Let’s say you make plans with a friend to go out to dinner. When your friend asks where you want to go to eat, do you say:
A. I don’t know
B. Whatever you want is fine
D. All of the above
In fact, how many times does that happen? Someone asks want you want and you say “whatever…” and default to their preference.
Avoiding decisions is a way of hiding. You avoid asserting what’s important to you, what you value, what you want. You keep going along, same old same old. And you end up letting others – people and circumstances – run your life.
It’s time to start making decisions.
Making a decision is powerful. The origin of the word decide means to “cut off”. Deciding means taking a stand, saying yes to something and, by doing so, saying no to something else.
If you’ve been shrinking from decisions for a while, deciding can feel uncomfortable. Deciding means:
declaring a preference … what if someone doesn’t approve of my choice?
accountability … what if I make a mistake?
cutting off options … what if I regret my choice?
taking responsibility for steering the direction of your life … what if I get it wrong??
Those nagging, negative, critical thoughts are a sign that fear is ramping up. Fear prefers the status quo, creating as much resistance as possible to keep you from doing anything different. It’s true, someone might not approve or a decision might not turn out the way you expect, but that doesn’t mean you collapse back into inaction.
Decision-making takes practice.
It’s a skill you develop and a lesson in trust. Every time you make a decision, you learn about yourself. You discover what you want, how to speak for yourself, how to become the leader in your life. As a bonus, you build trust in your ability to decide. The more you decide, the more confident you become at decision-making.
If you’re ready to break the habit of indecision, here are some ways to kickstart your decision-making:
Check in with your body
You can tap into your body’s guidance to help you discern which course of action to take by paying attention to what Martha Beck calls your shackles on and shackles off reactions.
Imagine choosing the options you’re considering. When you think of each outcome, what do you feel in your body? If you notice that your body becomes tense, tight, constricted or drained – that’s a sign the outcome is not right for you. That’s your shackles on response.
On the other hand, if you notice that your body feels lighter, open, energized or more expansive – that’s your body giving you a yes. That’s your shackles off response. Check for which option feels like shackles off and go in that direction.
If you are dealing with a particularly stressful, anxiety-producing decision, ask yourself “What would calm do?”. This question helps to bypass the fear-based chatterbox in your head and access a quieter, deeper, wiser part of yourself.
Fear doesn’t get to choose
How much is fear driving your decision? Is your choice steering you toward what’s best for you or trying to avoid something bad that might happen? Instead of focusing on fear, ask yourself “What would delight me? What would I love?” Lean towards love rather than away from fear.
Making decisions is like taking the steering wheel of your life. You’re no longer coasting on autopilot… you are consciously and intentionally navigating your own way.
"In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing." - Theodore Roosevelt