You’re baffled. You don’t know what to do. You have an important choice to make, but you’re worried that you’ll regret your decision. It could be changing jobs, investing your money, committing to a new endeavor. You’re anxious realizing that if you make the wrong choice, you’ll have wasted time, money and energy that you may later regret.

Feeling so indecisive, you postpone making a choice. At least that way, you avoid making a big mistake — until you realize what you haven’t done.

You may kick yourself for not making those big bucks that so many have made in the stock market. And you may feel sick when you think about the job you could have had, if only you had acted on it instead of hesitating, as usual. And it’s not only the major decisions that plague you. Perhaps, you drive yourself crazy trying to decide where to go on your next vacation, which laptop to buy, or even what to have for dinner.

The ability to make good decisions without excessive angst has become increasingly important for all of us for one simple reason. We have an abundance of choices!

Hence, becoming a smart decision-maker is a great skill that will serve you well throughout life. This doesn’t mean that all your decisions will work out exactly as expected, but it does mean that you’ll improve your ability to choose and suffer less angst. A worthwhile goal, don’t you think?

Here are three suggestions that I hope will be helpful to you in a variety of situations.

  1. Get Started. Postponing decisions is okay for a while. But, if you put things off for too long, you’re just compounding the problem. Let’s say you have money just sitting in the bank. You know it could be invested for better returns. But how? You’re terrified about losing money; you’re not sophisticated about the financial markets. So you do nothing — for years. One way to begin is to find out what your options are. Speak to a few non-aggressive experts in the field who will listen to your concerns, educate you and help you decide, without pressuring you.
  2. Ask yourself the right questions. This is more difficult than it seems. For you need to know your objective before you ask your questions. If you don’t know it will be easy for you to meander down the wrong road. As an example, you may be debating whether you should return to college to get a degree when the more basic question is something different. It might be, now that my children are almost grown, how do I want to spend the rest of my life? This might mean returning to work, developing a skill, seeking out therapy, getting involved politically, returning to college or something completely different. Asking the wrong questions makes it difficult to find the right answer.
  3. Understand your tolerance for taking risks. People differ in their tolerance toward risk. Some like to play it safe, others love to live on the edge. Feeling anxious about risks can easily paralyze you. For example, let’s say you’ve worked for someone else for a long time but dream about going into business for yourself. You hesitate, not sure that you will be successful. How can you decide whether to take the leap and go for it? You need to know not only your risk tolerance but also how to deal with the risks you must face. The more you know, the more sure of yourself you can be. There’s nothing as risky as plunging into something about which you know very little.

Good decision-making is an art and a skill. Some seem to have a natural talent for it. Most of us, however, need to deliberately learn how to clarify uncertainties, evaluate risks, increase our options, accept tradeoffs and motivate ourselves to face whatever anxiety is stirred up.

© 2017 Linda Sapadin, Ph.D.