Getting Past Decision Paralysis

by Jerry Kennard, Ph.D. Medical Reviewer

People who worry a great deal tend to be very cautious. They are certainly not inclined towards making snap decisions because this increases the risk of getting things wrong or of making a major error in judgment. On the face of it this approach sounds perfectly reasonable and it is until we consider the fact that some worriers become paralyzed by
indecision.

What Causes Decision Paralysis?

Part of the mechanism underlying worrying is that the person frequently seeks confirmation for their decision that simply isn't available. Worry reflects
uncertainty
and lack of predictability and this combination serves to increase risk. Every single decision we make contains some element of risk. If I reach for the coffee next to me I could potentially spill the contents over myself, or the keyboard, or the floor. Then, I might stand up and slip on the wet floor. These are all possibilities_
but the probability_
is that I will simply enjoy my coffee - disaster free. You may think my example is a bit extreme but a
chronic worrier
will know exactly what I'm referring to. They can see all sorts of potential implications with whatever action they take and this can have the effect of stalling even the simplest decisions.

Getting Past Decision Paralysis

The standard recommendation for speeding decision making is to take sensible risks over issues where the consequences aren't really important. Start by speeding decisions over more pleasant options. So:

  • This movie or that one?

  • Rice or fries?

  • This book, that one, or maybe both?

The point is that none of the implications have any far-reaching effects so it's a case of learning to speed decision making. More complex choices i.e. when you pick up a menu in a restaurant - need something of a strategy. So, decide you will spend no more than five minutes studying it; make a choice and stick with it.

Some Positives of Faster Decision Making

  • Less time is spent worrying.

  • Risk taking becomes more commonplace and less threatening.

  • Less time is spent mulling over unlikely possibilities.

  • If something doesn't work out worrying wouldn't have changed that outcome.

Jerry Kennard, Ph.D.
Meet Our Writer
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D.

Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s work background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.