Do you suffer from indecisiveness? The way I see it, it is a kind of mental shortcoming, a weakness. Those who are afraid of making choices often keep delaying their decisions. In decision making, there is a false belief that the longer you wait, the better it will be.
I am not suggesting you become impulsive, but at the same time, it is just as daft to keep waiting forever. Decision making is a skill that you can develop over time.
At every step of our lives, we are faced with choices. If you reflect upon the matter, you will find that it is not so much about making right or wrong choices, as much as it is about decision making with the awareness that you are willing to take responsibility for your choices.
You can deliberate and cogitate eternally; it still does not guarantee that you will make the right decision. After all, there is no way of knowing whether a decision is right or wrong at the time you are making it. It is mostly from the outcome that you can gain such knowledge.
At the heart of almost every decision you make, there are three factors: desire, fear and conditioning. Making decisions one way or the other is often dependent upon the benefit you get versus the loss you may incur. If the desire of benefit outweighs the fear of loss, you will choose in favor of the benefit, and vice-versa.
There is no such thing as ‘not making a decision’. This in itself is a decision. Beyond the gain and loss, material or otherwise, one’s conditioning, by society, religion and culture, plays a critical role. “What will others think?” Others’ opinions can influence your decision making, especially if you are not careful about filtering them out.
It is impossible to factor in all the variables of the future. It is, in fact, juvenile to even try that. When you have to make a decision, do so based on what you know and get on with it.
If your decision yields the desired result – rejoice in it. If it does not, then remind yourself that it was a conscious choice you made and that you are willing to bear the consequences. It is not the end of the world. You cannot expect to make only choices that lead to expected outcomes. No matter how intelligent, intuitive, or ingenious one is, it is normal for some decisions to be flawed.
Before making any decision, ask yourself two golden questions:
1. Why am I making this decision?
2. Am I prepared to take responsibility for this decision?
Every choice you make will have a consequence. As long as you are bold enough to take responsibility for your decisions, life will present you with enough opportunities to make better ones.
The Hindsight Trap
When our choices do not lead to a desired outcome, it is natural to believe that we should have done this or we could have done that. Somewhere, you want to believe that you could have corrected your choice, you could have listened to the one who was advising you against it, you could have analyzed things better, you could have waited, and so on and so forth. I call this the Hindsight Trap.
The fact is, you made the best choice you could have at the time. As they say, vision is 20/20 in hindsight. That’s all good, but you are not driving in reverse gear on a freeway. You cannot afford to settle your gaze on the rear-view mirror while you drive forward.
Living by your decision is comparable to driving on the road. You occasionally check your side-view and rear-view mirrors, you pay attention to the traffic around you, you may even change lanes, but you keep moving towards your destination. There are going to be distractions and doubts; it is part of the game. You are good if you can say to yourself, “Given what I know, I am making the best possible decision.” Over a decade ago, I read ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ It is a nice read.
“Clearly, your marks show you haven’t been studying geography at all!” said the teacher. “What’s your excuse?”
“I don’t have any excuse, Ms. Johnson,” little Johny said. “It’s just that my father says the world is constantly changing. So, I thought I should wait until it settles down and then study it.”
Do not keep waiting till eternity comes. When it does, you will be dealing with a different set of challenges. If you want to do something, go ahead and go for it. Only action creates results. Thoughts alone and ceaseless planning lead to an endless path, devoid of the joys of the journey. Such a path has no guiding milestones nor the euphoria of any destination. Only empty words and hollow plans.
If you are serious about learning how to swim, you will have to get your feet wet sooner or later. There is no other way that I know of. Someone may guide you; you may use floaters in the beginning, but eventually, you will have to be on your own, you will have to take charge. If you are bothered by other people’s opinions, watch this short discourse.
It is okay to make mistakes, to make wrong decisions. Accept them. Correct them to the best of your ability and move on. Do not punish yourself. Change is happening now. You are making your decisions in the dead past and the ever-elusive future.
All statements with “could have,” “should have,” and “would have,” denote dead decisions. All statements containing “will” and “shall” reflect your decisions of the future. ‘Now’ is the only truth. In the current context, the simple present and the present continuous, are just about the only two tenses with any substance. All the other ones are simply there to tense you up.
There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision.
William James, philosopher and psychologist
When we dither over this or that or the other, precious time is wasted. Being indecisive eats into our energy and willpower, not to mention motivation.
We spend our lives in surrender to the vicious cycle of thoughts in the mind, allowing ourselves to get swept up in indecisiveness. We second-guess our decisions a dozen times, wondering if we have made the right call.
The truth is, the outcome of a decision is not in our hands anyway, as you read in the above post. What is in our hands is simply taking a step forward with confidence.
Art of Meditation
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The following FAQs cover different aspects of decision-making, including that all-important question: how to overcome indecisiveness. For remember,
Do not plant your dreams in the field of indecision where nothing ever grows but the weeds of “what-if.”
1. What is the cause of indecisiveness?
Lasting fulfillment in life comes from the quality of our vision, understanding and execution, it comes from our temperament and our values.
A sense of fulfilment, in my view, is happiness, which comes from three things:
Of these, trust is not just protecting the trust other people have placed in you, but also self-trust which is equally, if not more important. Self-trust grows when you do what you say you will do.
When you resolve to do something or make promises to yourself and don’t honor them, your self-esteem takes a big hit.
And, every time that happens, you lose a bit of faith in yourself, gradually reaching a point where you no longer trust yourself. Now, if you can’t trust yourself, how can others or the world trust you?
Without trust, there’s no security, a lack of which in turn leads to a defensive attitude, a bloated ego and indecisiveness.
So, trust yourself and eradicate indecisiveness in the process. Want the shortcut to happiness? You don’t have to look too far!
2. What differentiates a successful person from an indecisive person?
People who create opportunities approach things differently. Really, it’s that simple. In some way, people who succeed at anything in life are not usually sane. I say this appreciatively. There are four insanities they live and breathe. I call it the EPIC model.
- Insanely Enthusiastic
- Insanely Persistent
- Insanely Independent
- Insanely Clear
This is how epic people create epic opportunities in life. A confused person, on the other hand, walks the longest path to success (material or spiritual). Indecisiveness kills dreams faster than anything else.
Delve into the EPIC model in the four traits of successful people.
3. Why is indecisiveness bad?
In my view, the one quality that all successful people possess without fail is decisiveness. Successful people are not afraid of making decisions. Once they make up their mind, they don’t hesitate to take the plunge.
Decisiveness is the delicate act of balancing your reality and dreams. It begins by being truthful to yourself about yourself.
Decisive people don’t chase their dreams, they make them. They shape their own world.
If you are prepared to have some doors shut on you to open the only door that matters to you then Nature will open that door for you. Just don’t quit. Unless you are willing to move to a point of no return, don’t expect any substantial returns from your moves.
Decision making becomes much easier when you accept the fact that not all decisions will work out.
In trying to avoid any defeat, you automatically deny yourself the opportunity to triumph as well. This is the biggest downfall of an indecisive person.
If you want to be successful, hone your decision-making skills and quickly. It is the first trait of successful people, after all.
4. What should I take into consideration while making a decision?
Let me share with you the two most potent questions you can ask yourself to help you make the right decision, always. Yes, always – especially when you are being indecisive.
1. Is this my best move?
Just before you decide to do something, a moment before taking an action, ask yourself: is this my best move, or, can I play better?
2. What is the most that will happen?
Let us say you are distracted and really want to drink alcohol, ask yourself, what’s the most that will happen? An ephemeral pleasure of a few hours, if that? Is that it? Is that enough to justify you compromising on your resolve? And if so, is that your best move!?
Most of us tread the path of indecisiveness. Do you know who is your greatest friend, the one who can always stand by you and help you make the right decisions and make sure you tread the noble path? And your worst enemy?
Find out in How to Overcome Distractions.
5. How do I know I’m making the right decisions in life?
No matter how many decisions we make in life, some things will work out and some things won’t. Either way, we learn and move on. Being indecisive though is not an option.
The video below answers the question – when we receive guidance from our inner voice, how do we know it is, in fact, our inner voice and not the mind?
- 0:39: The four aspects of our inner voice
- 4:39: The inner voice is crystal clear