“It’s like this,” Zara* told me. “When I was a little girl my family and I went to an amusement park. Just before we were about to leave my mom offered me the chance to ride one more ride. There was the teacup ride or the swing ride right in front of us. I stood there looking at each one. They both looked good. The teacup ride was longer, but not as intense. The swing ride looked more thrilling, but it wouldn’t last as long. I couldn’t make up my mind. I took so long trying to decide that we left before I made a decision. I didn’t get to ride either one.”
Indecision was impacting Zara’s life to this day.
“I feel like I’d be a lot further along in my life if I were better at making decisions. I have so much trouble choosing what to go after that I wind up not going after anything.”
As Zara spoke I jotted down a few notes on the mindset I heard she had around making decisions.
My goal for our time together was to offer her insight into how her thoughts around decisions were generating her decision making discomfort. By the end of the call I wanted to assist her in finding a thought that moved her to a more comfortable decision making mindset.
“Alright,” I said to her. “I’m going to read you a couple of the thoughts that I’ve heard you say that are contributing to your difficulty with decisions. You tell me which one is the most stressful to you or hits you the hardest.”
“You want me to decide?” she replied incredulously, only half joking.
“Give it a go,” I laughed.
The thoughts were:
“I don’t want to make a mistake.”
“If I choose one thing I’m missing out on everything else.”
“It’s not ok to make the same mistake twice.”
Zara thought it over.
“Well, the thought that I’m having right now over having to pick one of the thoughts is ‘I don’t want to make a mistake’, so let’s go with that one.”
I walked Zara through Brooke Castillo’s Self Coaching 101 model. This model illustrates just how influential our thoughts are in creating our experience of life.
The initial thought fit into the model like this:
Circumstance- Zara has a choice to make.
Thought- ‘I don’t want to make a mistake.’
Feelings- anxiety, confusion, frustration
Action- Fervently research topic. If a clear answer is not apparent give up and don’t make a decision.
Result- Lose out on a lot.
Next, we looked to create a new experience around decisions. I asked Zara how she would like to feel when faced with a choice.
“Comfortable, confident, excited, decisive… Excitedly decisive!” she called out.
“Great,” I replied. “Now here’s the tricky part. We’re going to look for a thought that moves you toward those feelings. It may not get you all the way there, but it should move you in that direction. It also must be a thought you believe.”
After a bit of brainstorming Zara came up with the thought:
“Good things have come from decisions I have made.”
Our new model is below. Notice that the circumstance remains constant. It is the thought that changes and triggers the resulting change in feeling and action.
Circumstance- Zara has a choice to make.
Thought- ‘Good things have come from decisions I have made.’
Feelings- comfortable, closer to excitedly decisive
Action- Make a decision expeditiously.
Result- Would be more advanced in setting and reaching goals.
I had Zara come up with examples of where her decisions had worked well for her in the past to help anchor this new thought. The next time she has a decision to make she can bring the new thought to mind to assist her in making a choice.
Zara is not the first client who has brought this issue of indecisiveness to the table, and I’m sure she won’t be the last. I find this topic fascinating. Making decisions, fear of missing out, fear of making the wrong choice… Do you struggle with indecisiveness? What mindset do you use to assist your ability to make decisions?
*Name and identifying details have been changed. Case study printed with permission of the participant.
Ughh..this is me exactly. I can’t make a decision to save my life. I don’t want to make the wrong choice and get stuck hating life, so instead I make no choice and end up hating life….hah.
Thanks for stopping by EW!
You might benefit from this article: http://www.alisonelissa.com/2013/08/13/how-to-decide-between-two-good-career-options-in-5-minutes-or-less/.
Also, try to practice making decisions so you get better at it. Good luck!
Wow I have been going through this for my entire life. I’m 30 with some college credits, no degree, and terrified of making choices which makes me become angry at myself. Right now I’m trying to decide if getting my bachelor’s is not only feasible but worth it. Then there’s the decision of what to get a degree in if I go for it. I’m just struggling to move forward, because I’m affraid if making big decisions. I’m glad I found this article and I hope it can bring me some mental peace.
Hey TZ! I’m so glad you found the perspective in this article helpful.
One additional idea to keep in mind is that taking action (whether it leads you somewhere you like or don’t like) is the most clarifying thing you can do. We get better at making choices the more we allow ourselves to try ideas out, learn from our experience, revise our ideas, and try again. Best wishes!
Same here, actually, I cant make good decisions and everytime I make one,I tend to regret and become depressed because of the decision I made. I have just left high school for college and I cant seem to decide which degree is the best for me and which career field that I will be good at. So confused, I do have few options that interest me but cant decide,just like TZ, Im terrified of making big decisions and end up getting angry at myself and making no decision. Every time people ask what am I going to do for college degree,I will start thinking and not answering their question cause I dont know what I have decided which is frustrating and confusing..I hate it when it happens.Hope you could me on that.
Hey dp- it’s okay to not have your whole career sorted out while in school. In fact, school is a great time to experiment with different career ideas. You can practice mini-decisions, like focusing on a particular field for a semester with extracurriculars and internships. Then re-evaluate and make a different mini-decision the following semester. Hopefully by the end of school you’ll have a clearer idea of what you want. Also, many people work in fields that are different than their majors, so don’t think that this one choice will determine the rest of your life. Best of luck!
Thank you for the article. It is a beginning for me. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom and a military spouse for 10 years now. Have Master’s degree but ended up having some hobby jobs here and there. By 42 I am ready to get back into something serious, or that’s what I think I should, but at this point it is so hard to decide which direction to take. My degree is in business and is so broad, plus I have many interests. I also love everything arts and crafts, photography, etc.But I read your Hobby article:) We are still moving every 2 years or so and the at the next place we will be only one year! Have no idea where to start! My confidence in my abilities is down as well. I do not like spending too much time on computer for blog writing and such. I am a people person and like hands on occupations, actually being there communicate, leave the house:) Any thoughts?? Thank you!
I’d recommend getting involved with a project that challenges you and matches up with some of your interests. This will help build your confidence and assist you in gaining more clarity about what you want to be doing. The project doesn’t have to be perfect. Getting started on something is the most important thing. Best of luck!