Having Trouble Making Decisions?

3 Reasons why and 5 ways to help

I hear a lot from people who have trouble making decisions. Here are a few things I consider and discuss with someone who is having trouble making a decision.

Is this about perfectionism?

Our choices are ever expanding. It’s not enough to just buy eggs from your grocery list. You stand in front of the refrigerator case pondering the options: free range, organic, local, grass fed, etc.

Online, we can research every decision: a new car, a vacation, plane tickets, medical decisions, even who we date!

A desire to make the perfect decision can lead us to “analysis paralysis”-a cheesy phrase I dislike but an accurate description of what happens when our perfectionist streak shows.

Is this about having made a mistake in the past with one of your decisions?

Stage fright is a good way to describe this one. You are being overcautious-or are you? So you graduated from law school and realized you didn’t want to be a lawyer. This could certainly make anyone nervous about choosing a new graduate school or a career.

Or maybe you were married before-or with someone you thought you could be-and it didn’t work out.

These prior experiences have affected your belief in your decision-making ability. You ask yourself, “How can I trust myself to make the right decision or believe this relationship will work when I was SO wrong the last time?”

Is this about transitioning to a new phase or developing a new part of your life?

Deciding to do something different is a decision in itself. Some of us might say we want change but then appear to be quite unwilling to do anything about this. This is true whether we want to get to the gym more, fix a disordered-eating issue, or participate in an important relationship in a more positive way.

A person might have very conflicted feelings about what he or she wants; therefore this would look like someone who has trouble making decisions.

So, what’s the solution?

First, recognize why this decision is difficult for you, and if you fall into one of the above categories. Any one of them could cause some severe waffling. Describe it to yourself:

“I’m having trouble deciding ___ because ____.” If you find yourself giving a long explanation, my favorite technique is to describe what’s happening in three sentences. Then:

  • Think about why you don’t trust yourself. Are you looking for permission from yourself or another person to feel good about your decision? Are you gun-shy because of a choice in the past?
  • Focus on your goals and values. Get really clear on what matters to you first.
  • Set a deadline and start asking questions. Do you have all the information you need to make your decision? If not, what information are you missing and how will you get it?
  • See change as an opportunity. Think about some of the best decisions you’ve ever made. Examine the process you used and see if you can apply it again.
  • Seek a professional opinion. Nothing is worse than having all the information, a deadline, and knowing your goals and values and still feeling stuck. If you can’t force yourself to choose AND it’s an important issue, consult a neutral expert: a financial advisor, a psychotherapist, etc.

If you or a friend is having trouble with an important decision, contact me to discuss how I might help you sort it out.