Being indecisive can be exhausting – you’re constantly caught up in a cycle of overthinking, always chasing thoughts, and feel plagued by worry no matter how small the issue to be resolved. It sucks your energy, leaving you feeling drained, disconnected, and off balance.
For example, you may think that it’s no big deal that you laid in bed and argued with yourself for a full half an hour whether or not to get up. But living in an indecisive state leaves us with the worst of all worlds… now you’re late and you didn’t even get to enjoy the lie-in (seriously, either get up or enjoy the extra half hour of sleep). Indecision can be harmful to one’s mental state, as perfectly stated by Swami Avdheshanand:
“Let not the little things of life nag you constantly and dissipate your energies. We must be very decisive about small things. Then we find it easier to take decisions about bigger things. Even the smallest thing in life is to be done consciously, intelligently, decisively, coordinating all of the faculties – feeling, thinking, and willing. Cultivate good habits early in life. A well-regulated life is of great help. If we follow a strict routine every day, many of the little problems in life will not create indecision and worries. Then we get more energy and time for bigger things.”
It’s true that ‘innocent’ thoughts like these add up, cementing the feelings of worry, stress and anxiety as ‘regular’ habitual emotions in your body and mind. So, if you ever wondered, “Why am I so indecisive? How did I get to this point?” let’s take a look at how you can stop being so indecisive and start leading with confidence.
What causes indecisiveness?
In order to learn how to become more confident with our decision making, it’s important to understand what stops us making quick decisions. Indecision comes up when we have to choose between two or more possible courses of action. We are either avoiding choosing between unpalatable outcomes, neither of which we particularly want, or we’re choosing between two fairly equal alternatives.
But indecision is really just a ploy our ego uses to keep us safe. Sometimes, we’re overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices (I mean, how many types of peanut butter do we really need?!). More often, we’re trying to please other people or we’re caught up in the fear of making a mistake – in fact, indecision is almost always born of this anxiety. This fear of shame is pernicious, mainly because it’s useless.
How to stop being indecisive
1. Cultivate compassion and positivity for yourself
One of the reasons indecision can feel so toxic is, well, that it makes us feel bad. And it’s hard to make good decisions from a place of pain, struggle and fear – so we have to start with some compassion for ourselves. Life is hard and making decisions is tough. It’s okay to not be sure what to do. It’s okay to be scared. Do something nice for yourself, even if it’s just making yourself a good old cup of tea.
It can be easy to focus on the struggle of indecision and forget how lucky you are to have different options in the first place. Feeling grateful and satisfied about what you already have can help relieve some of the pressure of having to make a decision and start to loosen those weights of anxiety that pull you down.
2. Practice small tasks, one at a time
You cannot think your way out of indecision. In fact, overthinking is probably what got you into this mess in the first place. Taking action is one of the best ways to get the clarity you’re searching for – remember, we tend to regret the things we don’t do, rather than the things we actually do.
More importantly, don’t become indecisive about how to overcome your indecision! Learning what works for you involves some trial and error – you’ve got to be willing to experiment. It’s only by trying different techniques that you’ll learn what helps you make better decisions and boost your confidence at the same time. Remember that we learn just as much, if not more, when something doesn’t work as when it does.
Indecision is a natural part of life – we all experience it at times. But making decisions is something we can get better at, it just takes practice. Get used to making little decisions and noticing how it feels when you know what you want. Start to build your confidence and your trust in yourself. Decide what you want for dinner tonight. Decide what to wear tomorrow. Decide what temperature you like your bath.
Once you know the answers to those choices, stick to them. I’m not saying never change your mind, but we are inundated with choices every day so let’s also try to simplify where we can. Steve Jobs famously only wore black turtlenecks for the daily convenience. So, find the things that work for you and save your energy for the decisions that really require your attention.
3. Measure decisions against what is important to you
Try to accept that you will never have complete information. You’ll never know if you made the ‘right’ choice. You’ll never know what would have happened if you had done the other thing. You’ll never know what lay down the other path. Accept it. Get it over it. Let it go.
Here’s a good rule to keep in mind – the 40/70 rule courtesy of former US Secretary of State Colin Powell. This rule says that leaders should be making decisions when they have between 40 and 70% of the information needed. Make a decision with less than 40%, then you’re “shooting from the hip”. Wait until you have more than 70% of the information, and you’re likely to be overwhelmed with material and struggle to make a decision.
Making decisions is much easier if you know what you’re weighing up. When opportunities come along, you can see how they measure up against the things that are important to you. Take some time to connect to your values and to what kind of life you want to create. These will serve as a great compass in the fog of indecision.
4. Go all in and fully commit to your choice
“If you’re not saying, ‘HELL YEAH!’ about something, say ‘no’.” Derek Sivers.
Once you’ve made a decision, commit to it 100%. Don’t go in half-hearted. Don’t worry about making the right decision, rather focus on making the decision right. The only way to figure out if it’s the right choice is to give it a go and see what happens.
You can make something good out of every possible outcome. Even when things don’t turn out as you’d expected or would have liked, this provides fertile terrain for learning. Often, it is the lessons we learn from apparent mistakes that end up leading us to a better life further down the road. You have the power to handle whatever comes your way. Allow the excitement about who you can be overcome your fear of making a difficult choice. And remember, if it all gets too much, you can always rely on this scientific research that proves that you can indeed use the ‘flip a coin’ method to help you overcome your bad habits of indecision! (1)