Are Other People Making All of Your Important Decisions for You?

My whole life I’ve been an indecisive person.

This was clearly emphasized yesterday as I was shopping for brown shoes for my sisters wedding.

All I needed was a pair of brown dress shoes, this should take 10 minutes right? 4 stores, and a dozen potential pairs latelr, I sat in Nordstrom Rack looking down at my feet for about 15 minutes trying to decide between the two shoes above.

It was ridiculous, in the time I wasted trying to find not even the perfect pair, but a suitable pair, I could have gone and done so much more.  But I let my constant indecision get the best of me.

Why make a decision if you don’t have to?  There will always be someone else who can make it for you, right?

Talk about a dangerous way to live your life.

Over the last few years I’ve started to drive myself crazy with my indecisiveness at times.  Often this can be masqueraded as “thoroughness”, as I’ll rarely make big impulse purchases. Instead if I want something, I’ll go to a store, think about it, come back a week later, look at the product again, review all of the options online, and then maybe actually make a decision about actually buying something.

This is probably why the thought of buying shoes on the spot is apparently so difficult for me.

I’m not sure who said it, but there’s a quote that is something to the effect of “The only wrong decision is no decision.”

The times I’ve let indecision get the best of me, generally nothing bad has happened, in fact nothing happens at all. No adventure, no business growth, no risk, and no reward.

On the contrary, pretty much every good thing that has happened in my life has been the result of making a decision. Stay or leave my job. Move to Thailand or go find another job. Buy that plane ticket. Start that business.

Both yes and no can be powerful decisions – but what’s important is that a decision was made one way or another.

So How Do You Make a Decision?

If you don’t want to make your own decisions, luckily for you, there are millions of people out there who would be happy to make them for you.  They’re the ones who will own the business you work for.

I don’t want to wander my way through life having only done the stuff that other people wanted me to do. Simple things like eating at restaurants I could care less about, or traveling to places I had no interest in seeing, quickly stack up.

I want to be deliberate in where I go and what I do.

So starting today, I’m putting myself through what I’ll call “Decision Therapy.”

The premise is simple: I’m not allowed not to have an opinion.

For the next week whenever given the opportunity to make a decision, I have to take it.  Phrases such as the following are no longer part of the vocabulary:

  • I don’t care
  • Whatever you want to do
  • I’m easy
  • What do you think?

In order to have some shred of accountability for this, I’ll be telling the people closest to me that if you ask me something, I will make a decision or at least have a firm opinion.

I’m also telling you.

Is this something that should be sustained forever? No not under most circumstances.  ”What do you think?” can be a very powerful question and it’s very important at times.

But all too often I use that as a scapegoat for decision making. I pawn it off on someone else who often doesn’t have as much stake in the decision – which is never a good way to decide on something.

“Which shoes do you like?” 

I like the dark ones.

Perfect! Dark ones it is.”

So are you anything like me? Does indecisiveness ever get the best of you? What do you say to a little decision therapy?

Missy Cooke August 19, 2013 at 7:52 am

I love this idea. I have had an article in my drafts queue for a couple months now called “The Art of Non-Decision” that talks about the ‘why’ and the repercussions of not deciding. I love that you’re putting yourself out there. Can’t wait to hear how this experiment goes.

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Chiara August 19, 2013 at 8:08 am

Sean are you indecisive with smaller things, i.e. buying shoes?

From previous posts you mentioned that one of your problems is you tend to start a lot of things but only follow through with a few of them. That sounds decisive to me!

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Sean August 19, 2013 at 8:33 am

@Chiara You’d be surprised :)

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Greg Hickman August 19, 2013 at 10:36 am

Love it dude! I’m in on this challenge.

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Caelan Huntress August 19, 2013 at 11:55 am

My daughter (age 7) is going through decision crises all the time. It takes her twenty minutes to decide what shirt to wear, after everyone else is in the car.

So we’ve tried the ‘immediate decision with no obligation’ tactic:

Make a decision immediately. If you don’t like it, and it doesn’t feel right, switch it right away. But sometimes, it’s only when you make a decision that you know whether or not you REALLY wanted to make the choice that way.

So, Sean, where do you want to go for lunch, when we’re in the same city again?

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Paula @ Vintage Kitchen Notes August 19, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Good challenge! And good decision on the shoes

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Nick Riebe August 19, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Awesome shit man – I feel like we are a lot alike in this respect. I think it’s harder for those of us who try to be minimal or are perfectionists. Right now I’m kicking myself with not being more strict about purchases I made 10 years ago, because I’m “paying for it” now (i.e., they were low-quality and/or unnecessary so now I either have clutter, or have to donate/sell it – which is a lot of work).

What I’ll try to do is different: don’t be afraid of making a mistake, and just buy better shit in the first place so you don’t have to upgrade when you get fed up with it (and you will).

So this means:
For buying things – seek high-quality, known and trusted brands. It’s better to buy in a store so you are sheltered from online reviews (which although helpful, end up wasting so much time and prolongs the decision from being made).

For what to do with friends – this is a different beast altogether. There’s a difference between being a leader and having an opinion. My guess is you are similar to me here, so the baby step is to ‘have an opinion’ and don’t be afraid of ‘making a mistake.’ I think the core of this one is that we worry about what other people will think once they know our thoughts/feelings. We need to stop caring about what other people think of us, quit being afraid of being wrong, and just go with our gut and say something! We all have OPINIONS. And it’s OK to share one and get bashed for it. Who cares! Throw yourself out there – be yourself! Own it!!

(wow, don’t know where all of this came from. only had 1 beer tonight)

Cheers,
Nick

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Martin August 19, 2013 at 11:26 pm

Oh man, I’m horrible in the other. I’ve learned to become super decisive. I almost feel sometimes because my friends will not say anything. I have to ask them for their input and they just go along. I’m going to send this article along to them.

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Russell August 20, 2013 at 3:07 am

I think most of us face decision paralysis because we’re presented with choices of near equal value.

The two brown shoes are both smart and nice.

A software company or an eCommerce business, both could easily work.

Thailand or Bali? So many wonderful beaches.

If you can’t make a decision in around 30 seconds, it’s probably not worth making. Flip a coin.

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Misty August 22, 2013 at 8:08 am

I am so guilty of this. I answer just about everything with “I don’t know, what do you think”. I think I will join you in this challenge!

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Chas August 26, 2013 at 7:21 pm

‘Between saying and doing many a pair of shoes is worn out.’~ Italian Proverb

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Ragnar September 1, 2013 at 7:43 am

I am super indecisive. I find myself writing page long comments sometimes, then reading through it and deciding not to post after all… after probably 20 minutes. I take forever to decide what restaurant to go to, what clothes to buy. And I have this overwhelming feeling that I don’t have a preference… even though I usually do have one.

These days I give myself a time frame of about 30 seconds per decision. Because most of the time, the decisions don’t even matter.

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Nancy-Marie September 1, 2013 at 9:02 pm

I realized I was going back and forth on whether or not to leave this comment. I have always been indecisive. My whole life others have made majority of my life decisions for me. It ends in resentment and bitterness on my end. But, I made the decision to give someone else authority of my life and I recently made the choice to take responsibility for that. At 29 years old I am learning how to make decisions on my own. It ain’t always easy (because I fear making the wrong decisions and all hell breaking loose) but there is a lot of freedom in doing it. I don’t have the resentment and bitterness anymore. And, I am learning that things don’t always goes as bad as I imagine when I make a not so great decision.

Great post!

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David Webb September 4, 2013 at 1:09 am

I can absolute go in the indecisive box. I sometimes feel I am looking for that something in particular and maybe it is more persistence rather than indecisiveness that drives me to walk around town searching for that ideal pair of shoes. It was like that for my own wedding. Thankfully Ted Baker had the answer. But I very much sit back without an opinion far too often and wonder why I don’t get what I wanted. Thanks Sean. I am glad I’m not the only indecisive buyer of shoes!

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