I’ve mentioned before I was quite neurotic as a child, nervous and over-analyzing. Afraid to be wrong.
That’s still me, but the stakes are higher. I’m not just deciding which clothes will make me popular. Now I’m choosing financial investments and career moves. Big stuff.
My mind swirls with great ideas and good intentions, things that could change the world – maybe – and I never seem to get around to them.
I am afraid to decide.
When I was in high school, I was delaying deciding about one thing or another. In his office one afternoon, my Dad said, “When in doubt, make a decision. If you make a wrong decision, make another decision.”
Classic Dad-style pithy wisdom – well said. But now, I have to do it.
As a 30-something adult, my indecisiveness is crippling. I am afraid of what will happen if I make a choice. I don’t want to face even the simplest consequences.
Therefore, making a decision about the smallest thing is hard. Recently, I had to decide between writing and planning out goals for the next few months. “What if I can’t get everything done?” Paralzyed. I read blogs instead, until I realized I distracted myself from my choice. At least I caught it.
But it gets worse: at Cold Stone the other day, I couldn’t decide which ice cream to eat. “What if I don’t like it?” I finally decided. I didn’t like my choice. This is why choosing sucks, I whined to myself.
But this is partly why choosing is so scary: the consequences. (Cue the Frankenstein soundtrack.)
“What if I don’t like it?
What if I’m committed and I just want to bail?
What if I don’t like the dinner I order or the man I date or the career I choose?
What if I hate it?
What if I’m trapped?
It’s my own personal horror film.
It’s funny because we’re afraid to be trapped in a choice we make, and yet indecisiveness is a trap all its own. It’s double-mindedness, an unsteady soul overflowing with fear. And who can change the world or live a life free of regret stuck in back-and-forth mode? No one.
I don’t want my life defined by fear, but an indecisive life is a fearful, sad life indeed.
So what to do? Well, in most every day situations, simple boldness and the power of choice will do. For big-huge life decisions, check out the link below for a great guide. So here I’m going to tell myself a few ways to make decisions, and if you’re in my category, then follow along. Maybe we can help each other.
1. Recognize when you’re feeling decisiveness-challenged. There is an old familiar feeling of waffling, back and forth swaying in your mind. Weighing options with lots of “what if” questions. The “what ifs” will kill you, man. But you have to recognize the signs before you can do something about it.
2. When in doubt, make a decision. Pick something. And then own it. Be an adult and take full responsibility for your choice. It’s what the big kids do. Because deciding not to decide is still a decision. It just leaves you regretful with nothing to show for your time.
3. Don’t get distracted from the choice you make. I decide to start writing or working on a project, and as soon as I do, suddenly there are emails to reply to, blogs to read, information to glean. And I’ve forgotten about my decision. Don’t get stuck in between your decision and doing it. That’s as bad as not deciding. Follow through is key.
4. If you don’t like your choice, you have another choice to make: bail or stick it out. There are lots of things you can bail on. Making a decision is safer than we think. And only you can know which choice is better, although getting counsel from others is always a good idea. But don’t be a pansy. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stay. Marriage is a perfect example.
And for major life decisions, Michael Nichols offers a few solid suggestions on discovering what you really want and making choices you’ll be happy with. Check out his blog here, complete with a free downloadable, decision-making template. Cool, huh?
Okay, I feel sufficiently motivated by my pep talk to myself. Since I thought through this, I have been making quicker, more confident decisions without all the foot dragging from before. I hope you are empowered too.
Share your suggestions for making decisions below. I’d love to hear what you do.