When you can't make up your mind

It can be debilitating to have several fantastic opportunities arise at once. Yes it's a good problem, but sometimes still a problem.

When it happens to me, I go from excited to anxious to frozen in fear of making the wrong decision. Then there's the added challenge once everyone else starts weighing in of tuning them out so that I can determine what I really want.

On the other side, I can spin myself in circles when there are only two options, neither of which are perfect, and I feel like I must choose one anyway. I'll spend days, even months, agonizing. Forcing myself to make up my mind only to look longingly at the other choice and wonder if I should reconsider.

Sound familiar? If you find yourself vacillating, try this instead...

What to do when you can't decide

1)  Notice the anomaly.

When you're hung up in the moment it may feel like, "I can never make up my mind."

As if the problem is you, and it always happens this way.

The first step is remembering how good you are at decision-making. Think back to choices you made that you never stopped to question:  the college you attended, the spouse you married, the outfit you chose for work, or the gift for a friend that you picked out last week.

When you know what you want, you don't think twice. You trust your instincts even if you can't explain why. You just know.

And if that's the case (which it is), there is a reason why it's difficult to choose this time and it has nothing to do with your ability to decide.

When the decision is clear you will act. Our goal then is to make the decision clearer.


2) See what's in the way.

When a decision is hard, it's often because you feel like your values are in conflict.

In other words, you believe even subconsciously that you can't have ____ without putting ____ into question.

It's not true, but it feels like it is and that can send you into a tailspin of uncertainty.

"If I have kids, I will not advance in the career I've worked so hard at."

"If I take this great job, I can't enjoy the freedom I had when I worked for myself."

"If I leave this relationship, I will lose the close knit community of friends that I love."

You get the idea.

So the second step is to notice the strict conflict you're setting up for yourself.

Of course there is no good solution if you believe that you'll lose either way. In order for you to be decisive you need to believe that you can get everything you want.

You can, we just need to get creative.


3) Give yourself time.

I don't know about you, but the moment I set a timer for making a decision every part of me seizes up.

The best blue sky dreaming happens when you're not thinking about it, like when you're in the shower, so we need to create space for you to feel that same freedom.

That's often what we do during a coaching session -- my client and I will be facing a decision and rather than launching into it head-on, I'll take us on the scenic route. Maybe we'll take a few breaths so they can silence their mind, or we'll imagine the most impossibly perfect scenario and sit there for a while as if we have nowhere else to go.

The beauty of our work is that I'm tracking our time, so clients feel that freedom even if we only have five minutes.

By removing the rush, a space opens up for thoughts to bubble to the surface. Ideas you already had in you that maybe you didn't have a chance to consider before.


4) Give yourself a win.

The values that seem like they are in conflict, aren't really. The last step is to find a way for you to get everything you want.

This is the moment in the conversation when I will invariably get push back from a client. They tell me that I don't understand, that this is the only way, that if they don't decide now something terrible will happen and, the big one, that they don't have control over the situation.

Poppycock. (That word cracks me. I had to use it.)

If I have learned anything from the toughest moments in my life, it is that even when it feels like you are at the mercy of an unfair world, you are sitting on a lot of control.

The way you take back control is by Giving It to Yourself.

If you don't think you can get what you want from this situation then you need to take a closer look.

The answer may be different from what you imagined. Most times it's even better. It could mean becoming a Nanny so kids are in your life while you pursue the work you love, or asking your new boss for one day off per week to carve out the autonomy you enjoyed while self-employed.

It can also look like taking the decision off the table.

Remember - and trust that - when you're ready to make a decision, you won't second guess yourself.

That means that if you're struggling, now may not be the right time to decide. Focus on things that are more easily falling into place, and who knows...the decision may make itself!