I have a not-so-secret confession to make: I second-guess decisions. Ask almost anyone who knows me and they will undoubtedly attest to my propensity to second-guess every. single. decision. I have ever made. It is worth emphasizing I’m an equal-opportunity second-guesser; it doesn’t matter how big or small the decision, you can be sure I’ll second-guess it. Should I have worded that blog post differently? Did I really need to treat myself to a cup of coffee? Is this brand the most reliable for this product? Is this direction the best way forward or should I have gone that way? The list is endless.
It doesn’t help my indecisiveness that there are countless resources and opinions readily available with the intention to guide the decision-making process. There’s a best way to do this, and a best method to approach that, and a best option to choose for a decision; until, that is, I learn there’s another best way to do this, and actually a different best method to approach that, and, of course, a better choice for a decision. Further, there seems to be about a bazillion decisions to make on a daily basis, and an innumerable amount of opportunities for second-guessing. Yes, decision-making is my kryptonite.
As you can imagine, many aspects of life can be paralyzing for me. Even those around me can feel distressed after listening to me agonize over the pros and cons of a particular decision. If eating out, I will carefully examine the menu hours before to determine what I might want, only to doubt my decision as I place my order. If I have a block of time to myself, I struggle to determine what it is I should do with my free time, read, write, play piano, exercise, and usually settle for a haphazard mix of all of my options, rather than simply choose one activity. When someone asks me what my dream career would entail, I practically drown in a turbulent sea of emotions trying to come up with an answer.
My inability to make a decision and stick to it has caused me more stress and sleepless nights than anything else. Sometimes I cling to this label of being indecisive as if my very life depended on it. I worry excessively over this characteristic, only to, just as easily, laugh when I’m teased about it. I can appreciate how ridiculous it is to second-guess every decision.
I have started to realize, however, that I often use my indecisiveness as an excuse to avoid responsibility for the consequences (good or bad) of a decision. After hours of research, I practically buckle under the pressure of selecting the “right” or “best” choice. Being aware of all the options, or, even worse, imaging all the possible options, is truly overwhelming. Rather than make a decision, be content with it, and move forward with my life, I often do one of two things: completely shut down and force another seemingly more decisive individual to make the decision, or, agonize for hours, sometimes days, before making a choice. After choosing, I often spend the next day, month, sometimes longer, focused on second-guessing, further exacerbating my vacillating mental state.
The seemingly infinite number of decisions at worst render me stuck in a spiral of anxiety and at best cause me to become apathetic. I hate the idea of thinking a better choice could be out there, had I just looked harder or waited a little bit longer or chosen a different route. This fixation on second-guessing is a waste of time, I know. But, I can’t seem to stop. In a world where we’re constantly bombarded with dozens, hundreds, even thousands of decisions, it’s easy to see how someone like myself can easily become overwhelmed. With everything.
I’ve attempted to apply various techniques for how to approach decision-making paralysis and fatigue but, to date, have not found any suggestions particularly helpful. So, for now, I am taking time to be a little more introspective, and to reassess this whole mess of second-guessing. I am looking deeper to be honest about what I value, with the hope of relying on my values to lead both my decisions and the subsequent mental attention after making a decision. I have found that I value time and energy. (In case you were wondering, second-guessing requires a lot of time and energy.)
I will likely never be a decisive person but that doesn’t mean I am forever consigned to be a second-guesser. I can accept my limitations as a decision-maker, while also accepting grace to continue the process of redirecting my second-guessing time and energy. Grace as I [gulp] practice making decisions and moving forward with a sense of contentment in this option-filled world.
Wendi, her husband, and their two kids are currently perfecting their best “ya sure you betcha” accents, having recently relocated to northern Minnesota. She is co-author of the blog The Unexpected Ever Afters and a member of the podcast Moms Who Wine.
*photo credit: personal photo*
2 thoughts on “My Kryptonite”
I imagine you’re familiar with the maximized / satisfacer distinction. The maximizar takes a long time to decide, because she wants to make the very best possible decision. The satisfacer decides more quickly, settling for the first reasonable thing that satisfies the basic criteria. I’m a satisficer so when we go out to dinner (or used to, pre-COVID), I’d order the first thing on the menu that sounds appealing, while my maximizar husband agonizes over whether fish a or dish b is a better choice. The funny thing is, he’s not even a picky person! But he feels driven to make the best choice. Sounds like you are the same way. It’s often a great thing, bc he takes the time to really inform himself when we are upgrading our phones or buying a dishwasher. But it can be paralyzing too, so sometimes he just asks me to order for him at restaurants or pick the color t-shirt he should buy. I wonder if you could also delegate certain decisions like that, at least the ones where in some ways it’s not such a big deal (worst thing that happens is your meal is good but not amazing…).
I can see how focusing on your values, as you suggest, might also help you get past some stuckness. Maybe you can also remind yourself that it’s also very okay to make the “wrong” decision sometimes. We all do it. I’ve done it a lot! Most of the time, the consequences are not life or death, and that really helps me forgive myself.
Thanks for sharing! I appreciate the perspective and insight – I especially liked how you pointed out it’s okay to make the wrong decision and to accept forgiveness when that happens, so true. But it’s always helpful to be reminded that it’s a part of learning and growing. Cheers to decision-making!