“There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision.”
This quote by the American philosopher, William James, sums up a great truth, that indecision is crippling and painful. For those in their 20s and 30s, indecision is becoming something of an epidemic.
Whether you want to point to the ever increasing number of decisions that have to be made on a daily basis or the almost infinite number of options available within each decision, what you end up with is the same: our world of choice is stressing us out.
Struggling with indecision has been the identified cause of up to 75% of our daily stress.
Research indicates our energy and ability to make good decisions decreases by the number of decisions we make per day, even small decisions like choosing between a grande or venti.
The key question that rises out of this knowledge is: how can we reduce our stress in decision making? Before you start making decision trees, seeking expert opinions, or just throwing darts at your choices, it is important to understand the emotional, cognitive, and fear based issues that are blocking you from the peace of a final decision. Because, ultimately, no matter what anyone else says or if the Magic 8 Ball comes up “yes”, you are the one who is making the decision.
Rethink the role of fear in your decision making
This could also be titled “embrace the role of fear” because so many of us seem to think that fear is an indication that we should either rush in and overcome or that we should run away and hide. The problem is that either way, you are making a decision based on one emotional response. Fear should be one counseling voice among many, not the judge and jury. Hear what your fear is telling you, accept that it has valuable things to say, but understand that your hope, your happiness, and your wisdom need an equal voice.
Cultivate a broader perspective on the decision
When faced with a choice, it is a common human response to get stuck on one or two thoughts or aspects of the issue. We tend to focus our attention on how important this decision is or how once we make it, we are ruling out so many other options. Thoughts like “my future happiness is dependent on whether or not I make the right decision,” are neither valid nor are they helpful.
Take the pressure off and step back. Some decisions do have longer term consequences than others, but remind yourself that just as you are facing this choice, you will get many more opportunities to shape the direction of your life. Because ultimately, choices are opportunities for growth and change, not trials or tests.
Make peace with your past
One of the number one reasons people struggle to decide is that they are judging themselves for past decisions. Being a good decision maker requires that you accept your past decisions.
Stop second guessing yourself. You made the best decision you could with what you were given at the time. Accept the truth that if you are still here in the world with the opportunity to make this current decision, you are pretty good at it. And the odds are, you have learned a lot more than you are giving yourself credit for.
Confront the self-confidence issues that are holding you back
Finally, indecision is a pretty good indicator that you do not value your own opinion. When we do not trust ourselves, we seek out anyone and anything to tell us what to do so we can blame them for our unhappiness. A voice deep inside is telling us that if we make a choice and the outcome is not our idea of perfect, then there is something wrong with us.
Addressing your issues with self-worth whether in therapy, through personal reflection, or spiritual exploration may be the most important step toward making your path to decision-making more peaceful.