By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
Having trouble deciding?
Some people make sudden impulsive decisions and regret them later. Other people spend a lot of time trying to decide and may let opportunities pass them by without ever deciding. How is someone supposed to know when to make a quick decision and when to spend a lot of time thoroughly thinking things through?
If you’re one of those people who has difficulty making decisions, there may be some very important reasons why you have those deciding difficulties. Here are some reasons you may be chronically indecisive and what to do about it.
You don’t have all the information you would like.
Unfortunately, almost no one, ever, has all the information they would like. Sometimes the facts don’t turn up until after you made your decision. Think about how important this decision is to the rest of your life. Picking a person to marry, that’s a big decision. Once you’re married, there will be consequences if you try to end the relationship. Other decisions, like what clothing to wear today, will have a lot less importance.
You’re afraid of making the wrong decision.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a book somewhere that listed all the right decisions and the wrong ones for your life? The difficulty with that is that if I made you up that book, they would be my decisions, not yours. During your life, you’ll need to make a lot of decisions. Some of them will be right, and some of them will be wrong. Bear in mind that not deciding is, in fact, a decision. By not deciding you are deciding to do nothing.
You think you must choose between A and B.
Many people debate for a long time between two choices. Sometimes this is a choice between the best bad choice. Other times it’s a choice between the better good. The first thing to ask yourself is, are there only two choices? Have you artificially limited your alternatives?
Do a little brainstorming and see if there might be other choices. This might be a good time to seek advice from an expert in the field. If this is a once-in-a-lifetime choice, it bears a little indecision. If this is choosing what to have for dinner, don’t starve to death waiting to make your choice.
You’ve developed the habit of avoiding decisions.
If you grew up or have lived in poverty, you may have developed a scarcity mindset. If you spend money on the power bill, you may not have money for food. You may have developed the habit of waiting until the last possible second to decide because your resources are so limited. If that’s a cause of your indecision, work on getting yourself out of that scarce resource situation. Spend less, get a better paying job or a second job, find a way to make ends meet.
You gave up your right to decide.
Some people have avoided decisions by allowing others to decide for them. You may have come from a home where one of your parents made all the decisions. You may have grown up and gotten into a relationship with a partner who is controlling and wants to make all the decisions. You may have been one of those people who has avoided the anxiety of making decisions by numbing yourself out with drugs or alcohol. You can either decide to take back control of your life or decide to do nothing. The choice is up to you.
You don’t trust yourself to decide.
Low self-esteem can result in the inability to make decisions. Lots of people believe they need to always think rationally. Rational can be good. But that gut instinct has a place also. Learn to listen to your feelings, your intuition. For everyday decisions, what to eat, what to wear, you can go with your default choice. For major life decisions spend some time examining your feelings.
You don’t know what your values and goals are.
It’s hard to make decisions when you don’t know who you are and what you want out of life. When we are young, it’s common to be confused about our values. Some people adopt the values of their parents, their society, a political party, or religion. Eventually, most people should ask themselves if they believe this only because their parents did, or because the candidate from their political party told him to believe it.
Once you know who you are, what your core values are, it will be easier to set goals. Make your decisions ones that will take you to your life goals. Just make sure the path you take to your goals is consistent with your values.
You haven’t developed the right decision-making habits.
Making decisions needs to become a habit. Become more conscious of what you choose as you go through your day. Did you watch TV just because it was on? Why did you pick a particular place to go? The big box retailers know that if they get you in the door three times in a row coming to their store will be a habit. If you do something repeatedly without thinking about it, these actions become your habit. Re-examine the things you do out of habit and decide to live life more consciously.
Hard to decide when you don’t know who you are.
You are going to spend your whole life with you. Stop avoiding looking at yourself. You will make mistakes just like everyone else. Your life experiences will shape your life. The thoughts you have repeatedly will be what you believe about yourself and the world. When you know who you are, making decisions becomes less of an effort.
Your mental health is getting in the way of your deciding.
People with untreated depression find they can’t make decisions. If you are high in anxiety, your fear may be using so much of your brain; there’s nothing left to make decisions with. Your overthinking may have become a disease. If you have a mental, emotional, behavioral, or substance use problem, it will keep you from making good decisions. Get help for your thinking, feeling, and behaving issues, and making decisions will become far easier.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.) Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.
Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.
For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.