Why do people struggle with making decisions?

By: Mariam Khan

When it comes to making decisions, most people are inept about this task. They feel agonized towards doing so and often rely on others to help them through it. The inability to make a decision is referred to as ‘indecision,’ a psychological term for someone who has difficulty making decisions on their own. They will either overthink everything or would just keep pushing it away till the deadline approaches and even then, most of them can’t decide from the given options.

Many people struggle with making decisions. Having difficulty making decisions can be a sign of depression. When someone is depressed, they may have a pessimistic view of their choices and an incapacity to act. If you’re experiencing trouble making decisions, the first thing you should do is evaluate if you’re suffering from depression.

Helplessness, pessimism, tiredness, lack of energy and anhedonia (a lack of pleasure), might obscure your thinking and hinder you from acting or perceiving properly. Addressing the root of the problem leads to the most appropriate support. When issues are understood and cleared away the optimism, motivation, and the strength to take action is reemerge.

No matter what kind of decisions most people have to make if they have even the slight tinge of ‘indecision’, they will experience tremendous fear and anxiety. The caliber of the decisions can be slight such as deciding what to wear or eat or it could be making life-altering decisions such as switching jobs, moving to another place or marrying the right girl.

There are also people who can make all the decisions they need to make but are unable to make the ones that are best for them or having the ability to make these timely decisions. Some people make poor decisions, but they at least make up their minds about the options available to them. Others who suffer from ‘indecision’ can’t seem to make up their minds about anything and are always doubting themselves. These people are born with this trait; they can’t tell the difference between simple and complex decisions and struggle to make either.   

If someone is indecisive, he is most often a perfectionist who wants everything to be flawless. Everything has to be perfect, whether it’s marrying the right girl or moving to another country; otherwise, it’s not worth it. This could also be an indication of neuroticism, which is the tendency to open oneself up to negative emotions and undesired psychological stress when making a decision. The most common associations indecisive people have when making a decision include:

If I don’t get it right, then I am a failure.

Being worried about what others especially a family member might think of them for making a bad decision.

This would be the end of the world if they don’t come out with the right choice.

Having a rigid attitude that is not prone to change.

Not knowing oneself as intimately as needed and always being confused about the choices they have made.

Fearful of taking the responsibility for their decisions and the consequences these might carry.

Although decision-making is hard, there are some factors that make it extremely challenging for both indecisive and ordinary people. The following are some of these factors:

The complexity of the decision: The more complex a decision is, the more difficult it is for the person to make a conclusion about it. The sheer number of options and their widespread availability contributes to the overall difficulty of making a decision. In psychology, this is referred to as choice overload or over-choice. Simple availability of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ would make it easier for the person to choose.

The uncertainty that follows: If there is more uncertainty involved in making a decision, it will be more challenging to make a conclusion. People who are indecisive have a hard time evaluating the repercussions of their decisions or the ambiguity that comes with them. They must be fully confident in order to be at ease with their decision, but uncertainty is a pivotal step, and it is this ambiguity that makes the decision-making process more arduous and gruesome for them.

Consequences: If a decision involves more significant implications or life-threatening information, an indecisive person might be unable to make a committed decision. They will always be worried and will do their best to evaluate the consequences of choosing one of the available options; this is what makes the process more complex.

Most of the time people are given a relative time frame in which they have to make a decision and this silent sword of time makes them extremely anxious. This is applicable for both indecisive and non-decisive individuals. During this excessive worry and time clicking in sync with their heartbeats, people discard reasoning out of the equation and end up making poor decisions. This is not only the reasoning that is discarded here, but they also don’t think about it at all.

Indecisive people activate their gut instinct in response to something that makes them feel scared or anxious. As a result, people make decisions based on fear or self-defense. The reasoning is utterly lost, and they don’t even analyze or think about the long-term ramifications of their decision. As a result, people choose whatever they think is appropriate at the time without fear of repercussion of their decisions.

We are delighted, excited, or have this expansive sense that this particular option is the best one to choose among the various options. There is no logic there; we haven’t given any thought to the other possibilities; all we know is that the one we chose is correct. That is why many people are indecisive or make snap decisions without thinking; they are doing it either out of fear or self-defense, or because they are incredibly pleased or expansive.

In general, there is no off-button here; you can’t just stop paying attention to impulsive decision-making; if you have ‘indecision,’ it will always be a tempting itch for you. Even though it seems impossible at the moment, there are things you can do to limit its progress or learn how to make calculated decisions.

The majority of decisions do not come with a ticking clock, implying that they can be delayed. Allow yourself some time to consider whether a decision should be made right away or if you have time to think about it. If you have the time, take advantage of it by thinking more clearly and gathering all accessible information about your possibilities. You’ll be able to think more clearly as a result of this.

Having something written in front of you can sometimes make a bigger impact than thinking about it and then forgetting about it. Analyze your options and write down facts in the form of a text. Read these facts and go with which is unequivocally more in your favor.   

If you’re indecisive, you already have a good understanding of your own behavior. When making a decision, it may occur to you that you don’t need to think about it, make a hasty judgment, or ignore any rationale. When this occurs, instead of engaging in the decision-making process, assess your conduct and remind yourself of its nature and plausibility. This way you won’t be influenced by your indecisiveness-causing static behavior, and you’ll be able to welcome logic back into the game.

It’s likely that you’re having a very hard time making a decision, and that every alternative you consider appears to be meaningless and fraught with peril. When this happens, try to stand in the shoes of someone else. It means that you should have others wear your shoes to understand what they have to say and why they think a certain decision is better for you. This will make things a lot easier.

Play a game with yourself: whenever you believe one option is better from the rest choose that one, consider the implications or consequences it may have in the long run. Rather than leaping to a specific conclusion, play with several options. Determine which conclusion has the least severe repercussions for yourself, and then make an informed decision.

The key is to keep things simple. Pick your option and ignore the rest and trust your instincts. Let the rest of the world dither – you’ve made your decision, so be content with it. There’ll always be people who think of you as a fool for the choice you make. The point is, if you’re content, why should you care?

The writer is a Global HR Consultant and can be reached at [email protected]