Choose Joy — or Choose No Choice! Curing Indecision

Once you have taken one step forward, one thing which is certain is that everything will look different. And you cannot see things from that position until you are standing there…

I have just read a great post called How to Cure Indecision which takes us through the mental hell we create for ourselves wondering which is the best choice to make and being swayed by every so called “sign” or opinion we get from outside. After a certain point we go completely crazy weighing up disadvantages and advantages that cannot even be compared, and speculating about a long string of “ifs” and possible consequences reaching into various competing futures — none of which can actually exist unless we take one step!

Piotrowski, the author of the post, comes to the conclusion, not a particularly revolutionary one, it’s true, but one so hard to follow through on in a world cluttered with too many opinions and too much information: look within. Just ask yourself, deep down inside, what you actually want to do. And go in the direction of joy. Ask yourself how those disadvantages can be got around, and look for proofs that you are doing the right thing. You invariably find what you look for, and if you are looking for competing evidence, about hypothetical situations to boot, you are likely to get confused.

At this point I get a little worried about the logic: does this really mean that there is no such thing as following your instinct, gut, intuition, whatever you want to call it, and just screwing up completely? There has to be.

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On the other hand indecision, as I know from my own life and my work, is the most crippling place to be, mainly because it is, by definition, nowhere at all. It takes an awful lot of energy to be doing nothing at all while in your head being in seventeen (or at least two) places at once! Also, the longer you sit on the fence the more you start to see any choice as irrevocable. A move to one city necessarily entails the loss of your partner, which means you will have to enter a convent, because you’ll never find anyone like him again, whereas if you stay in your home town you will inevitably marry aforementioned partner and have three kids called John, Mary and Andrew, and one of them will find a cure for cancer — so if you move the cure for cancer will never be found! I exaggerate, but I have seen this pattern many times.

There is only one answer to it, and that is, make a decision. Once you have taken one step forward, one thing which is certain is that everything will look different. And you cannot see things from that position until you are standing there.

Another answer to endless mind games and trapping yourself in energy-sapping inertia, is simply not to have much choice at all. I have often found on my travels that people who don’t have so many choices in life find it quite hilarious when I relate my own dilemmas. They genuinely find it funny that such a privileged person should be able to complicate matters (for example, by considering the pros and cons of every country in the world as a good place to live!) to such an extent that she is always unsure or downright miserable.

After some mightily confusing years, I learnt to use this trick in my own life. Sometimes when I listen to people’s dilemmas about what form of alternative school they should send their kids to, for example, I quietly give thanks for the fact that living where I do there are no great options to choose from! The local school is very far from my ideals, but it is there, I have chosen to live here for other reasons than the school, and so we all do the best we can with what there is. I have not found my child to be irrevocably damaged yet, because she gets what she needs elsewhere. The world is so much bigger than the one thing we are concentrating on when we make a big decision, often to the exclusion of everyone and everything around us.

My conclusion? When we don’t have a lot of choice in our immediate circumstances, at least we know where we are. And, to a small but crucial extent, we can always change our attitude to that place. And when we have a clear choice to make, let’s choose, not the “perfect” solution, but the direction that brings joy.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more clinical psychologists or other qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

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