The Pain of Indecision

How To Stop Being Indecisive & Start Changing Your Life

Being faced with a decision can leave you stuck.  An uncertain outcome or having to choose between two or more things can leave you not knowing which way to turn. This can be distressing and lead to missed opportunities.

Faced with uncertainty anxiety is generated in the amygdala; the emotional memory centre of the limbic system or middle brain. Arousal in turn activates the brains survival function leading to a fight, flight, and freeze reflex. In turn this slows down thinking and logical processing that takes place in the neocortex located in the front brain.

Not being able to reason with clarity further increases anxiety. Combined anxiety/freeze reaction and slowed reasoning sets up a self-sustaining neural pathway loop. This heightens the inability to choose or select what course of action to take. Continued and repeated indecision can give rise to a reluctance of making any significant decision. Lurking in the shadows is the fear evoked in the belief that a wrong choice will have an uncontrollable or unfavourable outcome.

A minor but common example is when selecting from a menu. When dining with someone else this can lead to the dilemma of which dish to pick from the selection. What if they pick something that when served, you wish you had selected? This highlights how we can experience angst at the thought of missing out.

This often leads to the classic table conversation, “I can’t make my mind up.  What are you going to have ……”

Not making a decision can have a less than favourable outcome. When being indecisive we are fermenting worry and the fear of negative outcomes. Continually avoiding making a decision reinforces the apprehension of what may go wrong. Difficulties are actively imagined so that emotionally the obstacle becomes insurmountable.

It is appropriate not to make an impulsive decision. Indecision is not the same as a considered and measured approach that may delay making a choice until all the information is available.

A process can be used  to break the deadlock. We create repeated difficulties and what if’s in an attempt to avoid making a mistake. This unfortunately doesn’t resolve the issue rather it emphasises the feeling of being powerlessness. Better to look at both the benefits and risks so that there is a pragmatic and balanced approach.  

Focus on the desired outcome and impact of inaction.

  • What am I hoping for from making a decision and taking action
  • If I don’t make a decision and take action, how will this affect me


  • Desired outcome: I want to get a job where I enjoy what I do, feel appreciated and feel good.
  • Impact of inaction: If I don’t change jobs then I’m going to remain unhappy, stressed and unappreciated

Then query what are you afraid of happening.

  • I’m worried about leaving and ending up in a place the same as or worse than I’m in already

Next determine what is required to achieve your desired outcome

  • To get that job I want, I need apply for other roles and vacancies, that will most likely lead to or give me what I want.

Then consider if what you fear was to occur then what would you then have to do in order to still achieve your outcome

  • Repeat the process until I get the job I want

The most crucial thing is to make those decisions, embrace uncertainty and be the architect of your own life. Remember if you do not make a decision and take action you just get more of the same.

It is empowering to make a decision using your skills and resources. Then for you to take action and instigate change. This is in contrast to being disempowered through letting your fear causing you to freeze and have it done to you. Take a risk and make those decisions. Most will work out and some won’t.

What happens when it doesn’t work out. Then pick yourself up and try again or make a new decision based on updated information.  You learn more about yourself when you meet with obstacles and adversity than when everything goes according to plan and expectation.

We all know life throws up constant difficulties. These are part of life. When this happens we can then realise our innate ability to cope and thrive. Learning how to overcome adversity by changing course according to circumstances is empowering and liberating.

To help you do this, get yourself a supporter. This is going to be a friend, colleague or family member who will remain non-judgemental, will not criticise or adversely influence you.

A Supporter is a positive influence for change. Providing encouragement and helping keep you on course by reminding you of your intended outcome. When things get tough they can provide support by maintaining belief in you, remind you of what you have already achieved and to be there for you when you need them.

Check out other counselling and coaching articles and wellbeing blogs  on my website.