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The One Thing That Changed How I Make Decisions

May 7, 2019
The One Thing That Changed How I Make Decisions _ Tiny Ambitions (1)

I’m an indecisive person. I think. Or at least, I used to be indecisive. The simplest questions like ‘what do you want for dinner’ or ‘where should we hang this piece of art’ were enough to throw me into a tailspin trying to figure out the ‘right’ answer.

I used to think I was indecisive. But now, I know my inability to make a decision has nothing to do actually do with the decision itself. I’ve come to realize that I’m afraid to share my actual preferences with people for fear of letting them down. But I almost always know what I want. I’ve just been too afraid to ask for it. Until now.

After six (very long) months of being on the waitlist, I finally had the opportunity to read Sarah Wilson’s First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety (affiliate link). The entire book is a masterpiece and if you want to relate or understand better your own anxiety or someone else’s, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

One piece in particular stuck with me and is what inspired this post.

Decision Paralysis

Sarah explains that, whilst in what she calls an anxiety spiral, she isn’t capable of making decisions for herself as they to relate to other people. The ultimate act of love she has experienced during these spirals is when a friend rang her up and asked if she’d be interested in dinner and a movie. Her friend would plan everything. Sarah just had to show up and enjoy.

I smiled a knowing smile when I read this section of the book. I’ve been the person who can’t make plans to save her life or cancels at the last minute because of impending decision fatigue (or paralysis, which is what it often feels like). So, I can understand how having a friend take care of all the plans can be the ultimate act of love and friendship.

Becoming a decision champion

I haven’t stopped thinking about this since I read it. And I’ve started implementing a version of it in my own life, with interesting results.

My partner also suffers from anxiety. Put the two of us together and it’s a recipe for no decisions to be easily made, ever. It’s just not something we excel at. At least we’re aware of our inability to. make decisions!

So, taking a page (almost literally) out of Sarah’s book, I’ve started making decisions for myself and my partner, knowing that having firm answers is what we need in our life right now.

These haven’t been major decisions (I’m not about to risk my relationship over a shaky investment opportunity). No, these have been relatively benign decisions like deciding to make hamburger soup for dinner without asking because I was craving it. Or, setting up the backyard on my own accord because I wanted to be ready to enjoy the spring sunshine (lol, as I write this, we got four more inches of snow).

These seem like really small, not even worth writing about decisions. But, in my head, they are monumental and signify my growing ability to just get stuff done.

Also, let’s be honest. It’s easier to make a decision and stick to it than to go back and forth, waffling every chance you get. Waffling (aka being indecisive) zaps so much more mental energy than just making a decision.

Think about a time when you went back and forth on something. It could be anything (paint colour for a room, where to go for dinner, buying a new shirt). Think about how much agonizing you did over your choices. Wouldn’t it have been easier to just make a choice?

A legitimate part of why indecision plagues me is because I’m afraid of the implications of the decision I’m trying to make. What if my friend doesn’t like where I picked for dinner? What if I pick the wrong show to watch and my partner gets bored?

Just writing that is embarrassing. But, here’s the deal. The majority of our decisions on a daily basis don’t have catastrophic implications on ourselves or those around us. It’s not the end of the world if you go out for Thai food and you don’t like it. Your life won’t end if you wear the ‘wrong’ shirt to an important meeting. It just won’t. (It goes without saying though, that doesn’t mean your brain can tell the difference between actually important and not-so-important decisions).

So, how do you make the leap from an indecisive Isla to a decision-making Deirdre?

All Aboard the Decision Train

Step One

Figure out if the decision you’re trying to make has actual real-life implications.

For example, cutting off all of your hair = no. Hair grows back.

But, selling your house on a whim and moving to the woods? Yes. (Also, secretly my dream).

Step Two

If it’s a yes, feel free to agonize away. Pro and con it up. Whatever you need to do to feel confident in your final decision. Eventually, though, you’ll need to do the below.

If it’s a no, tune in to yourself and make a decision. 80% of the time, you probably know what the right choice is for you. You just might be afraid to admit or accept it.

I’m not saying you should be careless in your decisions. I’m saying you should give yourself the chance to listen to what you want.

The Feel Good Factor

It feels good to make decisions. That’s the part that hooked me. Even making small, solid decisions on a daily basis makes me feel productive. It’s like I’ve actually accomplished something (even if that something is just making my lunch the night before).

What’s the next decision I have to make? Easy – what to have for dinner. Obviously.

Are you a good decision-maker? Or are you more of an indecisive type? Let me know in the comments!

**Disclaimer**: This post contains affiliate links. Read more about what that means here.

Image Credit: Tiny Ambitions

  • peterhorsfieldcfp May 14, 2019 at 9:30 pm

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    The good news is that we are not our past and each day we have the opportunity to live, believe in and do the activities to bring us closer to experiencing our ideal lives.

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    I also know that change can happen in a moment, however coming to the decision to change can take years if not decades.

  • Linda May 14, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    When I have to decide between just two options I find it helps to flip a coin then let my response to the flip tell me what I really wanted. If I’m disappointed in it coming up tails I obviously wanted the choice that would have been heads.

    • Britt May 14, 2019 at 5:01 pm

      I love that! No matter what it lands on, you’ve figured out the right decision for you.

  • spiffi May 13, 2019 at 12:02 am

    When it comes to big decisions – changing jobs, buying a house, buying a car – I am the QUEEN of, as my brother puts it, “pro-ing and con-ing things to DEATH”. I will go back and forth, and try to come up with lists of things and generally put off decisions. Anything big feels like a MOMENTOUS decision – life or death – and what I am trying to remember is that very few decisions are permanent and something that cannot be undone. Some are harder to undo – but generally if you make a “bad” decision – quitting your job and getting a different one – and the new job sucks? You don’t have to stay there – you can find ANOTHER new job. It’s a hard thing for me to keep in mind, I have to keep reminding myself of this!

    • Britt May 14, 2019 at 5:04 pm

      I love your perspective! I’m also a good pro and con person. But, I tend to overanalyze the small decisions and make big ones on a whim. I’m not sure what that says about my brain lol. But you’re right, even if you make a ‘bad’ decision you can still change it to a good one with one more action in the right direction for your life. Thanks for reading!

  • steveark May 9, 2019 at 9:18 am

    It’s funny how different people are in this respect. I managed a lot of different personalities, some could never make decisions and some were ready, fire, aim! I preferred the latter because I could step in and slow them down. There was no way to speed up the others. I’m glad you’ve found a way to pull out of the anxiety spiral and be happier, and it is good on you that you are sharing that with others.

    • Britt May 9, 2019 at 10:55 am

      Thanks, Steve! It’s interesting because my indecisive nature doesn’t play out in a work context, only personal. At work, I make decisions like it’s going out of style! Thanks for reading.

  • Max Out of Pocket May 8, 2019 at 5:14 pm

    I can definitely relate to this and concerns how a decision might let someone down. My wife and I have actually been indirectly talking about this concept with our dinner planning (sounds small). It seems like when we try to plan together, we are both trying to make sure we don’t pick something the other might not like or feel like. It almost seems better to just let one person make the decision that day/week and not get stuck in talking about it too much! I used to also do this with weekend planning back in college. I wanted to be everywhere to make everyone happy but would ultimately overcommit myself to two places at once by not deciding and let someone down anyway. Have a good Wednesday!

    • Britt May 8, 2019 at 8:46 pm

      Yes! The couple dinner struggle is so real and is the kind of battle I’ve been having with my partner. Since I know he’s even more indecisive than me, Ive just started making the decisions of what we make or buy for dinner. It’s a small decision but it makes a big difference at the end of a kind day. Thanks for reading!

      • Max Out of Pocket May 12, 2019 at 9:55 am

        Awesome! Finally warming up here! We will grill out tonight!

  • The Luxe Strategist May 7, 2019 at 12:43 pm

    I definitely am guilty of trying to over-optimize sometimes. One thing that has helped is prioritizing my values. For example, we are planning a trip to Italy and I kept looking at hotel options for this one city. Then I remembered that we aren’t in that particular city for the hotels, so I should just pick one in a good location and then move on.

    • Britt May 8, 2019 at 8:55 am

      I totally get that. I research everything to death (which is sometimes helpful and sometimes super annoying). But you’re right, our decisions should be based on our values. I’m glad you were able to make a decision on that particular hotel and then move on!

  • I am extremely indecisive, and could never really articulate why – but now I have a good idea of what it might be! I don’t consider myself to be an anxious person, even though my doctor does and prescribed me meds for it. So I guess I’m not only indecisive, but also in denial? 🙂

    • Britt May 8, 2019 at 8:53 am

      If you don’t relate with the term anxiety for how you feel, then I don’t think you’re in denial. The labels we give ourselves (or our doctors give us), only really work to serve us if we actually believe they apply.

  • tinyambitions May 7, 2019 at 9:12 am


  • Hey! I'm Britt. I write about living a tiny, simple, intentional life. Because life doesn't need to be lived big.