Are you becoming one of those indecisive people who grow anxious when presented with the smallest choice?
Or maybe you’re stuck on a massive life decision.
Whichever the case may be, you’re not alone.
It’s a condition on the rise as we’re presented with increasing options across all spectrums.
But what causes indecisiveness?
How can you train yourself to be more assured and make better choices?
We’re unpacking it all below.
Understanding Indecisiveness and What It Means
The psychological definition of indecisiveness is the inability to make satisfying choices.
To be fair, we all go through wishy-washy periods and moods.
It’s also a hallmark of burnout.
But in extreme cases, individuals are unable to operate without the input of others, rendering their uncertainty pathological.
Arguably, indecision is on the rise because, thanks to the digital economy, humans are smothered with more options than ever before.
According to Eva Krockow of the University of Leicester, the average person makes about 35,000 choices daily.
Is there an indecisive disorder? Interestingly, researchers have yet to nail this question down.
However, the spike in overall uncertainty among adults has led to many discussions about decision fatigue — the theory that it gets increasingly difficult to make sound decisions the more you must make consecutively.
Researchers are still probing the issue but have identified specific patterns and potential solutions, which we’re unpacking below.
11 Possible Reasons Why You Are So Indecisive
Did you land on this page because you’re tired of being uncertain about everything and looking for remedies? Step one is identifying the root of your indecision.
1. You Have an Undiagnosed Mental Health or Neurodivergent Condition
Is indecisiveness a symptom of ADHD? In a word: yes. People with neurodivergent and mental health conditions — like depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, and autism — may also experience heightened uncertainty and, therefore, struggle to make firm decisions with which they’re satisfied.
2. There Are Too Many Choices
Even the incredible human brain has its limits. When inundated with a wealth of options, it may short circuit.
Since the dawn of the “Internet Age,” choices have been multiplying exponentially.
Back in the day, people only had three or four movie options a week — and there was no such thing as on-demand viewing. Now, we have entire studio catalogs at the tips of our collective fingers, so irresolution is skyrocketing.
3. You’re a Problematic Perfectionist
We all have different personalities, and as long as we’re not hurting ourselves — or others — that’s fine. Variety is the spice of life, right? But people with perfectionist personalities often struggle with indecision. They get so caught up in “making the right choice” that they become paralyzed with fear.
We get it. You like things “just so.” But perfectionism can be toxic, and if you’ve reached a point where you’re constantly doubtful about every move you make, it may be time to address the problem head-on.
4. You’re Struggling With Anxiety or Depression
When your mental health is on the fritz, and you’re battling anxiety or depression, it’s common to vacillate between choices, feelings, and even viewpoints. The more intense things become, the more reckless you may get — which is why working with a therapist, psychologist, or coach is helpful.
5. You’re Stuck in a “Lack Mentality”
People with a “lack mentality” believe life is a “zero-sum game” with limited options and resources. While the belief is rooted in some truth, it becomes a problem when taken to extremes because people may start to overanalyze every chance and opportunity.
While it’s wise to be practical, getting stuck in an optimization loop is detrimental.
6. You’re Full of Fear
Are you a worry wart? It’s normal to harbor a certain amount of fear and trepidation, but walking through life in a constant state of terror is terrible for your health. It also increases dubiety, making it difficult to forge a fruitful path.
7. You’re Petrified of Change
Being scared of change is another common quality that indecisive people share. In some ways, we’re all guilty of staying in our “safe and comfortable zones.”
But it’s important not to get stuck because you risk becoming stagnant.
Change and growth require stepping outside your bubble, which many people find terrifying. Resultantly, they become wishy-washy and unchangeable, limiting their ability to move forward.
8. You Were Taught To Be Indecisive
Family dynamics have a massive impact on our behavior as young adults. People raised in homes where they were taught to “hold their tongue” and “just do what they’re told” may have difficulty learning to make their own choices and forge their own paths.
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9. You’re a People Pleaser
Being a people pleaser isn’t always a bad thing. After all, being flexible and accommodating can come in handy, and it’s a way to build trust. But again, in excess, it can balloon into a rat’s nest of problems and lead to extreme waffling.
Folks who people please also tend to put their needs and desires on the back burner and are constantly fretting about what others prioritize. It’s a road to nowhere that fosters quiet resentment.
10. You Lack Self-Confidence
We all have insecurities. But developing self-confidence is vital. After all, people won’t respect you if you don’t respect yourself. Moreover, when you’re short on self-worth, you may not have the wherewithal to make solid choices that fill your tank. Instead, you’re always of two minds in an ill-fated attempt to “fit in.”
11. Your Hyper-Detail-Oriented
Being detail-oriented is an excellent quality — but it can also prevent you from being decisive. Furthermore, hyper-detail-oriented people sometimes concentrate so much on the details that they don’t see the big picture, preventing them from being able to make sound decisions. They lose sight of the ultimate goal and get bogged down in the “little stuff.”
How Does Being Indecisive Impact Your Life?
As mentioned, decision fatigue leads to paralyzing indecisiveness. It impairs judgment and can lead to unforced errors. Grant Pignatiello, a clinical research scholar at Case Western Reserve University, explains: “What people worry about is that they’re going to make decisions that they end up regretting simply because they either did not think through all the options close enough and chose impulsively, or chose the default option.”
Furthermore, inaction leads to arrested development, which infects every part of your life, from professional advancements to friendship development. An inability to make choices can also manifest:
- Low self-esteem
- Increased irritability
- Decreased emotional stability or balance
- Lack of “executive function” (i.e., a diminished capacity to keep track of quotidian responsibilities, like paying bills on time)
- Difficulty processing incoming information via texts, app updates, and emails
- Increased rumination about past choices you now regret or question
It’s good to weigh options before making big decisions. In fact, many experts advise taking three days to think before pulling the trigger on a major purchase or life choice.
6 Ways to Be Less Indecisive
When asked about ways to be less malleable, Pignatiello advised: “When you’re making many decisions each day that impact lots and lots of people, you want to make sure you have all the available resources to put into making those choices.”
But the question is: How? Furthermore, what can you do so you have the psychological bandwidth to gather the necessary data and assess it soundly?
Below are a handful of things experts recommend.
1. Stick With Meals That Work for You
Lynn Bufka, American Psychological Association’s associate executive director for practice research and policy, advises people to develop a nutritional routine to eliminate the guesswork. She explains: “If you’ve got a breakfast you know you like, it’s nourishing, and it meets your basic needs, stick with it.”
Be careful with this route, though. A lack of diet variety can be problematic, especially for people with a history of eating disorders.
That said, if you’re fine with fruit, oatmeal, and egg whites most mornings, that’s fine — and it takes a decision off the plate for the day, leaving you energy for more important choices.
2. Plan for Tough Times
Decision fatigue often sets in during times of stress. So when you’re feeling good, try to plan for the storms. When they hit, with their attendant cognitive and emotional demands, you’ll have a system in place to better weather the circumstances and stay on track as much as possible.
3. Delegate to Competent People
Delegating responsibilities is a tried-and-true way to reinvigorate your decision-making mojo. People with control issues may have difficulty handing over the reins at first, but it gets easier.
Make sure to dole out action items according to people’s strengths and establish an effective communication plan. The more things you get off your plate, the more energy you’ll have to make considered decisions.
4. Establish a Strict Morning and Evening Routine
It’s been said that if you “win the morning, then you win the day.” According to research, benefits include:
- Increased happiness
- Stress reduction
- Better sleep quality
- Increased productivity
- More confidence
That’s a healthy helping of pluses. Moreover, when you have all those things working in your favor, you’ll be less uncertain and think with enhanced clarity, making problem-solving and decision-making much easier.
Don’t neglect your evening routine, either. Having a set bedtime and practicing good sleep hygiene are also boons to mental health and general contentment.
5. Limit Your Choices
As we mentioned above, an embarrassment of choices has triggered a spike in hesitancy.
Scientists have conducted over 600 studies about “choice overload,” and many have come to the same conclusion. When humans are presented with abundant options, so-called “ego depletion” — (the idea that humans have limited supplies of self-control that diminishes in the face of too many choices) — kicks in.
A famous study from the 1990s, which is still relevant today, illustrates the phenomenon. Conducted by Sheena Iyengar, a professor at Columbia University and author of “The Art of Choosing” (colloquially known as “the jam study”), it looked at consumer behavior at a jam display at a gourmet supermarket.
Here’s an excerpt explaining the study:
Professor Iyengar and her research assistants set up a booth of samples of Wilkin & Sons jams. Every few hours, they switched from offering a selection of 24 jams to a group of six jams. On average, customers tasted two jams, regardless of the size of the assortment, and each one received a coupon good for $1 off one Wilkin & Sons jam.
Here’s the interesting part. Sixty percent of customers were drawn to the large assortment, while only 40 percent stopped by the small one. But 30 percent of the people who had sampled from the small assortment decided to buy jam, while only 3 percent of those confronted with the two dozen jams purchased a jar.
That’s a gigantic difference, and the definitive results helped prove the theory that more options lead to increased indecision and lack of action.
6. Practice Mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness works! Scores of peer-reviewed, double-blind studies have concluded that meditation, yoga, and journaling do wonders for the body and mind. These activities have been credibly linked with the following:
- Lower blood pressure
- Decreased anxiety levels
- Better sleep
- Enhanced coping capacities and resiliency
- Improved cognitive function
Ultimately, living in the present is less taxing on the nervous system, making it easier to analyze situations and make choices.
When you feel good in your own skin and mind, life is much more manageable — not to mention enjoyable. A substantial part of the formula is identifying your goals and aspirations and acting on them confidently.
To that end, we hope you found our suggestions on how to be less indecisive helpful. Start slow and add new habits one at a time. Before you know it, you’ll be on the road to success and contentment.