“You could sum up my inability to make a decision in two words: ‘wishy-washy.’ Wait, is that two words or only one? Not sure. Think it’s one word but maybe it’s two. I know that lots of people have trouble with decision-making, but I think mine is epic. I am always of two minds. Or three. Or four.
I envy those people who are certain of themselves. They have no doubts. “This is what I want. This is what I’m doing. This is what I believe. Don’t really care if you agree with me or not.”
Me. I have major doubts about all kinds of stuff. From whom to marry? (Knew I was making a mistake when I said “I do.” But I did.) To what to buy? (I spend way too much time returning stuff.)
When I finally do make a decision, does that end the turmoil?”
Mr. Indecisive continues:
“I wish it did. I’m forever second-guessing my decisions. Did I do the right thing? Maybe I should have done this instead of that. The incessant chatter in my head can drive me crazy. Well, not really crazy.
I’m not a nut job. But I guess you could say I’m neurotic. I read somewhere that the best definition of neurosis is that it’s a need that can never be satisfied. Like people who have a neurotic need for money. They can be billionaires, yet they never have enough. (Maybe that’s what’s wrong with the greedy one percent who won’t pay their fair share of taxes).
Well, I think I should stop jabbering away, Doc, and let you get a word in edgewise. Maybe you can help me become more decisive.”
Whew, I said. Let’s both take a few deep breaths before I say anything. Let’s just be here — you and me. Let me assure you that nothing you have described is horrendous. Yes, it’s irritating. Yes, it’s troublesome. Yes, it robs you of positive energy. But it’s not something horrible. And it’s not something that you can’t modify.
Now that you’ve taken a breather and stopped beating yourself up, let me tell you a few things that might lighten your load.
- There are so many choices in the marketplace that we can feel tormented over whether we made the “right” or the “best” decision. From our travel decisions to our toothpaste decisions, we have choices. Lucky us. Sometimes we make a great choice. Other times, we don’t. But it’s rare — extremely rare (unless you’re on a self-destructive bender) — that any decision you make will have major negative consequences.
- Looking for the “perfect” decision is a prescription for driving yourself crazy. Instead, look for a “good enough” decision vs. the absolute best one. But shouldn’t you always want the best? No, no no! Why not? Because if you always have the best, you’ll never appreciate it. Because if you demand the best, you’ll always second-guess yourself as to whether what you have is, indeed, the best. Because if you’re only satisfied with the best, you’ll spend way too much time and energy seeking that elusive goal.
- Seek to make peace with the different parts of your brain. Your emotional part wants everything to be easy and enjoyable. Why not? You only live once – go for it! Then, the executive part of your brain (the part that’s concerned with long-term planning) chimes in and gums up the works. Let’s say you bought an expensive item and feel great about it. But then, you feel guilty that you spent so much money. Did you really need it? Was it worth it? Your brain is in a tug-of-war. Which part wins? Whichever wins, you’re going to feel uncomfortable with your decision unless both parts of your brain work cooperatively. So, strive to make your decisions acceptable to all of you, not just a part of you.
- But aren’t there ever times that one should spend a lot of time pondering a decision, weighing what’s really best? Absolutely. But pick your battles. If it’s truly a significant decision, spend time reflecting on your choices. Get information. Speak to experts. Do your research. Just don’t confuse mundane decisions with meaningful decisions.