Oh dear! I just can’t decide!

How many times have we all been faced with decisions that we find very difficult to make!

This blog is going to delve a little in to the mind processes that help or hinder us in decision making.

In order to make decisions we have to weigh up the costs and benefits of making a decision and then take action in accordance with our decision. This is much harder than it sounds to achieve!

Decision making is a cognitive (mental) process. This process can be conscious or sub-unconscious (below our conscious awareness).

So what stops us from making decisions about certain things in our life?

shutterstock_98569628 decision

The simple answer is us.

Here are some possible reasons as to why we may not make certain decisions or why we may find it hard to make a decision.

1) We require more information to help tip the balance ‘for’ or ‘against’ whatever we are mulling over. You have asked 3 suppliers to provide you with an estimate about something. You will then wait to receive all three quotes before choosing which to go for.

2) Because it doesn’t matter to us or we don’t care about it or we think it has no impact on us or on what we think is important and finally we think that nothing would change anyway.

3) Anxiety. This is really at the heart of whether we have problems with making decisions. So the question is why do we feel anxious?

Our feelings and emotions are provoked not by events but by the way we think about these events. At the heart of anxiety is irrational or unhealthy thinking or beliefs about risk (be it real or perceived) to ourselves or to our personal domain (the things and people that matter to us). Rational or healthy thinking about risk lead to what we call healthy concern or nervousness, different to anxiety or panic.

Obviously decision making is part and parcel of everyday life and we need to be able to do it!
So how do we free ourselves from the paralysis of anxiety about making decisions?

1) Change your beliefs about mistakes and about getting things wrong. Accept that you are human and therefore fallible. The possibility of making a mistake exists for all of us.

2) Keep the badness of getting something wrong in proportion. Of course making the wrong decision can be bad and may have negative consequences but nevertheless the world does not come to an end. So keep it bad but not the end of the world bad.

3) Develop resiliency to getting things wrong. Accept you will find it frustrating, difficult, uncomfortable, but the truth of the matter is that you do survive it. Telling yourself you can’t tolerate nor stand making the wrong decision is simply not true but it does impact greatly on your feelings of anxiety. So tell the truth ‘it’s hard but bearable’.

4) Accept yourself as fallible. No one is perfect so getting things wrong is human. Believing that you’re a total failure or a worthless person because of mistakes or wrong decisions in unhelpful and is at the heart of your anxiety.

5) Accept uncertainty. Accept that at times you are unsure.

6) Construct a cost and benefit analysis of the options. The costs and benefits of making a decision in short and long term and the costs and benefits of not making a decision in the short and long term. This may help you see that avoiding making a decision about something you deem important does not have any long term benefits for you.

7) Gather relevant information before making an important decision but be realistic about it. Allow for the fact that you may never have all the information. You are more likely to realise this if you accept risk and uncertainty.

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