I was always the indecisive one in the family. The one who dithered and was affectionately joked about because I couldn’t make up my mind. As an adult I have found that I can struggle to find confidence in my decisions and decision-making ability. However, as with so many things, much of this comes down to perspective and learning how to make decisions. There is power in stepping back, noticing what labels we carry around with us, choosing new thought patterns and behaviours, and practicing them.
Indecisiveness is stressful and exhausting. By swaying between decisions, we are repeatedly making decisions and trying them on for size. According to Daniel Kahneman (Thinking, Fast and Slow, 2011), we have a limited capacity of decision making in each day, so if we think we are making one decision but actually making many decisions in the process, we are using up some of our quota and precious energy that we need for the rest of life.
Generally, in the modern world, we spend way too much time thinking and though our thinking brain has a lot of use and a certain type of intelligence, it can get in the way if we don’t manage it properly. If we are going to involve our thinking brain in decision making then we need a strategy for that part of the process. Checking in with the wiser parts of ourselves is usually the best option. When you are thinking about a decision, what is your body’s response? What does your heart say? What does your gut say? There is a lot of wise intelligence below our heads!
Giving ourselves time to not know can be a huge benefit. This is a challenging ask for most of us but, if we allow ourselves this, it reduces the amount of brain-space and energy expended, thus eliminating unnecessary stress. In addition to letting our thinking brains do their thing and then calm down, holding ourselves in a place of not knowing gives space for the wisdom in us to rise up and to get a real sense of the core thread of knowing. There are going to be moments when we don’t agree with ourselves over the best decision but if we know that for the most part we are on one side of the fence then we can commit with more conviction. Sometimes I just need to park decision making overnight; first thing in the morning is a time when I find clarity because my thinking brain is more still (assuming it has switched off properly and I have had a good sleep!) Often, when I have set an intention to see how I feel in the morning, I wake up just knowing what I need to do. Sometimes, I need more time.
At some point though, we need to step up and choose. Indecision is a choice; a passive choice but a choice all the same. By not making a decision on something we are actually saying yes to indecision and whatever that entails. By default, we are then saying no to other possibilities. When you find yourself in indecision, get curious about what is holding you back. Fear is often a culprit but how long do you want to be held back by that? How much is your indecision to do with your confidence in yourself? How much is to do with what other people might think about your decision? Come back to yourself. What’s really important to you? What’s the worst that will happen if you make the ‘wrong’ decision? And what is the cost of your inaction?
Now, the way I see myself is that…
…I am an holistic thinker who has a strong sense of what is really important to me and what my heart and gut intelligence have to say on the matter. This means that I need to be aware that I don’t let my thinking get too swirly and that I have a gift of being able to see the whole picture.
… In social situations, I am often happy to meet people where they are at and go with what they want to do. I like that about myself and it means that I need to make efforts to check in with myself, in case there is a voice in there that I am not giving space to. This is especially important within specific relationships and types of relationships.
…I need time and space. This is sometimes a luxury that doesn’t exist for bigger life decisions but Mindfulness tells us that it is possible to find time and space within a moment. The more we practice decision making, in a conscious way that suits us as individuals, the more confident we can become in making decisions and more able we will be to recognise that we are fully capable of being decisive and clear about what we want and about what we think is the best course of action.