There's nothing quite like the distraction and stress of being unable to make a decision. You think you've arrived at a choice, then you remember a few small details you overlooked, and you're back to where you started. Your mind spins in circles, trying to solve this puzzle that seems unsolvable. How do you get out of this torturous cycle?
When your mind gets stuck on the same repeating thoughts, chances are there's another thought behind them that you're not accessing, clarity coach Vijay Ram, PhD tells Bustle. Often, our decisions (or lack thereof) are driven by unconscious emotions, and making decisions requires getting in touch with these repressed feelings. That's why it's worth it to examine your thoughts closely. Even if it takes a lot of time, you'll probably save time in the long run just by making a smart choice. Other times, if you just sleep on it or wait it out a few days, you'll have a realization, or something will come along to make the decision for you.
Sometimes, though, no matter how much you think about something, you just can't seem to get anywhere. In these cases, it helps to learn a few mental tricks. Here are some ways to get past indecision when you just feel stuck.
1. Draw A Decision Tree
Certified life coach Lisa Barrington tells Bustle she recommends creating a tree with branches representing each choice and its possible outcomes. Include the best and worst case scenarios, and consider how likely they are. Then, compare each choice's potential for positive and negative outcomes.
2. Imagine Your Possible Futures
To get a sense of how each decision might leave you feeling, life coach Sandra Possing recommends an exercise: Visualize where every possible choice might lead you, and name all the feelings you might experience in each scenario. Compare how many good and bad feelings are associated with each path. "Notice which option feels more expansive, exciting (scary is good too if it's also exciting), and positive," Possing tells Bustle. "And notice which option feels more contracting or negative in some way."
3. Imagine Nobody Else Were Involved
Ask yourself what you would do if your decision wouldn't impact anybody else, Kelby Carr, business coach and CEO of Gonzo, tells Bustle. If the decision then becomes easy, you already know what you want to do, and you're likely letting other people hold you back. Learn to live with guilt and follow your desires, or you'll always wonder what your life would be like if you lived for yourself.
4. Flip A Coin
It's a cliché, but here's the catch: You shouldn't necessarily do what the coin tells you to do. Rather, your reaction to the coin flip will reveal what you want. If you're OK with the outcome, go with it. If you're disappointed, you now know you prefer the other option, says Carr.
5. Get An Outsider's Perspective
Don't do something just because someone else thinks you should, but use others' perspectives as input to inform your decision process. Sometimes, an outsider can see things more clearly than someone entangled in the situation, says Carr.
6. Explain The Reasoning Behind Each Choice
Imagine you've made your choice and are explaining why you made it to someone else. Which one can you most easily reason through? The best choice is often the most well-informed one you can make given what you know in that moment, regardless of what the ultimate result is, psychotherapist Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed., LCSW tells Bustle.
7. Get In Touch With Your Feelings
There are often lots of emotions underneath our indecision, so getting to the bottom of them can helps us make decisions, Women For One founder Kelly McNelis tells Bustle. "When we take time to check in with ourselves to see what’s really going on, we might be surprised as to what we find and what is hiding beneath the feelings of stuckness. But in order to fully understand ourselves and what we want, we need to cultivate that patience and that ongoing dialogue with our inner landscape."
8. Give Yourself Permission To Make The Wrong Choice
Sometimes, you just don't have enough information to know what the right choice is. In this case, it's better to make the wrong one, fail, and learn from it than make no decision at all, says Possing. Instead of obsessing over which decision you'll make, be proud of the fact that you made your choice and will likely grow from it no matter what.
There are times when making no decision can be worse than making the wrong one. So, at a certain point, give yourself permission to stop obsessing over what decision you'll make and just make one.