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Indecision’s Impact on Your Happiness

IndecisionIn college, my roommate would live by the philosophy “When confronted with a decision, if you don’t know what to do, then it is best to do nothing.” At the time, I thought this was great advice, but as I have gotten older, I’ve come to believe that this may not be the best path to follow.

Every day we are faced with decisions. Committing to a simple choice, however, may not be as easy as we’d like. Indecision often stems from fear. The fear is generally driven by a concern that we will make the “wrong” decision, as if there is only a right or wrong outcome. Many of us suffer from a need for certainty, and maybe more important, a need to be right. Not making a decision, however, can cause a lot of wasted time, anxiety and stress, which in the end, sabotages our ability to succeed at making change and is a roadblock to finding happiness.

When we look at decisions through a lens of “right” or “wrong,” we limit ourselves from experiencing the unexpected. Further, although keeping our options open may seem like a good idea, it can often result in stagnation and a lack of accomplishment, meaning we don’t let ourselves experience anything at all. Although you’d think people regret making the wrong decision, regret is more often a result of lack of action. Even a perceived wrong decision can bring about better results than no decision at all.

If you suffer from indecision, here are a few things that may help you to start being more decisive:

  1. Prioritize Around Your Values: Understanding your values is the basis from which you can become more decisive. This self-awareness and understanding allows you to make choices based on what is in your best interest. When confronted with a situation, you’ll be better prepared to weigh your options and prioritize them so they best align with what is important to you.
  2. Build Your Self-Confidence: The inability to make decisions can often be a result of a lack in self-confidence. It is important to trust your intuition and believe in yourself to take an appropriate course of action. Realize that you have the power to create the life you want, and believe in yourself to make it the best possible.
  3. Let Go of Perfection: If part of your indecision is because you are looking for a perfect outcome, remind yourself there is no such thing as perfect, “right” or “wrong,” or “good” or “bad.”  All choices presented to you can work. Not choosing one, however, won’t work. Making any decision provides you with benefits: you will move forward, you may learn more about yourself, and you may learn lessons for the future.
  4. Keep Your Decisions Personal: Sometimes we struggle to make decisions because we worry about what others will think of us. For instance, if you choose a job because it is considered prestigious, even though you don’t have interest in the work, you are making a decision predicated on what others think and not based on who you are or what you want. Make sure your decisions are a reflection of you, your values and what is important to you.
  5. Get Outside Perspective: Although you want to ensure your decisions are predicated on your own goals and needs, it can be helpful to get outside perspective from a mentor, a friend you trust, or someone who knows you well. They may be able to shed some light on your options and the situation to help you gain perspective.
  6. Turn Challenges into Opportunities: If your indecision stems from the idea that each solution presents challenges, look at ways to turn those challenges into opportunities. For instance, if you fear changing careers may mean you won’t have necessary skills required for the job, use that situation as an opportunity to learn new skills so you are prepared. Not only will those skills be helpful in your potential new career, but it may present opportunities down the line.

What if you make or have made a decision that you feel wasn’t the best? How do you deal in that situation?:

  1. Accept and Forgive: If it turns out that you make a decision that you think could have been better, accept the outcome, learn from it and forgive yourself so you can move forward. Getting stuck in the past will not help you to move forward. Failure is often the best tool for ultimate success.
  2. Stay Positive: Instead of focusing on the decision itself, focus on your attitude and how you handle yourself. Regardless of the decision you make, maintaining a positive attitude will have a much bigger impact on the overall outcome of the situation than the decision itself.
  3. Learn from Mistakes: Always look for opportunities to learn from decisions you feel weren’t in your best interest. This will teach you how to deal with future situations and make you stronger and better prepared to make decisions in the future.

A Whole New YouLearn more about the roadblocks to creating your best life and in making change you want with A Whole New You: Six Steps to Ignite Change for Your Best Life.

Have a question you’d like me to answer? Ask here.

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Posted in Brett's Blog, Change / Reinvention, Mind-Body Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
  • Nicole

    My most frequent moments of indecision surround seemingly unimportant choices like what to order off a menu at a restaurant. When it comes to big decisions, I am usually pretty clear, but if something is expensive, I will spend a lot of time researching to make sure it’s a good call and worth the investment.

  • joshrachlis

    My whole life has been wracked with indecision. It has even ruined relationships with women I loved. I’ve tried to turn it into something positive – I wrote an award-winning screenplay about it. The original title was Mr. Indecision. But of course I was indecisive, and it’s now called Focus Group. I should send it to you – I’ll bet you’d appreciate it. 🙂 I also have made my Facebook profile an entertainment venue, where I post funny statuses, videos and cartoons about my life. Befriend Josh Rachlis to join the fun!

    • brettblumenthal

      Thanks Josh! It is great you can look at the bright side of it. Have you been able to overcome it at all?

      • joshrachlis

        Yes, I’ve gotten better. First, I read an article a woman wrote about how she realized that you can never know if you’ve made the “best” decision, so any decision that makes you happy is fine. But later, after I’d wrecked a relationship, I signed up for a university study I read about in the paper, calling for people who worry a lot about everything. Through cognitive behavioural therapy, I learned to take action where I can, and not worry about things I can’t affect. I’m not sure if that part addresses the indecision. And I know I’m still afraid to pick out a couch. But, I remember one scenario that I won’t let happen again thanks to being the new me: When my girlfriend and I were in Santa Monica and really hungry, we kept walking past restaurant after restaurant, with me trying to find the perfect one. We finally ran out of options and had to eat gross, overly-priced hot dogs on a pier. I don’t think I would let that happen again. Now I would say: “This restaurant looks fine. Let’s try it.” Oh, and as I’m writing this, I just remembered: When I was doing the therapy, I reported to the PhD student that I had ordered lunch easily the day before. I’d just picked a club sandwich, and figured that even if it wasn’t the “best” choice, by the time the meal would be done, it would already be time to think about the following meal. So it really didn’t matter. I was pretty pleased with not having to agonize over the menu. It seems like a trivial thing, but the therapist said it was great of me. So, yah, I’m not more fun to eat out with, if anyone here wants to go for dinner with me!

        • brettblumenthal

          Sounds like you made great progress and probably will continue to do so! Congrats and Happy New Year!

          • joshrachlis

            Thanks! And with the extra time I’ll have thanks to being decisive, I’ve “decided” to see if I can run a blog about my life and get sponsors for it and work for myself by the end of the year, so I can spend all my time on my creative passions and be able to travel whenever I want. Just like you. 🙂 So here’s to an exciting 2014!

          • brettblumenthal

            Good luck!