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How to Get Over Being Indecisive Once and For All. Maybe.

Anyone who's ever been caught in the throes of indecision --and who hasn't- knows that it can be downright maddening. Thinking about what to do, whether the decision is big ... Should we buy this house? ... or small ... Do I want mashed potatoes or baked? ... can become borderline obsessive. It consumes your thoughts until you choose one outcome over the other, and even then may continue to harass you as you worry whether you made the right choice.

Certainly, indecision is frustrating for the indecisive person. But that's not all. Being indecisive also affects those around you. Your coworkers, your spouse, your family and friends are all influenced by your decision-making, or lack thereof.

Not sure what to decide? Try looking at the question from a different perspective.

What's Wrong With a Little Indecision?

Being unable to make a decision happens to the best of us. But when being indecisive begins to become more of a regular occurrence than a rare one, your relationships and career may suffer.

"Indecision is a silent enemy that steals many opportunities," says Caterina Rando, MA, MCC, a success speaker and author of the book "Learn to Power Think."

That's because your wavering decision may be overcome by someone else's quick thinking. Or, you may be so distracted by the very thought of "What should I do?" that you miss out on opportunities that come your way.

"You cannot decide what to say to an employee or co-worker who has lost a relative, so you say nothing, loosing the opportunity to provide support. You put off deciding if you can afford to go to a conference, so you leave the information on your desk; the next time you read the flyer, you learn that the event has already passed. Your lack of decision-making caused you to miss an opportunity to meet with your colleagues and learn about your industry," Rando explains.

Why Are We Indecisive?

Though it may seem that some people can make a decision in a snap with little or no quandary, many Americans view themselves as indecisive. Most who belong to this category also wish they could become "more decisive." Interestingly, what's causing all of this indecision may actually have little to do with us, but instead should be blamed on our ever-more-complicated environment.

We are bombarded with decisions constantly, and most do not have obvious outcomes. For instance, the decision of whether or not to go indoors during a lightening storm is obvious. The decisions of what flavor syrup to get in your coffee, what size to order, what type of milk to use, whether to get it iced or hot, with or without whipped cream, decaf or regular is another story all together.

The bottom line is this: We make many decisions without even thinking about them (turning on your car's blinker when you're turning, for instance). But we are now faced with a plethora of other decisions that never-before existed, and it can be overwhelming, if not plain confusing. Where we could once only order coffee with cream or sugar, we now must choose, whether we like it or not, among hundreds, if not thousands, of coffee variations.

We take most decisions too seriously. Try to lighten up and open yourself to a world of new adventures.

And our brains may not be ready to keep up. "The trouble with our brains", says decision researcher Peter Ayton from the Society for Judgment and Decision Making, "is that they were designed to survive in the relatively simple environment of the African Savannah, thousands of years ago."

Today, it will no longer suffice just to know whether or not to run from an angry lion. To make it in today's jungle, you must become a skilled decision maker.

How to Eliminate Indecisiveness with Skillful Decisions

There is no shortage of graduate level business courses designed to teach you how to make decisions, and the processes can get rather complex. You could easily devote a significant amount of time to honing this skill (but you'll have to decide if you should or not). In the meantime, here are some basic techniques to help you make better decisions and, maybe, become less indecisive while you're at it.

  • List your options. Write down all the possible outcomes of your decision, but don't evaluate them at this point.

  • If necessary, gather information about the decision by researching or asking friends and family.

  • Read over your options and think about how they make you feel. Eliminate any that evoke no response from you.

  • Recognize how each option makes you feel. If a choice is obviously bad, eliminate it, but otherwise keep all options open at this point.

  • Determine your desired outcome. What would you like to see happen from this decision?

  • Evaluate your options and choose which are most likely to help you reach your desired outcome.

  • Make the decision. Choose the option that seems to fit best.

  • Accept your decision fully. Don't allow yourself to question whether you made the right choice. Instead, be optimistic and do all you can to help your decision meet your desired outcome.

Recommended Reading

How to Talk to a Teenager (and Know That They're Listening)

The Six Worst Lifestyle Choices You Could Make


The Art of Indecision

Four Strategies for Power Decision Making

How to Make Better Decisions

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