How NOT to Be Super Indecisive About Everything You Do
You’re probably here because you struggle to be decisive. Because you agonize over basic choices you must make to move your life forward. You worry, you waste weeks, and you feel embarrassed for taking so long.
If so, welcome to Indecisive Anonymous; let’s rock this journey together! If not, I hope you’re entertained by my story anyway.
Don’t feel bad if you’re indecisive as all heck. I’ve taken 3 whole months to replace my iPhone after I broke it. I did buy a cheap refurbished one in the meantime, but it had a fatal flaw (turning on and off every several minutes). After finally making a proper purchase after 3 months, I still woke up the next morning feeling like I’d made the wrong choice.
I worried, I wasted weeks of my life, and I’ve sure felt embarrassed about it. But I also learned 7 things. These lessons will make me a stronger decision-maker, starting… tomorrow? No, wait, I think it’s today. Yes, starting today!
Lesson #1. Have humor and self-compassion around being indecisive
I adore many aspects of myself, but find Phoenix Huber odious in other ways. Namely, I find it odious that I take “forever” on things that “should” be simple.
And it’s weird because if I insist on only being positive and self-lovey, sometimes I get stuck. My self-annoyance isn’t getting acknowledged, so it shouts louder.
Two solutions that help me so far are:
- Practice self-compassion, like what Kristin Neff teaches
- Make fun of myself, like Nat Tran the YouTube comedienne
Kristin Neff’s site has many exercises to try. I just did Self-Compassion Exercise #1: How would you treat a friend?
If I treated myself as I treat a friend, I’d say:
It’s okay, I understand that you feel frustrated about the length of time it takes you to make decisions. I understand that you feel anxious when you try to make decisions and you wish you could feel more relaxed. Even with this problem you are facing, you are still perfectly good enough for me; I love being your friend.
I’ve also benefited from a very different approach — turning my anger at myself into humor.
I love being self-deprecating. My shortcomings have less power to upset me when I use them as comedic fuel. They’re fuel for my next “embarrassing confessions” article. They’re fuel for a joke I’ll crack to amuse my family.
Self-deprecation and compassion are strategies I’ve used for years. However, I guess I forgot to use them when it came to my indecisiveness problem. Now I’m aware, and I can lean on my best lightening-up tactics again. :)
Action idea: With your indecisiveness in mind, try an exercise from the Self-Compassion site. Or, make a humorous art or writing piece that pokes fun at your struggle.
2. Take great care of the most useful items you receive
If we take great care of our most useful possessions (including any new ones we receive), we show ourselves we can be trusted. We’ll hesitate less to invest in the exact supplies that could best serve us, because we know we’ll let them serve us.
I designated this past Friday “Finish-It Friday” to see how many to-do list items I could check off in one day. After finishing an article (check) and voting (check), I set up my new Vitamix blender that had just arrived.
By reading the blender’s instructions, taking my time, and savoring baby Vitamix’s first blends, I felt more confident about going ahead with the new phone I wanted to purchase — a top-of-the-line iPhone 12.
I was ready to create my next memorable unboxing experience. I was ready to treat both my Vitamix and my iPhone 12 as true tesoros (treasures).
Action idea: Give TLC (tender loving care) to something useful you’ve long owned or have recently acquired. Realize you’re also practicing the way you’ll treat new treasure — which you can now more confidently welcome into your life.
3. Try on old things — and not just clothes
The next thing I did for Finish-It Friday was try on old clothes. I wanted to figure out which garments to get rid of, and which could be made into good outfits. My fashion-forward sister gave feedback, which I memorized.
Clearly, it makes sense to inspect your old clothes before you flock to the market for new stuff. It got me thinking: What if I applied the concept of “trying on things I already have” to decisions in other areas?
After ordering the iPhone 12 Friday night and experiencing buyer’s remorse Saturday morning, I saw that this principle could have saved me.
If I had held the glitchy phone I have now in my hands (an iPhone SE 2016 that constantly turns on and off), and acted like I was a shopper…
I probably would have thought, This phone would be almost perfect if it didn’t have the turning-on-and-off issue. Other than that, I’d just prefer a bigger screen. I don’t need much when it comes to a phone, and this meets all my needs. It’s only $100; what a save!
And then I would have shopped for something modest and functional with a larger screen that cost $100–200. Instead of forking over a grand for the iPhone 12.
Action idea: Pretend your house is a shop. You’re inspecting all the potential things you could buy. Decide what is satisfactory to you and which things actually need improvement.
4. Remember, every decision you make is ultimately to love others
Done with trying on old clothes, it was time to once again confront that “excruciating” question: Which iPhone will I get?
I spent several hours torn between different options (mainly what size — the regular or the Mini). I feared getting the wrong phone and missing out. I feared overspending.
Then I remembered: The whole point of buying things for myself is so I can give more to others. Let’s relax into a loving, giving frame of mind when we buy. I could get excited about how this new iPhone will help me:
- Be a better friend and family member who people can reach directly
- Be more organized and give stronger writing to the world
I don’t have to feel like a desperate wild animal clinging for survival. I am a lucky modern human who is taken care of. I get to live a playful life of trying to serve others. I will be fine regardless of what phone I do or don’t have, so relax, Phoenix, and just be excited by what you get to share.
Action idea: When you’re making a decision, think about how a smart decision will help you give more to others. Realize that what you are doing is not merely self-serving; it is an act of altruism or love. See if this helps you feel more relaxed and connected with others.
5. When tempted by what’s extra-expensive or dirt-cheap, consider a middle option
When I got the defective $100 phone, I was tempted by extreme savings (which made sense given my situation at the time).
Then, months of COVID-19 unemployment came through all at once. My financial life was suddenly optimistic for the first time in years. I became inclined to treat myself to ultimate luxury — the iPhone 12.
This happens to me sometimes. One part of my personality (such as the penny-pinching part, or the let’s celebrate part) will overtake the other and I get swept away by pure emotion.
For better decisions, I’m learning to negotiate between the polar forces within me. For instance, when choosing a goal, I would listen to both “Ms. Productivity” (my ambitious side) and “Ms. Cozy” (my lazy side). I know I’m bound to go through active moods as well as slothful moods. I can take my fluctuating self into account when planning.
Balanced decisions lead to better results.
Maybe one reason I get indecisive when buying an iPhone is that I know deep down I’m letting one side of myself get carried away.
If I can summon all sides of me from the get-go, I’ll perhaps make faster decisions. I’ll sense that what I’m inclined to choose is a balanced choice, so I won’t hesitate to follow through.
Action idea: Reflect. Does one side of you tend to dominate the show when you make decisions? Does another side get suppressed, leading to confusion or later regrets? The next time you are faced with a difficult choice, see what you can do to bring more personality balance.
6. Allow yourself to half-commit and back out
By the time buyer’s remorse kicked in, it was too late to cancel the iPhone 12 order. But it wasn’t too late to stop the Macbook Air that I’d also ordered.
At first, I felt silly for canceling. Then I saw things from a different point of view.
I realized I should stop beating myself up for starting and then stopping. Sometimes I need to start writing a long text message in order to realize that actually, it would be better to broach that subject over a phone call. And sometimes I need to finalize a Macbook Air order in order to realize I’m not ready and want to consider cheaper options first.
People have different decision-making styles. It’s okay if yours involves semi-committing to things and then backing out. Cancelations, moneyback guarantees, and return policies are there because they help businesses make more money in the long run. Don’t feel bad for using them.
Other forms of half-committing and then backing out could include:
- bringing up a subject and then changing the subject
- driving to a store and then turning back as soon as you reach the entrance
- admitting on your dating profile that you usually ghost people after the first few messages (no hard feelings)
We chronically indecisive people can give ourselves a little patience for the unique ways we make decisions!
Action idea: Think of a commitment you’ve been afraid to make. See if you can take an initial action that’s easy to undo.
7. Let yourself choose wrong and move on
3 months has been long enough. I’ve reached a decision. The iPhone 12 is mine.
I won’t return it within 14 days. I’m choosing wrong and moving on.
Now that I’ve made this decision, I open myself to seeing all the ways my decision may have been right. I’ll relish this luxury. For the first time in my adult life, I’m bringing the latest and greatest technology to my fingertips. It’s exhilarating!
Action idea: Consider when indecisiveness costs you more than a poor decision. Using your best judgment, go make a deliberately “wrong” choice that doesn’t really matter. Done. Moving on. It’s liberating, right?
Indecisive squad, let’s fail forward
Someday, I’d like to write an article called How to Be a Decisive Person Who Chooses Quickly and With Confidence.
I’m not remotely qualified to do that article yet.
But from processing the 3 months and a day I spent constantly uncertain over which phone I’d get next, I’m a step closer to clarity. I’ve gained 7 clues about how to better approach my future decisions. I’m applying them ASAP, and I hope you pounce on your actionable takeaways too!
- Have humor and self-compassion around being indecisive.
- Take great care of the most useful items you receive.
- Try on old things — and not just clothes.
- Remember, every decision you make is ultimately to love others.
- When tempted by what’s extra-expensive or dirt-cheap, consider a middle option.
- Allow yourself to half-commit and back out.
- Let yourself choose wrong and move on.
If you too have suffered from lifelong indecisiveness, we are on this squad together. I know we can become more decisive people. I’m cheering you on through every stretch of the voyage.
Finish-It Friday was a mediocre turnout. I only got 5 items resolved.
Tomorrow though, I’m waging war on my indecisiveness once more. I declare this day to be… Monday Doneday!
May you seize this beautiful day in front of you. Let’s brave our unfinished tasks with kindness, balance, and a bias for action.