Are you sure you’re indecisive?

Sonnie Bailey

26 February 2021

Recently, I’ve spoken to quite a few people who describe themselves as “indecisive”.

I can empathise. I’ve identified with this label in the past.

However, I’ve started to note something else. These same people who call themselves indecisive seem to be in a good position in life, where they have lots of options available to them.

These very same people also have instances where they’ve made significant life decisions at extremely short notice.

If you identify as being indecisive, I ask you this:

  • are you identifying saying “yes” to an opportunity as being a firm decision, compared to a “no” or a “not yet” being a lack of a decision?
  • is your decision-making process actually lacking, or do you need to have a different (and healthier, less apologetic) relationship to your decision-making process?

“Go fever”

The term “go fever” is most often associated with NASA disasters, including the Apollo 1 fire in 1967, the Challenger disaster in 1986, and the Columbia disaster in 2003.

Worse than being “indecisive” is having “go fever” – wanting to go ahead with a plan of attack, even when there are signs you should hold back.

If you explore ideas but say “no”, that’s still a decision – even if it doesn’t feel like one. In fact, many times, saying “no” or “not yet” is the right decision.

A personal example – making a decision in relation to a Very Cool Car

In the past few weeks I’ve been looking at replacing my trusty 2005 Subaru Legacy. There’s nothing wrong with the car, and as I’ve written before, there are lots of good things about owning the car – in fact, my “cheap” car makes me feel rich, in the sense that it represents having lots of options available in my life.

However, there comes a time where optionality for its own sake is silly! Eventually, the fruit of opportunity will rot: what good is optionality if you don’t take advantage of some of your opportunities at your disposal?

You only live once. So I have been seriously exploring buying a Very Cool Car – with the blessing of my wife and the endorsement of many friends who I’ve confided in. (Perhaps they just want me to just buy it so I can shut up about the topic already. I’ll also give a shout-out to my brother who told me that buying the car was “stupid”. Thanks LB – we all need someone like that in our life!)

I found a car that met pretty much all of my criteria: it had the right exterior/interior colours, it was the right specification, and had the right options (if anything, it had more options – and more complex options – than I’d like). I took it for a test drive. I took it home to see if it would fit into my garage. (Taking photos of a car in front of your home is dangerous.)

I’ve arranged a pre-purchase inspection, at a cost of several hundred dollars. As I write this, I’m waiting to hear the outcome of that inspection.

Yet, I’m very open to the idea of walking away. If I make an offer, and it’s not accepted, I’m also happy to walk away.

Is this an example of indecision? You might say so. In the past, I probably would have agreed with this assessment, and felt bad about it.

But I think it’s a legitimate decision, and I’ll be confident in whatever decision I end up making.

If I don’t go ahead with buying this Very Cool Car, does it seem like a waste of time, energy, and money, in order to end up where I started? You might think so, but I consider that time, energy, and money that helped me make a decision as time, energy, and money well spent – regardless of the outcome.

If I say “no”, was it all wasted?

No. Because I feel a lot more confident in the process of buying a car like this. If and when the time is right, and the right opportunity comes up, I’m now in a position where my gunpowder is dry. I’ll be able to jump on the option very quickly.

Any future decisions will be predicated on the hard work I’ve put in now.

I don’t think I’m being indecisive. I’m just using a robust decision-making process.

In the past, I might have beaten myself up about “not making a decision”. When, in fact, I’m making a decision.

Do you think of yourself as indecisive? Is that really the case, or are you just using a robust decision-making process, and need to have more pride and confidence in this fact?

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