A Mini-Course by Chad Harrigan
Founder, You Can L.I.V.E. Now
Lesson 3: Indecision
The 6 Words That Destroyed The World
Six words have historically caused countless battles and many wars across the globe. These words have seen the undoing of life-long friendships and promising marriages, leaving nothing but tears, destroyed families, and the tattered ashes of love and happiness in their wake!
"What do you want to eat?"
I thought this was hilarious. My wife, not so much. But this common scenario reminds us of just how quickly we can have a deer-in-headlights moment. Isn't it always the case that "I forgot what I wanted as soon as you asked me"? Our inability to decide makes us feel helpless. This lesson highlights some of the common and not-so-common causes of indecisiveness. The goal is to help facilitate trust and confidence in our decision-making. Maybe even generate a little more compassion for ourselves and others when we feel stuck.
Indecision shows up in many ways, and there are usually only a few root causes. Let's take a look at 3 of the most common causes and how to overcome them.
1. Pleasing Others
Being decisive may mean that you disappoint someone or hurt their feelings. We want to be liked and unconsciously fear that deciding against someone may harm the relationship. However, indecision can do more harm than good. Your chances of failure can increase when you don't make a choice. While you may upset someone with you're choice, you could do more damage when you don't. You'll at least have the opportunity to communicate, negotiate, and compromise if appropriate.
| Not making a decision is making a decision.
Also, aren't you forgetting someone important? What about you? What about what you want? How is your indecisiveness honoring your desires and goals? What is your indecisiveness costing/gaining you? It's important to note that there is also (balance) space where not making a decision (yet) is the best decision. In this space, discretion and wisdom matter most. Are you withholding decisions because of patience or procrastination from fear?
2. One too many Choices
In my new book, Hope On Demand, we identify hope as the ability to recognize options, opportunities, and possibilities. Remember the Strategy portion of our process? It helps combat the hopelessness of being stuck when you feel out of options. But what happens when you have too many choices? You can feel overwhelmed!
Let's get back to my wife, who started this whole problem in the first place. In our earlier example of The War of Words, we're faced with an open-ended scenario. A buffet of choices like this can flood a person and leave them in a heightened state of uncertainty. Too many options are just that. Too many!
Here are two ways to deal with too many choices:
A. Clarify your criteria to help you eliminate alternatives that are inconsistent with your goals.
B. Limit your options. Do you find yourself wasting time and energy on trivial issues? Of all 20,000 possibilities, which one or two choices will have the most significant positive impact?
3. Dealing with Perfectionism
Being decisive can be scary. Making a decision means you might be wrong. No one wants to be wrong. "Yes, too many options can flood someone, but their inability to choose may be directly tied to their fear of making a mistake. This increases exponentially if they've had a history of being corrected when they were making a choice, or always being told what to do and what to want. Both extremes create self-doubt and the inability to connect to one's own inner guidance." (Kimberly Key, Psychology Today, 2017)
Here our anxiety can be tied to so many experiences from our past. Trauma, upbringing, rules, and life perspective can all play a part in how we engage with the world. Perfectionism can even be tied to a positive outcome we seek. Do you know one unknown reason it can be hard for people to work out? It's not like we don't know exercise is good for us. We've gotten the memberships and purchased our workout gear, with matching headbands. It's fear of messing up. We tell ourselves that "it's just something else for me to suck at."
Anxiety from perfectionism comes out of a reaction to perceived fear. Keep these ideas in mind to develop realistic standards:
1. Start small: Work your way up to handling marriage proposals and job offers. Practice by resolving what to cook for dinner and where to go on weekend outings. Each decision will build your confidence and skills.
2. Accept uncertainty: It's tempting to put off concluding so that you can gather more information. However, you need to determine how much research is adequate so you can take action and deal with other responsibilities.
3. Value learning: Personal experiences are a valuable way to increase your knowledge and skills. Any setback can be beneficial if it helps you to perform more effectively next time.
4. Take sensible risks: But take the damn risk. Give yourself credit for having the courage to take a chance even when you feel uncertain. Believe in yourself and your abilities. Concentrate on what you may gain and recognize that you may lose more by not taking any action.
5. Develop compassion: How do you treat yourself when a decision fails to deliver the results you wanted? Learn how to comfort and encourage yourself. Use positive self-talk. Meditate daily to relieve anxiety and build your self-esteem.
How can you use what you've learned in this lesson?
Are you held up by Pleasing Others, Having Too Many Choices, or Perfectionism? (or all of them)
If these challenges didn't get in your way, how would you be more decisive?