How to Be a More Decisive Person

By Sean Grover

Do you make a prison of indecision?

While playing it safe may be comforting, standing in the shadows, waiting for someone else to decide, or remaining dependent on friends or loved ones to make decisions for you weakens your confidence and chips away at your self-esteem. Being totally at the mercy of others is a necessity in childhood, but never works out in adulthood.

Fear is the driving force behind indecisiveness – fear of being disliked, fear of being criticized, fear of failing. Rather than take a chance, you decide to lay low and wait. Yes, staying out of harm’s way is sometimes the smarter choice but it rarely makes for dynamic living.

Let’s look at the types of personalities that have the most trouble making decisions.

The Perfectionist

You want everything to be ideal and set outrageous standards for yourself. Rather than risk failure or take a chance, you convince yourself to give up rather than produce something less than perfect. You obsess about details and the opinions of others.  You have great ideas, even flesh them out and pursue a few, but you rarely follow through or complete them. Trying to be perfect not only burdens you, it also exhausts those who love you. You live in a state of chronic dissatisfaction, and that holds you back and affects those around you.

The Pacifist

You’re quick to smile and very agreeable, but store up tons of unexpressed frustration. Indecisiveness feeds psychic tension and unrelieved emotional stress. As internal pressure builds, psychosomatic symptoms emerge, such as headaches, digestion problems, or sleep issues. Being angry on the inside and passive on the outside takes its toll on your psyche; it drains your creative energy and blinds you to new opportunities.

The Apprehensive

If you have an anxiety-driven personality, you always fear the unknown. When faced with a decision, you get stuck in your head. You run through endless “what if” scenarios and they always end badly. You say “If I do this, I’ll look foolish” or “If I do that, I may get hurt” and never “This might be a good thing for me.”  You spend a lot of time reasoning with yourself rather than working through a difficult decision with others. This only adds to your feelings of isolation and ineffectiveness. Worst of all, your on-going apprehension lays the foundation for phobias – obsessive thinking, panic attacks, and depression.

The Traumatized

Chances are you were hurt by someone, or suffered some traumatic event. This could spring from your childhood experiences or more recent incidents. The bottom line: You don’t want to be hurt again so you make playing it safe top priority. You’re likely to put off decisions entirely, wait until the last minute, or deposit uncertainties into the hands of others. “Whatever you decide is OK with me.” “Whatever. It doesn’t matter.” Not very defining statements, are they? The protective emotional wall you build around you protects you from others, but deprives you of trust and intimacy, and breeds loneliness and isolation.

The Path to Decisiveness

So now that the high cost of indecision is clear, what do you do about it?

Working with a skilled therapist is a great place to start. The sooner you put all those fears and anxieties into words and discover their roots, the sooner your life will move in a more refreshing new direction.

Though there are no short cuts to curing indecisiveness, there are a few things that may help:

Set deadlines that you can realistically keep

Scheduling deadlines is tricky, but most professionals (writers, musicians, and business folk) will tell you that they don’t perform well without them. Start with realistic, achievable deadlines and hold yourself accountable. The satisfaction of completing tasks will fuel your hunger for more growth.

Practice self-mastery

Before you can tackle your indecisiveness, you’ll need to get your feelings under control so you can think clearly. Find a practice that calms and centers you. Exercise, meditation, yoga or dance…find an activity that you enjoy and build it into your daily life.

Reward yourself

When you make a decision, give yourself a pat on the back, applaud yourself, and be proud of yourself.  Even a tiny first step deserves acknowledgement. Changing bad habits is hard work; don’t make it harder by neglecting yourself or being stingy with rewards.

Make friends with failure

Someone said that the road to success is paved with failure. The sooner you take the sting out of failure, the better. Every decision you make strengthens your sense of self and personal competence. Even if it’s a wrong decision, you can always change your mind or try something else. Avoid failure and you’re likely to avoid success as well.

Find Your Voice

Being decisive is fun; it boosts your confidence and adds zest to your life. To speak your truth and make bold decisions is to say to the world, “I am here. I matter.” As Emerson wrote, “We can only be valued when we make ourselves valuable.” Instead of waiting for someone else, use your voice. You’ll inspire others to speak up as well. Strive to be decisive and you’ll also unleash personal strength and power that you never knew you had.