Image credit: Drew Corby
“The thing that is really weighing on my mind is that I really don’t know what I want to do and it’s causing this constant low-grade background anxiety.”
This is part of a message that I received from an old friend. This person has a very well-respected career as a doctor that has taken many, many years of study and experience to get to. She doesn’t hate it, but it doesn’t make her happy.
She’s dying to make a change, but she’s paralysed by indecision.
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve worked with who are in a similar position, and so many of them have “awesome” jobs.
This kind of indecision exists in all aspects of our lives – we want to change career, end a relationship, move house, move country, go travelling (but where!?)… but we are often so scared of making the ‘wrong’ decision that we make no decision instead, and we end up existing in a state of “low-grade background anxiety”, often without even knowing it.
It’s a horrible place to be.
Indecision keeps you stuck, sometimes forever.
It consumes your thoughts, and it takes away your ability to be vibrant and excited by life.
Taking action moves you forward. Even if it’s not the ‘right’ decision, you won’t know it until you make it.
Once you make a decision – even if it’s a really hard, horrible one to make that involves closing a door – you unstick yourself from your stuckness and you can finally start to move forward again.
Once you get moving, you can always change direction, but you have to take a step forward first.
I too was once paralysed by the indecision of what to do with my life. I’ve had to make some decisions and take some steps that scared the shit out of me in order to get where I am now.
How to make decisions:
The first step is to become aware of the extent to which being in a state of indecision causes you to exist with a “constant low-grade background anxiety” – or whatever negative consequences you experience as a result of avoiding the decision.
You aren’t making a decision because you fear the pain of making the wrong decision,
but once you quantify (by writing out) just how much the indecision is causing you pain, you’re much more likely to take action to work out how you can make a decision.
For clients I’ve done this with in the past, some of the things they’ve listed as negative consequences of not making a decision:
- Feeling stuck which leads to a loss of vitality
- Feeling useless, unworthy
- Doubting themselves, feeling disappointed, losing trust in themselves
- Loss of confidence
- Losing energy and motivation because their mind is so overtaken by overthinking the decisions
- Constant underlying feeling of anxiety/ fear
- Losing opportunities by not moving forward
- Damaging work or personal relationships by not committing one way or another
As humans we always run away from pain before we run towards pleasure. When we run away from making a decision, it’s because it brings up a lot of fear when we try to decide one way or the other. But when you get really clear on just how much pain you’re “running into” as a result, you’re much more likely to face the fear of committing to a decision than turn to all the negative consequences of staying stuck.
Do all of the research you need to do make a properly informed decision.
If you’re trying to choose a career path, for example, you need to research and experiment with all areas that might interest you before you can work at deciding between them. Try evening classes, talking to friends, networking, etc to get a feel for different industries and careers.
Really question yourself until the answer comes (you usually know it deep down, it just needs to be clarified).
- Try writing a pros and cons list of different options (make sure you include ‘do nothing‘ as one of the options)
- Writing down a rambling spiel of your thoughts can really help to clarify what’s going on in your mind (your mind often complicates things more than it needs to when left to its own devices.)
- Talking things out with someone unbiased can really help. Find a friend, relative, or a coach who can ask you the right questions to get you really thinking about it.
That’s a large part of what we do in the Bloody Good Life 1-1 mentoring program – I ask loads of questions specifically designed to help people get clear on what they really want. It’s always in there somewhere, we just have to peel off the layers of fear and social conditioning to find it.
It’s amazing the stuff that comes up when they dedicate the time to really explore stuff they’ve been too busy to consider for too long.
If you’d like to explore whether working with me could help you get clear on your goals and your direction, check out your options here.