeling motivated just by having made the decision to start.”
She hasn’t yet decided which career path she wants to follow, or whether or not she wants to go back to school. There are lots more decisions left for her to make, but just by making the first choice to get started and get some support, she’s taken back her power and is feeling more motivated.
That’s what happens when you start making decisions for yourself — you’ll start feeling more motivation, confidence, energy, and personal power than you’ve had in a very long time.
CHARACTERISTICS OF DECISIVE PEOPLE
Think about the most confident, empowered, successful people you know, and I’ll bet they all have this in common — they decide what they want, they decide how they want to do it, and (most importantly) they decide to take action to make it happen.
Here are a couple of characteristics of decisive people that you can easily adopt:
- They don’t believe they can choose wrong. We all want to make the right decisions — in fact, trying to make the right decisions is what sends most of us into complete analysis paralysis — but truly empowered, decisive people realize that there’s no such thing as a “wrong” decision. If they make a decision and then realize they want something else, they know they always have the power to make another decision … and another, and another, until they’re where they want to be.
- Decisive people also know themselves extremely well. But here’s the catch to this: Most people think they have to know themselves extremely well first so that they can make good decisions, but it doesn’t work that way. Making decisions is what allows you to know and understand yourself better.
Here’s a huge secret that naturally decisive people intuitively know:
Your power doesn’t come from making the right decision; it comes from making a decision at all.
HOW TO GET OVER YOUR INDECISIVENESS
Turning into a more decisive, empowered person isn’t an easy feat. All of those old fears are going to show back up when you start asserting what you want and making your own decisions. This will definitely take some courage, but the empowerment that comes afterward is more than worth it.
If you really want to get over your indecisiveness, I’m issuing you this challenge:
Make as many solo decisions as you can for the next week.
This means you’re not allowed to ask for other people’s opinions or advice. It also means actually making a decision about things you ordinarily would put off. Just try it for one week and see how it goes.
It’s OK to start small with this! You don’t have to start with the biggest, most life-changing decision you’re currently facing. Just start with what to eat for dinner tonight. Or what plans to make this weekend. Or whether or not to take that class you’ve been considering. Start small and build your decision-making confidence up gradually.
And in the rare case that you honestly don’t have enough info to make a solid decision, give yourself a deadline of when you will decide.
So tell me, have you struggled with indecisiveness? Are you willing to take this challenge? Leave me a comment to let me know!
Kristen (+ Rachel)
ENROLLMENT ENDS TOMORROW FOR THE PPVE
If you’ve been considering joining us for this round of the Passion Plan Virtual Experience, then (in the name of becoming more decisive) we hope you’ll make a decision about whether or not this is right for you.
It’s a 4-week-long, totally online experience where we guide you through figuring out your passion — and how to take action — in 30 days or less. Check out the full page of details here, so you can make a fully informed decision.
If you’re on the fence, then we really encourage you to make an active decision about this … whether you choose to join us or not! If you stay in indecisiveness, the decision will be made for you when enrollment closes tomorrow night.
So before that deadline, we hope you’ll decide for yourself if this is the right program at the right time for you to figure out your passion and start taking clear, directed action.
I am doing all of the above, but still stuck, lifeless and bored. Any more suggestions on the bigger decisions?
Since you’re already paying attention to how you’re making decisions and you’re trying all of the strategies in this post, that tells me you’re clearly a very self-aware person, which is fantastic. I’m not sure if this is your challenge, but I have a gut sense that you may be overthinking your decisions and approaching them from a logical place (which is extremely normal), rather than getting in touch with how you want to FEEL during and after the decision-making process. What does your gut instinct tell you is the right choice? Which option would get you closer to how you most want to feel? These are some great “next-level” questions to ask yourself. Hope that helps!
What an amazing article! I’m going through a major life change right now as my boyfriend/fiance just broke up with me after five years and I’m faced with the decision of whether to change locations/jobs/apartments – almost everything in my life will be changing in the next year. I’ve realized that my fiance and I were caught in a tail spin of indecisiveness for the past 3 years and what I believe, was a major contributor to our demise. I have realized that my lack of decisiveness about everything, job, relationship, lifestyle, etc, has left me in the habit of feeling completely unequipped to make these decisions in the next few months.
Thank you for this article! It is so helpful to reaffirm all these fears I’ve been feeling over the past few years!
Chelsey — You’ve obviously been through some pretty major life upheavals right now, and it’s totally natural that you’re feeling unequipped to make some of the big decisions that you’ll be facing pretty soon. Experiencing the emotional aftermath of something as heart-wrenching as a broken engagement, combined with feeling lots of pressure to make the “right” decisions moving forward, is enough to make anyone feel stuck in their tracks!
Just remember that you absolutely DO have everything it takes to become a more decisive person, and don’t push yourself to change this pattern overnight. Start with small decisions to rebuild your self-trust gradually (the same way you would expect someone else to earn your trust slowly over time). Good luck, and feel free to come back and let me know how this challenge goes for you!
Indeed, indecisiveness is something very hard to face because we keep thinking about all the cons of making a bad decision. Personally, I have been experiencing this through this last year, since I finished my career, because I don’t know what kind of job will satisfy me, or which path should I follow.
Thanks for the article, is very useful to summarize all the possible situations that block us to make a change decision.
Rafael — Thanks for reading, and I’m glad this article was affirming for you! Indecisiveness is something we all struggle with from time to time, especially when it feels like certain decisions are really important. Remember that you can’t choose wrong, and as you keep learning more about yourself and what you truly care about, it will get easier and easier to make decisions that align with you and your values. Thanks for your thoughtful comment!
This comment is really a cautionary tale. The phrase “when you don’t make decisions, decisions end up being made for you” is frighteningly true. I put off doing many things that I really wanted to do, convinced that what I wanted to do was improper, too costly, or would upset people in my life. I thought “well eventually I will be able to do that.”
Eventually is here. I can’t afford to do these things, having spent huge sums of money putting my kids through college, and having to take certain medications which completely disqualify me for others (flying). A whole bunch have irreversible decisions have been made for me.