By Amanda Patterson – LMHC , Christine Vargo – LCSW

How To Be Decisive

“Hesitation only enlarges, magnifies the fear. Take action promptly. Be decisive.”

~ David J. Schwartz

A wrong decision is generally less disastrous than indecision Bernhard Langer Quote
Amanda Patterson

When you want to be decisive, overthinking can stop you in your tracks. Overthinking can come in many forms. Overthinking can lead to behavioral problems.

One of the ways it can show up is analysis paralysis.

Analysis paralysis is when you are thinking about something so much you don’t make a decision or move forward with it. It can feel like you are being lazy or not taking action, but the opposite is usually true. Your brain is working overtime and taking too much action.

Getting out of analysis paralysis can get you back to make decisions and being firm in those you do make.

Here are some strategies to help you overcome analysis paralysis:

1. Identify your goals

What is the problem and what is your goal? Identifying your goals can help clarify what steps you need to take or how important the decision is in your life.

2. Create one small task you can do

Break the tasks down in smaller pieces. When you put them into small tasks, it can be easier to do something small and feel accomplished.

3. Reward yourself for completing the task

Once you complete the first task, reward yourself. Your brain likes rewards and will keep doing good things because you reward it. It’s a good time to “Treat Yo Self”.

4. Identify the next action item

Once you are done rewarding yourself, pick the next action item and move forward with it. It can be another small task or you can try to move forward with a challenging one.

5. Forget perfectionism

Throw the perfectionism out the door. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to do your task perfectly. And your decision just has to be perfect.

6. Create a new belief system

If you have a belief system that is keeping you from moving forward, change it to something that serves you better. Changing belief systems about ourselves, the world and others is a great way to make better decisions.

When you find yourself overthinking again and that paralysis starts to creep up, remember the new belief system you create about yourself. Take that belief system and write it down somewhere you can see on a regular basis. Write it on a sticky note you can pull out every time you go to make a decision. 

Remember: you can be decisive and make healthy decisions for yourself.

Amanda Patterson, LMHC –

Christine Vargo

What obstacles do we create in our minds when we struggle to make decisions?

Could it be the fear of missing out (FOMO), the potential for regret later on, over analyzing the options or simply procrastination? 

Any one of these common impediments can keep an individual stuck when a choice is out of focus.

When I reflect on how to be decisive, I think of the practice of detachment or non-attachment – defined by Oxford as “a state of being objective.”

Objectivity can create the space, i.e. offer a greater perspective, needed to move forward with a decision

I’m finding in my work with clients that decisions they make can feel so permanent to them, which usually results in their expression of an increase in anxiety, stress or insomnia.

Another element that contributes to the discomfort in decision making is our need for certainty.

As human beings, sitting on the unknown edge is uncomfortable and painful at times; we will often pre-write the script of a difficult conversation or anticipate the result because it gives us a sense of control.  

Often clients get attached to a particular outcome from an experience even before the event occurs.

I work to challenge the stories they’re making up or the assumptions they’re creating about what is going to happen. While embracing uncertainty is not without tremendous discomfort, it can support the process of detachment.  

One tool I use to sit with the unknown edge is reminding clients of the present moment.

Letting go of our attachment to the end result or unknown consequence paradoxically, also requires a deeper dive into our thoughts, feelings and emotions about the decisions we face.

As a Gestalt therapist, I utilize the present centered, experiential approach to invite my clients to practice identifying and increasing their awareness of their felt sense, developed by philosopher Eugene Gendlin, as a connection between the mind and the body.

With this awareness, clients can increase their understanding of how a particular decision they face is impacting them both, emotionally and cognitively. 

One experiment I offer is an exercise I’ll call “Both Hands.” 

I will direct my clients to imagine holding and naming each choice in their hands.

By naming and saying their choices aloud, the client can then connect with the felt sense of each. 

If the client feels anxious, or constricted while vocalizing one choice over the other, the decision can become clearer and the practice of detachment can be more easeful. 

As Deepak Chopra states, “Those who seek security in the exterior world chase it for a lifetime. By letting go of your attachment to the illusion of security, which is really an attachment to the known, you step into the field of all possibilities. This is where you find true happiness, abundance, and fulfillment.”

Often playing out the fantasy or the story, along with reminding clients to check-in with their bodies, breathe into their choice and inviting them to be curious about what s/he/they are attached to can lead to action and offers the objectivity needed to recognize that our decisions are in fact temporary, even those that are most uncomfortable.  

Christine Vargo, LCSW –

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