Updated: Sep 11
Yesterday, I was in the kitchen and needed to go to the bedroom to get something. After about two steps, I turned back to the kitchen to get something else. Before I was back in the kitchen, I headed to the basement stairs to grab something different. Half-way down the stairs I turned around and walked back to the kitchen. When I arrived, I just stopped and stood there. Baffled.
No, this is not an exaggeration. It's also not uncommon for me. If this sounds at all familiar to you, perhaps you might want to read on.
The "What If Whirlpool"
Indecision and anxiety are intertwined. Those of us who deal with chronic anxiety are often over-thinkers, and over-thinking is the cornerstone of indecision. While thinking through a decision — especially a major decision — is often beneficial; ruminating on a decision for hours on end is not.
For those of us who struggle with moderate to severe anxiety, we can get trapped in what I like to call, "the what if whirlpool," and sink further and further into the fear. The fear of what others might think. The fear that we made the wrong decision. And ultimately, the fear that we may not be able to make a decision at all.
According to an article in Psych Central, common causes of indecisiveness include fear of failure, perfectionism, people pleasing, overwhelm, lack of confidence, lack of knowledge, mental health disorders, and others. Any one, or combination of the above, may be factors in your diminished ability to choose.
So, what can be done?
6 Tips to Help with Indecisiveness
Here are some suggestions from a variety of sources. I hope one of them might help:
Don't Overthink the Outcomes — We can't predict the future. Therefore, according to a Psychology Today article, "making decisions is usually a crapshoot." While it's useful to have confidence in the decisions you make, it's also important to be aware that you have no control over the outcome of them. In fact, many outcomes have no relation to the decisions you made at all.
Let Things Go — As I mentioned above, we have total control over nothing. Once you accept that, and let go of any past or future mistakes, you can start to move forward in life. Make a decision and move on.
Find a Balance — Find a balance between trusting your mind and trusting your instincts. Logic nor emotions alone are good leaders. It takes the two working together to find the answers.
Pros and Con — This is a common method in our home. If there is a significant decision to be made, my wife and I write down the pros and cons on a sheet of paper. This helps to facilitate objective and sound decision making.
Flip a Coin — This is an old trick, but a useful one. If the decision is binary (two choices), flip a coin to decide. The real benefit of this exercise is that it often reveals what you wanted in the first place. Give it a try.
Don't Question Your Decisions, Celebrate Them — Once you've made a decision, don't second-guess it. Instead, celebrate it. Recognize your achievement and enjoy the success. This will help build confidence for future decisions.
Now, go out there and tackle the world. Start small, if you like — but start, nonetheless. Every step forward is momentum that feeds your future.
You got this.
Hallenbeck, H. W., Rodebaugh, T. L., & Thompson, R. J. (2022). Understanding indecisiveness: Dimensionality of two self-report questionnaires and associations with depression and indecision. Psychological Assessment, 34(2), 176–187. https://doi.org/10.1037/pas0001072.
Strauss Cohen, Ilene. 7 Tips on How to Kick the Habit of Indecisiveness: Learn how to make better decisions. Psychology Today. November 5, 2017. Accessed August 28, 2023. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-emotional-meter/201711/7-tips-how-kick-the-habit-indecisiveness.
Why Am I So Indecisive? 10 Methods That Can Help You Make Decisions. PsychCentral. Accessed August 28, 2023. https://psychcentral.com/health/coping-with-indecision.
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