Do you find it hard to make decisions – and battle with whether a choice is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’? Then scroll on down, my friend. This post has you covered…
Have you been watching The Good Place on Netflix? It’s sooo good! (pun totes intended) Every time I tune in, a bolt of happiness courses through my body – and I feel enveloped in rainbows and sparkles and prancing ponies.
I swear I’m not exaggerating! My heart does a happy dance when a new ep airs. I love the show’s fun and quirky take on morals and philosophy and self-beliefs and shame and ALL the big topics.
But the thing I love most is the character Chidi. The ethics professor experiences PROFOUND anxiety any time he has to make a decision. Case in point:
Chidi: I am absolutely paralysed by decision making, and it’s destroying my life.
Simone: Yeah, I sort of got that when you couldn’t choose a chair to sit on.
Chidi: Well, I didn’t want to offend you in case you had a favourite.
Hands up all the people pleasers
If you’re a chronic people pleasure like moi, these lines might make you chuckle. Or perhaps they frustrate you, reflecting a part of yourself you’d rather not have to face.
For me, it’s a bit of both.
Most of my life, I acted according to how I thought others wanted me to act. I bowed down to their needs. I ignored the warnings to fit my oxygen mask before helping others, and metaphorically got the entire plane masked up before desperately gasping for air – buckling under the increased pressure.
I bent and twisted and sculpted my self (my very being) based on who I thought they thought I should be.
Trouble is, everyone has a different view on who you should be – AND they all have different needs.
So if you constantly adapt to others’ needs and expectations, it becomes bloody exhausting! It’s also unsustainable. Eventually, you end up either losing your sense of self OR becoming paralysed by fear.
Just like Chidi.
The fear of being wrong
Of course, your indecision might stem from something else.
You might be utterly fearful of making the wrong choice. And that fear keeps you stuck in indecision, or ‘analysis paralysis’.
It’s impossible to predict the future, but dang it you’re gonna try!
Surely if you stew on all the worst possible outcomes of your choice, they won’t happen right?
Or maybe they will happen, so it’s better you don’t put yourself out there and actually try. After all, there’s a lot at stake – and it’s safer to avoid risk and making mistakes. Sound familiar?
Perhaps you procrastinate until it feels safe to act. But when that time finally comes, the ship has sailed, you’ve missed the boat (the opportunity you were deliberating about) and you’re left spluttering in a swirling sea of fresh fears.
Whether you fear committing to an action, a person, or a plan, or you constantly worry about making a mistake, this anxiety can be crippling.
And if you’ve been following along on the blog or podcast for a while, you’ll know I often say:
THE FEAR FUELS THE FEAR
When you continue avoiding or fighting anxiety, it fans the flames. It feeds the fear. It takes you further from where you want to be.
How to overcome indecision
Now, I’m guessing if you’ve made it this far, you’re ready to make courageous choices. You’re sick of being stuck in the fear of making mistakes or a commitment.
Awesome! Adopting the right mindset is always the first (big) step to positive change.
You WANT to change. You crave clarity when making decisions. And you’re oh so sick of being stuck in indecision.
So how do you overcome indecision – and the anxiety it presents?
Here are a few things I believe can help:
1 Accept the uncertainty
Acceptance is the first rule to overcoming anxiety of any kind. When we resist or avoid our fears, we amplify them. But when you shine a spotlight on them, they disappear. In acceptance, you can let go and take back control of your mind.
So the next time you face paralysing indecision, say to yourself:
“I choose indecision.”
Well looky here, you just made a decision! And yes, you made a decision to not make a decision. But that IS a decision!
When you do this, it takes the pressure off making the ‘right’ choice and avoiding the ‘wrong’ one. It puts you in the driver’s seat. Instead of toing and froing, you’ve taken an empowered position. You acknowledge the uncertainty and the desire to decide evaporates.
2 Delay the decision
Now might not be the best time to choose. Let’s say you can’t decide on a new niche for your business. Or you’re dating two dudes, and don’t know who to see exclusively.
If you’re struggling to decide, it could be that the answers aren’t ready to be revealed yet.
Maybe you need more time and experience before specialising in your field.
Maybe you need to go on a few more dates with Johnny and Steve to see who’s a better match.
At this moment in time, you may not have all the info and insight you need to pick. The revelations are likely to come later, once you’ve gathered more intel. Once your heart has had the chance to settle.
Whatever the situation, give yourself a deadline. Pick a date to return to the debate – so it’s cleared off your plate in the present, and your mind knows to let it go for now.
3 Test the fear
I love to play with my anxiety. To probe it, question it, test it.
Give yourself permission to do the same. Again, this makes you feel super empowered – diminishing anxiety’s control over you. But it also allows you to remove doubt around decisions.
Going back to our dating dilemma above, let’s say you can’t pick between Johnny and Steve.
Write down one fear you have around this choice.
Like: “I’ll pick the wrong person.”
Then ask: “So what?”
“We might break up.”
“I’ll be alone again.”
“I won’t have anyone to take home at Christmas.”
“My family will tease me for not being able to keep a man.”
Ooh, now we’ve hit on the real reason – the root cause – of indecision. This isn’t about choosing Johnny or Steve. This is really about disappointing family, being rejected and feeling unworthy of love.
Once you get to this point, you can then take action to dig deeper into these issues (through therapy and/or self-work) – which will in turn alleviate any dating dilemmas in the future.
Now ain’t that interesting?
Another way to tease out and test your fears is to run through a checklist:
- What’s the worst thing I imagine happening?
- How bad would it be if that really happened? (with 0 being “not bad at all” and 10 being “worst possible thing ever in my life”.)
- If that does happen, what thoughts or beliefs would help me cope with it?
- What could I do to resolve or accept that outcome?
This exercise helps you see that even if the worst possible thing were to happen from your choice, you can cope with it. And it won’t be the end of the world.
4 Allow imperfection
The last step is to allow yourself to be perfectly imperfect (just like my favourite t-shirt proudly proclaims!)
Now if you’re a people pleaser, overcoming perfection can take a tonne of time and effort. But it’s worth it. Promise.
So, I want you to drop the need to make the perfect choice.
Allow yourself to take imperfect action.
Get comfortable with the discomfort of decision.
Repeat this mantra over and over ’til it sticks:
“I allow myself to make imperfect choices.”
Remind yourself that any time you make a choice, it’s done with the information and insight you have on hand IN THAT MOMENT.
Hindsight is always 20/20, so chances are you’ll look back on this choice in the future with fresh eyes. So you can’t possibly make a ‘right’ choice – because there’s no way to look into a crystal ball to check. You simply have to trust you’re on track, accept the indecision, and allow imperfection.
And THAT, lovely one, is how we make clear, courageous choices. With less fear.