“What would you like to order?”
“How do you want to celebrate your birthday?”
“What do you want to do with your life?”
Questions like these tend to sneak up on me and catch me off guard. They strike me with a flash of anxiety and I’m suddenly tripping over my words. This is because I can be terribly indecisive.
I say “can” because I have clearly been able to make some big decisions in the past, whether quickly or with major contemplation. I submitted an early decision application for my liberal arts college because I knew it was a good match for me. I’ve ended relationships with partners and friends when I knew they had run their course. I decided to eat Mickey Mouse pizza at every meal of my first trip to Walt Disney World in 1998 because I knew I liked pizza.
There’s a theme across these examples that relates to having some sort of knowledge. I knew Muhlenberg College was right for me because I’d done my research and properly visited. I made an informed choice when I applied. The break-ups and Mickey pizza, on the other hand, were decisions made based on my gut intuition. Some feeling deep inside of me nudged me to break someone’s heart and continuously re-order the pizza. Whenever I know what the right action is for me, whether it be personally informed from my gut or based on research, I’ll make a decision with little problem.
The problem comes when I feel like I’m lacking this knowledge, whether intuitive or informed. I’ll do some research but still put off choosing for longer than I’d like to. My gut reaction can be wishy washy and my inner voice can be downright unhelpful. The unknown can be a vast and scary place.
Where does indecisiveness stem from? It’s probably a little different for everyone depending on their psyche and life experiences but it can generally relate to fear.
I know a huge part of my indecisiveness comes from my relentless anxiety. I tend to catastrophize situations, assume outcomes, and ruminate over my choices. Lack of confidence and worrying about what other people will think can sneak up on me as well.
All of that combined can make decision-making extremely stressful for me. Sometimes it feels easier to avoid making a choice all-together and just exist in an uncertain state (which is technically make an indecisive decision? ugh.)
Indecision is on my mind because, well, I’m turning 25 in a few weeks and living with my parents for the first time in seven years. The quarter life crisis has been hitting me hard since breaking my engagement and returning from Paris. A lot of my plans were cancelled and that’s a vulnerable place to be in. I’m definitely at the biggest crossroads of my life in terms of career, dating, long-term goals, and pretty much everything.
*Cue: “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” by Britney Spears*
It’s the motherlode of decision-making times in my life and I’m feeling the pressure to make some choices. Indecisiveness, be damned! (Please pardon my exclamations, it’s just that my struggle to choose has been plaguing me a little harder than usual.)
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can combat my indecisiveness, whether it be little tricks or larger, view-changing concepts. Here are nine ideas to help you overcome indecision:
- Discuss Decisions With An Unbiased Source. Talking about options out-loud can help you get some perspective. I suggest discussing big choices with a therapist or counselor rather than someone in your familial or social circle. They’ll provide an unbiased opinion with a broader perspective than someone who could directly be impacted by your decisions.
- Reflect on Past Decisions. What decisions have you made that resulted in good, great, or optimal outcomes? Reflect on those decisions and what influenced you to make them. Relate them to your current conundrum and learn something from your past self. Do the same thing with decisions that had negative outcomes.
- Reduce (some) Decisions. Daily life can get overwhelming when there are too many decisions to make. Reduce a few of your decisions by establishing and maintaining habits. Example: If you prep lunches for a week, you won’t have to decide what to eat for lunch every day.
- Sweat It Out. If a hard decision is messing with you, take a break from it and go exercise. Let the endorphins change your mood and then go back to the drawing board.
- Set a Deadline. I work best under pressure so adding a deadline can be a great way to push me one way or another. Giving yourself a set amount of time could help you get over your hesitation.
- Decide and Decide Again. Make a choice, write it down on a piece of paper, and walk away. Look at your decision a day later. Do you still agree with your choice? If so, stick with your decision. You’ll feel more confident having made the same decision twice, and you’ll know you have more to consider if you’re thinking differently 24-hours later.
- Free-Write About It. Go somewhere quiet and write about the decision uninterrupted. Let your thoughts flow freely for several minutes. Re-read what you wrote and try to gain some clarity from it.
- Ignore Shoulds. Maybe you could do something according to society’s standards or someone’s opinion, but it doesn’t mean you should. Don’t try to impress or satisfy others with your decision. Focus on what you want to do rather than what you should do. When you stop worrying about what people will think, it will be easier to be in tune with your wants and needs.
- Let Your Best Outcome Guide You. Visualize what your existence would look like if you were living your ideal life. Is a certain choice more likely to get you closer to that outcome? Let your big dreams be your guide.
I’ll be re-reading my own tips as I move forward with some major decisions. Sending you decisive and confident vibes!