Reasons for difficulties in making decisions
When we are afraid of making a decision, we are concerned that we are choosing the wrong path. It is fear that prevents us from deciding. We try desperately to make the decision that causes as little damage as possible. To do this, we keep imagining new worst case scenarios and focusing on what could go wrong and what we will lose on the other side. This anticipated loss negatively affects our reward system and makes us feel bad. We often do not notice that the losses are short-term but in the long term we profit from the decision.
Everybody has sometimes difficulties to come to a conclusion. Especially if the topic is of high importance for us. We are some days occupied with the decision making process. Finally we make our choice and go a step forward.
Live changing choices
How do we react if a life-changing decision has to be made? For example, the question of education or job, selecting a flat or buying a house, the “yes” or “no” to have children or the question of whether or not to stay in the relationship. The outcome of this significant decision is often uncertain and will prove only in the far future. The decision determine us for several years or even a live time. Maybe we are assessed or criticized in this regard by others and conflicts can arise, e.g. with close relatives.
When we are forced into a life decision we can feel completely blocked and cut of of live. Sometimes we start alternating between “yes” and “no”. This can drag on for months or years. It keeps us in an unsatisfactory and unsafe state of stress and the permanent reflection process binds all energies. We seek advice from acquaintances and constantly bring our topic to the table. Even good friendships are overwhelmed with the situation after a while and our partner cannot and does not want to hear the topic any more.
What to do if you have difficulty making decisions?
Whenever we are faced with a choice between several alternatives, we usually try to make the “right” decision. This demand for perfection, for a flawless solution to the situation often has a blocking effect. Endless “pro” and “con” lists are written and weighed up until we have forgotten what you actually want.
→ Don’t look for the perfect solution because it doesn’t exist.
Regardless of whether you make decisions for pleasure in your free time or not, making decisions takes energy.
→ If you have important decisions to make, it is best to make them in the morning when the mind is still fresh.
People with decision-making difficulties focus on possible disasters. But that won’t get you anywhere. You shouldn’t waste any more worrying about what could go wrong. Better to imagine that you know for sure that EVERY decision will turn out well. Then think about which decision you would be happiest with.
→ Take the option you would be happiest with.
Many decisions cannot be thought through rationally and resolved with the analytical mind. Listen to your intuition and your gut feeling instead.
→ When it comes to decisions gut instinct is as important than reasoning.
When should you reach out for help?
1. Live changing choices
Sometimes a decision turns out to be just too difficult to to be solved by us alone. We feel blocked, cut of from the future and there is no progress in life. Friends and colleagues complain that the same topic is still on the agenda and turn away. For many people the question of separation is such a too big chunk.
Some sessions with a person not involved in the decision can help to overcome the blockade and come to a reasonable decision.
2. People with general difficulties in decision making
Some people have in general difficulties in making decisions. Often they have had a long “career” with postponed decisions. They can get very overwhelmed with small questions like: “What do I want to order in the restaurant?” or “What am I wearing today?”. These people can dwell even on little things for a long time. They have not jet learned and trained to make decisions under uncertainty efficiently.
Fixed thought patterns and behaviour are behind the problems. For example, selective perception of negative aspects, extreme black and white thinking, over-generalization or emotionally based conclusions.
Difficulties in making decisions can also be a sign of depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Not being able to decide does not have to be fate. With support, mindfulness and training we can change our mind and develop our character. In both cases therapy can help to overcome old behaviour patterns and learn new skills.