‘Paralyzed by Indecision’ Asked:
I’ve always struggled with making decisions, both big and small. I’ve noticed this is a pattern in my family…both my mother and grandmother are the same way. I’ve gotten a little better, recognizing that indecision leaves me feeling paralyzed and telling myself that I can always re-adjust if a decision isn’t ideal.
Why do you think making decisions feels so painful? I genuinely hate making them. And that frustrates me about myself because I know it’s not a big deal most of the time! What are some tips or things I can tell myself to work on this?
Dr. Zoe Answered:
You hit the nail on the head when you mentioned the multigenerational pattern of difficulty making decisions in your family. Parents communicate to their children, both verbally and non-verbally, messages about how they see themselves and the world.
If our parents gave us wings and let us fly, we learned to trust ourselves. If our parents mostly doubted us or themselves, we learned to question and believe decisions are something to be made externally (put upon us) rather than internally. This causes conflict and personal distrust.
Why would you be great at decision making if you weren’t taught?
You may not have been taught to trust your instincts, decisions or ideas, but this can be fixed. It just takes some practice.
It seems that a fear of failure makes decision making painful for you. You probably imagine a slew of catastrophic events that will happen if you make the wrong decision. This paralyzes you.
Most decisions are between a good and a better or horrible and not so horrible options. Rarely is there a clear right or wrong.
Here are a few things to focus on:
1. When it comes to decision making, the trust has to come from your belief in your ability to make the decision WORK for you—not whether it is a right or wrong decision. Yes, it always comes back to trusting yourself.
You have been on this earth for at least a couple of decades and have figured out how to make decisions work for you. So far, you’re still standing.
Remove the dichotomy of right or wrong from your thought process and focus on making the decision work.
This thinking relieves a huge burden to make the right decision and gives yourself space to figure it out in the process.
2. Ask yourself: if no one had any opinion or thought about my choice, what choice would I make?
Often, we are worried about disappointing someone or being judged by someone regarding our decision. As a result, we make poor choices and hold ourselves hostage. When you clear the haze of other people’s opinions, you experience clarity.
3. Practice making non-crucial decisions quickly and regularly. For example, practice giving yourself 2 minutes for your meal selection at a restaurant. No more. Research has demonstrated that our initial choices are often the ones we feel most satisfied with. We muddy the waters by overthinking it.
By making quick decisions, you will inevitably make some that aren’t as desirable as others. This will actually strengthen your confidence because you will see that you can still make those choices work, even if they are not ideal.
4. Practice the 10-10-10 rule. Categorize the importance of your decision by asking yourself: will this matter in 10 minutes, 10 months or 10 years? Ten-minute decisions should be made in seconds. Ten-month decisions should be made within a day or two and it’s okay to take your time on a 10-year decision. Just make sure you’re being honest with yourself about the time frame.
If you are a reader or podcast listener, I suggest Emily P. Freeman’s book, The Next Right Thing and her podcast, “The Next Right Thing.” Both are all about making decisions and showing up for yourself in your life.
The decisions are not the problem. It’s the stories you’re telling yourself about them that matter.
You’ve got this! It just takes a little grit and grace.