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How to Get Better at Making Decisions

By Stacey Feintuch
January 10, 2024

What to wear. Where to eat. What to read. What to watch. We make decisions every day. Some are relatively easy, strongly influenced by your lifestyles and habits—you have favorite restaurants and binge-watch shows you love.

But sometimes the decisions you face are much bigger. Staying on or leaving a job. Deciding on a house to buy. Whether or not you should spend a chunk of your savings on a big-ticket item. These decisions can bring on bouts of second- and third-guessing, as well as a lot of stress. The result is that you find it harder to feel confident about your decisions, especially if you’re indecisive by nature.

It is possible, however, to become more confident in your choices. That way, you can spend your mental energy on other issues and avoid spinning your wheels in self-doubt. “Decisions require mental and emotional work, while indecision robs our time, peace, and well‑being,” says Pauline Peck, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist who practices in Santa Barbara, California. “Being more decisive frees resources for us to use elsewhere, like actually living.”

Why It’s Important to Be Decisive

The ability—and inability—to make meaningful choices can impact the quality of our lives. The home we choose affects where children will go to school and what friends you may make. Changing jobs bears on how much money we’ll earn and how our careers will progress. When we firmly make big decisions, we can put ourselves on a fulfilling and joyful path.

Indecision is the state of being unable to make a choice, says Cortney Warren, Ph.D., adjunct professor of psychiatry at the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “It’s a subjective inability to make a satisfying decision for oneself in a timely manner, which can lead to feeling stuck, paralyzed, helpless, and frustrated,” she says.

Avoiding decisions or going back and forth on a decision may lead to increased anxiety and mental anguish. “We feel more powerful and effective when we’re decisive,” says Kathy Nickerson, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist in Orange County, California. “If we’re bogged down with indecision, we worry more and experience more emotional stress. People who practice being decisive are often more resilient and less stressed than their indecisive counterparts.”

3 Tips for Becoming More Decisive

Here are some suggestions to help you feel more confident making decisions.

Befriend Your Fears

Maybe you hesitate to make decisions because you fear failure. According to Warren, a primary reason people don’t make decisions is that they fear the unknown or making a “bad” or “wrong choice.”

To get past this, ask yourself what you’ll do if your fear comes to fruition, and how you’ll cope. “No big decision comes without fear,” Peck says. “If we don’t want to be afraid, then we’ll never make a decision.” Instead, reframe your fear and bring it along for the ride, she continues. “Once we’ve welcomed the fear, it’s no longer in the driver’s seat.”

Let Go of Being Perfect

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” Perfection is another way that fear controls our choices. “Don’t try to make a perfect decision,” Nickerson says. “Try to make a good-enough decision. If you make a mistake, you can often fix it after the fact.”

Rather than being strategic, awaiting the perfect choice can prevent you from making any choice. “When we live our lives in perfection’s pursuit, we limit our ability to live life with vigor, purpose, and direction,” says Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D., a licensed marriage and family therapist in Telluride, Colorado.

Don’t Overthink

Life is unpredictable. It’s impossible to figure out what the future holds. You can’t control what happens once you make a decision. “When you catch yourself overthinking, that is not when you’ll make the best decisions,” Peck says. She suggests taking a breather and revisiting the situation later.

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