Why you struggle to make decisions and how to change this, for good!
Every day, you make multiple decisions. Will you hit the snooze button or get out of bed? Will you wear a pair of blue shorts or black shorts? Will you have cereal or toast for breakfast?
In fact, it’s been estimated that people make up to 35,000 thoughts every single day.
Some of these decisions are so tiny, you won’t even notice yourself making them. For example, you decided to keep reading this article but you probably didn’t even notice because you were too busy actually reading it!
However, some decisions are incredibly important.
Will you leave your job and study something you’re really passionate about?
Will you stay in a relationship, even if you’re not sure it’s the right one for you?
Will you stay in the city or move to the country?
Decisions like these can be difficult to make. They might take time and energy. You might find yourself struggling to make your choice at all!
In this article, you’ll discover four big reasons why you struggle to make decisions from having low self-esteem to experiencing analysis paralysis. Then, you’ll learn twelve awesome tips to help you make better decisions (and quickly!), such as making important decisions early in the day to writing in a journal on a few separate occasions.
4 Reasons Why You Might Struggle To Make Decisions
Reason 1: Low self-esteem
Do you believe in your ability to make good decisions? When someone asks you to choose what you would like to do, do you value your own ideas? If you had an important decision to make, would you figure it out yourself before asking someone else for advice?
If the answer to all those questions is “YES!” then you probably have good decision-making self-esteem. However, if you answered “no”, you might struggle to make decisions because you don’t really trust yourself to make them.
Reason 2: Anxiety
When you have important decisions to make, do you feel a rush of stress or anxiety and often avoid making decisions as long as you can? It can be normal to feel worried about big decisions, but if this happens often (and for small decisions that don’t really matter all that much!), then perhaps anxiety is stopping you from making decisions.
Reason 3: Decision fatigue
Social psychologist, Roy F. Baumeister, coined the term “decision fatigue” which refers to the decline in quality of your decisions after you make too many decisions in a row. When you do lots of mental work to problem-solve, weigh up different options and come to conclusions (all of which can be important in the decision-making process), you mind can be depleted and find it harder and harder to make good decisions. You might rely more on brain shortcuts when making decisions or fail to take enough time to process your options.
Reason 4: Analysis paralysis
Analysis paralysis is the state of over-thinking about a decision so much that you never actually make the decision. With so many options and resources available to you (such as Google, phones to call other people for advice, books etc), you can spend so much time analysing your decisions that you over-think them and feel unable to make good choices. Rather than feeling empowered by limitless resources, they can make you overly fearful of making the wrong decision. You feel paralysed and unable to move forward because you know you could keep researching your decisions (even when you have enough information to make the decision!).
So, now that you know four of the potential reasons why you struggle to make decisions, let’s take a look at some tips for making great decisions! Be sure to let us know in the comments at the end of the article which tip is your favourite.
12 Powerful Ways To Make Better Decisions
1: Allow yourself to change your mind
Sometimes, you might put so much pressure on yourself to make the “right” decision that it paralyses you. The idea of making the “wrong” decision is so frightening that you feel you need to avoid making a decision altogether!
A simple way to help relieve this pressure is to remind yourself that it’s okay to change your mind. You can make a decision and if it doesn’t feel right, you can try something different or make a new decision!
2: Write in a journal about your decision on a few separate occasions
Writing down your thoughts and feeling can help create clarity and create more space in your mind to actually make a decision. Write about your decision as soon as you can, when your emotions might be running high. Write about it again when you feel calm. Write about it when you first wake up in the morning and before you fall asleep at night.
Once you feel like you’ve written enough, reflect on the different journal entries and use the information to make your decision.
3: Flip a coin
This isn’t about letting a coin make a decision for you – it simply encourages you to face the decision and listen to your intuition.
Assign one side of the coin (heads) to one decision and the other side of the coin (tails) to the other decision. Flip the coin and whichever side faces up, that’s the decision you will go with. However – you don’t always have to stick to the “coin’s” decision!
When you flip the coin, pay attention to your reaction. If the coin lands on the right decision for you, you might feel a slight sense of relief and excitement. If it lands on the decision you don’t actually want, you might feel your stomach turn, immediately want to argue with the coin, or feel compelled to flip the coin again.
4: Limit your choices
If you feel overwhelmed by too many options, choose two or three of your favourite possible choices and then work on making your decision. For example, if you’re trying to choose which topic to study at University, choose your two favourite courses first and then keep working on your decision.
5: Practice mindfulness
Whenever you notice yourself ruminating over past mistakes or regretting decisions you’ve made, try to practice mindfulness (the skill of being in the present moment with a non-judgemental attitude).
Bring your attention to the present moment by noticing your senses or feeling your breath moving in and out of your body. Try to let go of thoughts about your past decisions and accept things that have happened.
This mindfulness exercise is helpful because it teaches you that you don’t have to keep beating yourself up for past mistakes or wrong decisions. You can simply learn from them and move on (making it easier for you to decide things in the future!).
6: Look to the future
Take some time to think about the future consequences of making different decisions. For example, let’s imagine you want to quit your job and study something new. What might your life look like in 5 years’ time if you stay at your job? For example, you might get a promotion, you might feel unfulfilled and stuck in a rut, you might able to study part-time, or you might have saved enough money to do your favourite things, like travel.
What might it look like if you leave your job and study something new? Perhaps, you will have a career more aligned with your skills, you might have new opportunities, or you might realise you liked your old job better and end up returning to it.
7: Make important decisions early in the day
As the day goes on, the more likely you are to experience decision fatigue. If you have important decisions to make, then get them done first. Look at your options with a fresh mind so you can choose the best options and problem-solve creatively (if necessary).
8: Make a list of pros and cons
Sometimes, a simple list of pros and cons can be helpful in identifying the good and bad aspects of different decisions. You might realise that there are twice as many pros for one decision than another.
However, it’s not always as simple as just counting the number of pros and cons and using that to make your decision! Once you have your list of pros and cons, you can also choose the best pro and the worst con of each decision and compare those. For example, one decision might have less cons than the other, but the cons it does have are much worse than the cons of the other decision.
If you’re starting to feel pressured, overwhelmed, or stressed out about your decision, then take a break and meditate. Listen to a meditation app, use a breathing technique (for example, inhale for 3 seconds, hold for 3 seconds and exhale for 3 seconds), or do a body scan.
While you’re meditating, notice if your mind wanders and gently guide it back to the meditation. You might feel distracted by the decision, and that’s okay! Just keep trying to re-focus on the meditation as much as you can.
By the end of the meditation, you might even notice yourself feeling calmer and more clear-headed! Some people often find that meditating helps them tap into their intuition and emotions to help them make better decisions.
10: Give yourself a time limit
At the end of the day, sometimes any decision you could make is better than being paralysed by doubt and fear. If you’re struggling to make a decision and the process is really dragging on, then give yourself a time limit. For example, “At 5pm this afternoon, I’m going to write down the decision I want to make and then I can move on!”
11: Eat well
Your brain needs energy to keep making good decisions. Without the energy it needs, you’re more likely to experience decision fatigue and struggle to make the right call. It might even help to have a healthy snack before you start an important decision-making process!
12: Talk to yourself in the same way you would talk to a friend
Pretend that your friend is faced with the same decision as you. How would you advise them? What would you say to help them move forward? This exercise can be particularly helpful if you feel clouded by emotions or judgement – it helps you be more objective and look at your decision from new perspectives.
Good luck with your decisions from all of us here at The Daily Guru!