Indecision is our way of protecting ourselves from making the ‘wrong’ decision and the potential negative emotions this could lead to, like shame. Making no decision feels like a safer option.
Indecision reduces self-trust because we pass on responsibility and pressure to our future self, i.e. today’s self can’t be trusted to make the decision.
Self-trust is the foundation of our relationship with ourselves. Trusting that we are capable of making a decision and that we’ll be able to handle the outcome is so important for our . Below are 7 ways to become more decisive and build trust in yourself.
Understand that there is no right or wrong decision
Instead, think of it as making the best decision you can with the information you have at the time. Even if it’s not a decision that leads to success, it will lead to growth and learning.
Ask yourself: if these were all great options, which would I be most interested in doing? This way, you choose the option you’re actually most willing to commit to and persist with.
Alternatively, you could flip a coin and ask yourself how you feel about that option now that it’s been decided. Often, you’ll quite clearly feel disappointed or satisfied, so pay close attention to how you feel and that tells you which option you want.
Clarity comes from doing, not waiting.
Waiting for things to happen is like sitting in a parked car. This is a great analogy I heard from Sam Laura Brown (she has podcast called perfectionism project, which I have learnt SO much from). You’ll always be in the same place. Things will happen around you and to you. If you get going, in any direction, you keep up momentum, make changes from where you are and work with what you’ve got.
Research and reflection are so important in decision-making, but there comes a point when the only way forward is action. I love researching, reflecting and making lists, but the amount of time I spend writing them and planning (without actually doing what I need to do) is just another delaying tactic. Clarity doesn’t come from waiting, it comes from doing, starting, experimenting, creating. You just need to take the first step forward. From there, you might find something is completely not right for you. Which is great because then you know. You will never fully know what is right for you until you’ve done the things that weren’t. You can then work with it to get to where you want to be. It’s a process. Until you make that move forward, you’ll always be in the same place.
Associate more discomfort with indecision than making the decision
Humans are loss-averse, so we’d rather not lose something than gain something new and unknown. We might choose indecision over making a decision and taking action in order to avoid the risk of loss. This means we need to make the discomfort of staying where we are greater than the potential discomfort of moving forwards. Practice thinking about what you’ll miss out on if you continue to wait: the learning opportunities, the new connections, money. Think about the cost of indecision. If you don’t choose which film to watch, you’ll end up watching nothing. If you don’t choose which restaurant to go to, you’ll end up not going anywhere.
Practise making small decisions
Your decision-making muscles diminish without use, so you need to build them up. Start with making small decisions every day. Practise when ordering food or when deciding what to have for dinner. Practise when deciding what to watch on Netflix. Practise when deciding what to wear. Just make a decision as quickly as possible. Don’t make “I don’t mind” your default response when someone asks what you want. The more you practise, the better you’ll get at knowing what decisions work for you and what to do next time you’re faced with a similar decision. If you don’t make any decisions, you can’t learn anything about how to make decisions.
Set personal rules
Having personal rules or a set routine eliminates having to make small decisions from your day. We have a finite amount of decision-making energy each day. If we waste this on insignificant decisions, we have less for the things that really matter. Have a set rule for things like the day/time you go to the gym or what you have for dinner on Fridays. When you have a clear-cut rule, you’re also less likely to resort to instant gratification. For example, if you already know that you have a piece of dark chocolate after a meal, you’re less likely to have an unhealthy dessert if you fancy something sweet.
Identify as a decisive person
If you see you yourself as an “indecisive person” or you often say “I’m so indecisive”, it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. You have to think of yourself as a decisive person. Start by thinking of all the times you have been decisive. Our subconscious filters our reality to confirm our beliefs about ourselves. If we identify as indecisive, it will look for evidence that we are indecisive. Then, if we do something decisive (still believing we’re an indecisive person), we will self-sabotage to get back to being indecisive. So we need to look for evidence of our decision-making skills. We need to act like a decisive person. If you’re having trouble with this, think of someone you know who is decisive and ask yourself “what would X do in this situation?”.
Admit to yourself that you know what you want
Often, deep-down we know exactly what we want, but we deny that we know this. Indecision is a protection mechanism. We often know what we want, but we’re scared to do it. There might be several fears holding you back and we don’t realise we’re scared until we stop and ask ourselves what we’re scared of. When we admit that we’re scared, we can work out what the fear is, work on it and move forwards. When we advise a friend, we’ll often say “yes, go for it!”, but when it comes to ourselves, we have different rules. Set a deadline. Being decisive requires courage. Courage means acting with imperfect information, but by making a decision you get new information and you can make changes based on that.