We all struggle with indecision from time to time. For some, that experience can occur more often and more intensely than for others. The fear of making a “wrong decision” can be overwhelming to the point of complete inaction. We’ve all made mistakes in the past; it’s how we learn and grow. But for those of us who are highly self-critical, the pain of those mistakes can stay with us and keep us stuck in fear of repeating it.
When we look a little closer, the loop of indecision is actually an activated state of anxiety that stems from fear. It’s a fight or flight response that comes up with any attempt to push outside of your comfort zone (e.g., pursuing a new career path; moving to a new city; whether or not to stay in or leave a relationship). Even when it’s something we know we want, like following our dreams, taking bold risks can be scary for our nervous system. It instinctively wants to protect us from anything outside the norm, which it perceives as a threat to our safety.
Most of the time though, our fears aren’t grounded in reality (e.g., you are financially secure but you fear losing all your money), and taking new risks won’t actually threaten your safety in the way your anxiety might have you believe. Once we notice and acknowledge that the anxiety is just a feeling and not a real threat, we can choose to move past it. This is where having strategies that calm and soothe are really important.
Here are some of my favorites:
Give yourself space to be human. That means practicing self-forgiveness and allowing the regret or misstep to create progress. Self-forgiveness is a practice that ultimately builds self-trust and the confidence to take risks. The trick is allowing yourself to be wrong or to make mistakes without attaching so much significance or negative meaning to that. Mistakes are opportunities for learning and growth. Regret can act as a stepping stone as opposed to a place to be stuck. So, instead of staying stuck in the memory or aftermath of that misstep, take responsibility for your part in it, learn the lesson, and move forward with compassion and acceptance. Ask yourself, “What do I wish I had done differently?” And, if an opportunity arises, choose differently.
Declare what you want, not what you don’t. When we’re not clear (or not clear enough) on what we want, we sometimes default to declaring what we don’t want (e.g., I don’t want to get sick; I don’t want to be lonely; I don’t want to struggle financially). It’s helpful to notice that what you don’t want doesn’t clearly define what you DO. So, focus on what you want to attract. You’ll notice an entirely different reaction in your body—one of possibility versus fear or lack.
Choose to be led by your heart over your mind. Our minds tend to categorize and divide. When you lean into the feelings in your heart space—that place of connection and gratitude—as opposed to the analytical mind, you’ll find the hope and ultimately the clarity you’ve been craving.
Seek safe connection. Find someone to hold space for you—not for problem-solving or advice, but for support or co-regulation (someone who has a calmer nervous system and can help you get yours back into a relaxed state). Find a caring, compassionate ear as opposed to a divide-and-conquer, problem-solving approach. Sometimes all we need is for someone to calmly listen without judgment or a need to fix, and to remind us that we’re ok. You can also use self-regulation to get yourself out of an anxious state.
Remember, nothing happens overnight. Big changes happen in baby steps, so be easy with yourself so that you develop the space (i.e., comfort, confidence, courage, drive) within yourself to go after your goals.