Overcoming the Anxiety of Indecisiveness: Some Simple Ideas that work

There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision.” ~William James

Do you struggle with anxiety around having to make decisions?

That was my predicament recently that had me struggling.

I had a big event coming up where I needed to take some quick action. Yet, every time I started to think of everything I had to do I got very anxious and deflected to avoidance tactics- sound familiar?

The overthinking of the options had me in an endless loop that seemed to be on constant repeat with no decisions made.

Nothing is more mentally exhausting as indecision. It can be a frustrating way to live feeling irritated by uncertainty, or lack of progress.

So what’s going on and how can we cut through those feelings that leave us indecisive?

Understand the Relationship between Anxiety and Indecision

I used to be indecisive but now I am not quite sure.” – Tommy Cooper

The relationship between anxiety and indecision can be multilayered. On the one hand decision-making can make us anxious. Yet, if we are already struggling with anxiety our ability to make decisions will be limited.

So let’s start by trying to better understand what fuels the anxiety.  

Any definition of anxiety typically includes words like worry, fear, apprehension, nervousness, dread, doom, and danger. All these concerns are based on an unknown future. 

So if making a decision due to the unknown makes you anxious, what better way to avoid that anxiety than by not making a decision?

But that, of course, does nothing to help you in the long run. Moreover, that very indecision may itself also cause anxiety due to nothing getting done!

So let’s explore how to better understand what drives our indecision.

The Root cause of our Indecision

In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing”~ Theodore Roosevelt

There are many reasons why decision-making can make us anxious. If I consider my situation, and what was happening for me, there are a number of motives that influenced my apprehensive thinking. Here’s a few you may be able to relate to:

  • Choice overload. How do I know which option is the right one? Today’s world is full of endless possibilities. The vast choice presented online makes things even worse. This over-abundance of choice itself can cause anxiety around decision-making.
  • Fear of responsibility. What if i make the wrong choice? Making a decision, good or bad, right or wrong, has consequences. If any of the possible outcomes of your decision could be negative, you may feel unwilling to take responsibility for it.
  • Perfectionism. What if my choice isn’t perfect? It’s often said that a bad decision is better than no decision at all. While this isn’t necessarily true, if you have unrealistically high standards, you may wait until the perfect option comes along – which may never happen. If you procrastinate like this, you won’t make any decisions.
  • People-pleasing. What if people don’t like my choice? Do you tend to base your decisions on what you think will please others? The reality is you can’t please everyone, all the time!

When I look more closely at my reasoning behind my lack of decision making I start to see more clearly a common theme that keeps repeating itself. This helps me better understanding what’s going on!

The relationship between decision making and Uncertainty

Worry is a sustained form of fear caused by indecision.”-Anonymous

For most people, the root cause of indecision is a fear of uncertainty. 

That was my problem! Important decisions which involved time commitment and sizeable investment evoked feelings of anxiety.  I want to be sure my choices were the best. I didn’t want to get it wrong. I wanted everything to be just right so everyone would be happy! But there was so much doubt.

We all crave certainty. We want to know we have some control of what’s going to happen.  So uncertainty can be perceived as a kind of threat.

Yet, there’s an irony here! Uncertainty is inevitable in life. Every day we will all face circumstances we have no control over. It’s unavoidable.

So I realised jumping off the anxious merry-go-round and into a decision begins with a decision.

So if you can recognise and manage your anxiety, you can also overcome your indecisiveness – and make good decisions you can live with.

It sounds so simple! Yet, if you are honest with yourself, when the pressures how often do we take the time to step back and examine what’s going on?  

Some Ideas that can help Bridge the Gap

The worst decision is indecision.”- Ryan Harwood

Here are some simple ideas that helped me bridge that gap from feeling anxious to making a decision:

1. Start very small. Don’t leap into big decisions. It will only increase anxiety and make future decisions more intimidating.

2. When trying to make a decision, write down all the possibilities. Don’t judge; just write. Then, take an honest look at your list.

3. Avoid choice overload. Are there ways you can avoid being presented with quite so many options in your daily life? Structure the situation to avoid choice overload. Purposely limit the number of choices to a manageable amount- Maybe 3 or 4.

4. Avoid perfectionism. Your decisions don’t have to be perfect – just made. You’ll never have perfect knowledge to make the perfect choice. Stop seeking the next best thing. Live with uncertainty and accept the unknown.

5.  Choices don’t mean there is a wrong one. Often, anxiety makes decision-making harder because we believe that there will be a good choice and a better choice .The reality is we need to have faith neither decision will be the wrong one.

Take away Message

Anxiety and indecisiveness go hand in hand. They can leave you spinning instead of moving forward. When you have a lot of anxiety you will always have trouble making decisions.

This is a common result of anxiety, but you don’t have to live with this frustrating indecisiveness forever. If anxiety is the source of your inability to make decisions, it makes sense to tackle the root cause.

There are many ways of dealing with anxiety that limits your progress in life. Hopefully some of the ideas above might have given you some insight if you are struggling.

If you need any professional guidance please reach out- I’m here to help!

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