Life is complex and filled with decisions to be made. From outfits to food to finances, barely a moment goes by without having to choose something. Deliberating takes time and making the right decision may be a weighty choice that can make you want to opt out of any selection at all. Yet making no decision, or nominating someone else to choose on your behalf, is a decision in itself. So, it’s probably best to take action in a way that serves you. The way you make a choice reveals a lot about you.
According to psychologists, there are two approaches – maximising and satisficing. ‘Maximisers’ are those compelled to make the very best decision. They do so by weighing up all the options first. While this is thorough, it can leave you feeling drained. Anxiety is highly likely to arise from either not being able to make a decision, or fretting that you’ve made the wrong choice once the deed is done.
In the opposite camp sits the ‘satisficer’ who deciphers what’s acceptable and settles on it. With an abundance of mental energy saved from not deliberating over every available choice, the satisficer confidently chooses, accepts the decision, then carries on with their life. They are efficient and effective in their execution of finding a good option that will meet their needs, rather than exploring every possible option. They choose satisfaction over perfection every single time, and are a lot happier for it.
The popular series The Good Place features a character named Chidi Anagogne, a quintessential maximiser who is forced to face his fatal flaw – crippling indecisiveness. Chidi’s inability to make the simplest of decisions is something he must work on in order to alleviate a lifetime of suffering he’s created for himself – and those around him.
When indecisiveness reaches extremes and causes severe problems in social settings and day to day functioning, it can be classified as a mental illness called aboulomania. Derived from Greek and meaning “without will”, this is a disorder of indecisiveness that makes it impossible to live autonomously. It’s typically associated with stress, depression and anxiety.
Why having too many options makes us more indecisive
When it comes to consumer choice, variety is good, but more choice isn’t always better. A study conducted by researchers from Columbia and Stanford Universities presented people with samples of either six or 24 flavours of jam at a supermarket display table. The researchers found that when people were offered less choices, they were more likely to buy the product.
Choice overload arises when you have to decide between too many roughly equivalent options, as this increases your stress and anxiety. To sidestep the mental overload, try to limit your choices and keep things simple.
Indecisiveness is largely driven by fear. What if you choose wrong? What if you miss out? What if there’s better out there? Consider another way to move through the process of picking that creates a more liberating experience – trust yourself to act now and choose well. Understand that decisiveness stems from a calm confidence too.
To develop your self-confidence, visualise your most confident self making a calm, clear, timely decision. Another way to boost your confidence is to affirm it to yourself. Regularly repeating a powerful affirmation such as “I am confident in myself and the decisions I make” can support you in replacing the self-sabotage with something far more beneficial.
In the end, you must accept that you can only do your best. Trust your gut and take timely action, accepting the consequences. The decisions you make may work out well or leave a lot to be desired, but every time you make a choice you’re saying yes to exploring something new.
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5 ways to become more decisive
Keep a healthy perspective
Life is short so don’t waste it sweating the small stuff. Save your energy to carefully consider the things that matter to you most, then simply and swiftly do your best when it comes to the rest.
Make ‘good’ choices
Everyone wants to make ‘the right’ choices, and ‘good’ is usually good enough. Constantly striving for perfection is likely to create more stress, so remember that good really is good enough most of the time.
Know your limit
Too many choices can be overwhelming so it helps to know where your limits lie and when your warning signs are indicating you’re heading for overwhelm. Limit your options to a more reasonable number and if they’re all similar – simply make a choice that feels most right for you.
Sometimes you can get totally stuck when it comes to what to do next. In times like these, rather than following convention, ask yourself which option are you most curious to explore? Choose the one that sparks interest for you and you’d be most excited to experience.
Set a timer
While it can be useful to take some time to make a decision, too much time can send you around in circles chopping, changing and questioning your choices. Set yourself a reasonable time limit by which a final decision must be reached, and once you’re there stay firm, take action and accept the outcome. After all, what will be will be.