Ever take a child to a toy store that has $10 to spend. Chances are if you have, then you have endured the excruciatingly painful experience of watching a person who has absolutely no idea what they want; waste an exuberant amount of time trying to pick something out from the thousands of choices. Kids can be indecisive, and fickle, and downright annoying. The good news is that adults can just make decisions for their child when a child is taking so long.
But what happens when it is other adults who cannot make up their mind? Come on, you know at least one person who cannot make up their mind about anything. You ask them if they want to go out to dinner and it takes them 2-3 hours ruminating back and forth just to decide WHERE to go. Then, when you get there, just the menu preview period has them sweating bullets, as they cannot decide between the shrimp and the lobster. Then, they start asking you what you want, what you think might be better, what you would choose (when you’ve already chosen the lobster tail.) When this person is a family member or spouse all you want to do is shout, “Can you please make up your mind?”
Or you and your spouse go to Starbucks, just like you do every day. You know what your wife is going to order, and yet she STILL takes 11 minutes to stare at the menu. She’s been ordering the same thing for 3 years, you know she is not going to change her mind, but yet she still wallows in indecisiveness.
Indecisiveness. It’s frustrating to say the least. Certainly, each of us has moments in life when we are indecisive, when we aren’t really sure what we want or what we should do. Making decisions is not always easy, especially if the decisions are big ones such as what kind of car to buy, or which school district to send your child to. The reason that so many people are afraid to make decisions, or become indecisive is pretty clear. They are worried about getting wrong. The problem is that making NO decisions, or letting someone else decide in the hopes that if something goes wrong you wont be the one to blame, or even stalling on making decisions only serves to rob you of what you REALLY want in life.
Decision-making, a skill that should be fostered in adolescence is a hallmark of success in life. According to Forbes magazine, women tend to be the most indecisive, veiled by a primal fear that being assertive in their decisions and knowing what they want will be perceived as being a bitch. Oftentimes, women who know what they want, ask for it, go get it and demand it – are the most successful. And also, the happiest. In truth, down deep most of us, men and women, know what we want in life. We know what we want to eat for lunch, we know what we want to achieve, we know what we want our spouses to do, what we want for our children, our careers, etc. However, the fear of not getting what we want, especially once we clearly state what we want can be overwhelming.
The flipside reality is that the one way to know for sure you won’t get what you want out of life, is to NEVER ask for it or state it aloud. Some people live by this motto with the belief that by remaining silent participants in their life, they can either a) remain victimized or b) never be truly disappointed.
Seriously though. That 6 year old waving the 10$ bill inside of Toys-R-Us is maddening. As adults we need to step up to the plate and start asking for, and deciding what we want from the simple things such as what to have for dinner, to the more complex things such as our long term goals. Consider the words of Winston Churchill,
“The only guide to man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with this shield, however the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honor.”
In short, what Mr. Churchill is saying is that we have to be armed for life with the ability to make decisions for ourselves.
If you suffer from indecisiveness, then start slow. Start by making simple choices every day and saying them aloud. In fact, for the simple things such as choosing a restaurant to eat at – start making decisions by following your gut and allowing yourself no more than 60 seconds to make the decision. This will help teach you how to make decisions more quickly, and also helps to greatly reduce the stress you feel when you are trying to decide between the steak special or the grilled chicken breast. In the grander scope of things, the small decisions don’t really make an impact on your life long term. But being able to make them swiftly and adeptly, will help you learn how to react when faced with bigger decisions.
When faced with bigger decisions, it is always a good idea to write down the pros and cons in a clearly honest and focused manner. Write what you WANT to happen at the top of the page, and then weigh your options on paper so that you have a black and white blueprint of the impact of your decisions.
The worst thing you can do is make no decision at all. Not only will you annoy all the people in your life – but you will also stymie your personal growth. Start realizing that the worst thing about asking for what you want is that you won’t get it exactly. But not asking for, or deciding what you want at all – only ensures discontent.