Do you agonise over making decisions? Have you been finding it difficult to prioritise at work, or in your day to day life? Does everything seem like it’s an important decision that you’re afraid to mess up or make the wrong choice?
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I used to spend so much time thinking and overthinking about every tiny choice that I felt I needed to make in my life. Whether it was about what to eat, what to say, how to say it, which event to go to, what to do on the weekends, which appliances to buy, and what to wear. Mostly I would overthink the every-day decisions on a daily basis, but I did this with the bigger choices in life too. In fact sometimes I spent years in a place of indecision, where I would flit between one job to the next, still unsure of where I fit in, or what career was for me. I did this with relationships too, going on date after date (if I even showed up in the first place), but never really committing to get to know anyone on a deeper level. I seemed to find fault with nearly everything, and would restrict myself to a very long checklist that no job or person could ever fulfil.
At the time it seemed normal to me because the people around me were doing it too. I had a friend who constantly sabotaged her friendships because she just couldn’t trust that the other person was genuine, and so it was hard for her to decide to go all in and be genuine herself. Then there was a colleague I worked with who had been burned a few times in his career. He was so afraid of rejection that he stayed in his job for years, even though he could have asked for the promotion that he’d always wanted, and they would have given it to him because he added so much value to the company.
But he couldn’t see that, because his mind was filled with the fears from his past experiences. He doubted himself so much that he began to question his own abilities and instead of moving forward on the trajectory to partnership that everyone had expected he would, he began to lose motivation and care for his work, and questioned nearly every decision that he made. This rendered him stuck in a job he didn’t like, feeling resentful and blaming others for the promotion he never got. As for me, the decisions that seemed to take up so much of my time, and be so draining, also seemed to be the smallest ones. For example, I wanted to lose some weight and so I had started trying to change my eating habits.
I thought my choices meant I was either “good” or “bad”
Back then, I didn’t really know how to do this in a healthy way, and so I began to restrict myself to a very small checklist of food items that I was “allowed” and a very long list of things that I was not “allowed.” Part of the problem was that I would attach my worth as a person, to whichever list I chose from. Allowed foods, meant I was a good person, and the not allowed foods meant I was a bad person. Because of my black and white thinking around this and the fact that I was tying my identity to these decisions, meant that I was placing a massive amount of importance on these decisions each day.
Now, health is certainly important, however I was approaching each food item, each craving, each sip of a drink and each ingredient in a meal, as if it was a life and death decision. My brain would go into overdrive, terrified of making the wrong choice. If I was going to meet friends at a restaurant I would look up the menu before hand and read every item on it. Sometimes I would even call the manager ahead to ask if they could accommodate my dietary requests and if they couldn’t, I would read the menu over and over again to try to find something that would fit my requirements. Then I would show up at the restaurant and always be the last to order because I still had not decided what I was going to choose. The thing is, I usually knew what I wanted to eat from the menu, I just didn’t want to feel like I was a bad person for eating it, and my brain certainly felt like this was a life changing decision.
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In the end, under the pressure of being the last one to order and feeling as if I was making others wait for me, I would usually pick the food that I had wanted in the first place, even if it didn’t fit my checklist. I would justify it to myself afterwards, telling myself that it’s because I didn’t want to make everyone else wait, or that I deserved a treat and this one time wouldn’t hurt. What I didn’t realise at the time, was that the stress I was causing for myself and the energy that I was using thinking about these things almost every second of every day, was not helping me to be healthy. In fact, it might have even been keeping me stuck where I was.
I was so afraid to be wrong
Have you ever been a situation where you felt almost paralysed by the fear of making a decision? Often people don’t want to make a mistake that might embarrass them, or where they might feel that they will lose their reputation, look silly or ignorant. Others are fearful of guilt, shame or of doing something that could have unforeseen negative consequences such as hurting another person. Many people have trouble deciding to follow through with their decisions. For example, people who hold on to clutter and find it hard to throw things away, keeping it “just in case.” What they’re really holding onto is their fear of not being safe, of not being prepared for what could happen in the future. Often negative thought patterns about self-worth and questions of “what if the worst case scenario happens?” are repeating in a persons mind when they experience indecisiveness.
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"After many years of training, courses, and counselling in various forms I thought I had certain aspects of my life sorted. Yet completing Emotion Academy showed me that I had been running away from my emotions and not facing them. After Emotion Academy, now I have the tools to engage with myself and win the internal battles once and for all - Neil Welsh, Victoria
The problem with all of these patterns, is that stops you from taking action, from following through, or from trying something new and committing to your goals. If you won’t try new things or stick with something through the learning phases, and you can’t commit to your goals, then how do you expect to achieve them? As soon as I asked myself this question, I began to ask it to those around me also. I wanted to learn about how I could get out of the pattern that I was in. As I went around talking to all the people in my environment back then, I noticed that there was an underlying theme between all of our fears about making decisions. Nearly every person I spoke with was afraid of making a wrong choice, because none of us really know what the future holds. We can’t predict what could happen or see what will happen, so the future seems uncertain and unknown.
So how do you know if you’re making the right decision?
When you’re successful at something, do you tend to brush it off as “good luck” or a “fluke”? When things in your life don’t go to plan, do you tend to find other people, things, or situations to blame? Often these reactions can come from a lack of belief in one’s self or one’s ability to have an impact on the factors that affect their lives. I used to do this alot, until I realised that it was affecting my belief in myself and my ability to make decisions. I began to focus on listening to my inner voice and then backing myself and going with that decision.
1.) Own It!
I made an effort to stop blaming other people and things for my misfortunes or not taking credit for my successes. Instead I did the opposite. I began to actually celebrate my successes and gave myself permission to be proud of what I had achieved, no matter how small. Instead of blaming others, I looked for areas that I could take responsibility for and worked on giving myself feedback on how I could do better next time. I started to take ownership for all my actions, celebrating the wins and accepting the consequences.
Melisa Grigg - Head Coach & Trainer
Melisa was stuck in sadness for 15 years, hated her job, was overweight and her relationship had just ended. Melisa inspires people with her story and now teaches how she sorted her life out. She worked out how to be happy and how to lose over 30kg of body weight. In simple steps she teaches how you can stop procrastinating, find confidence, stop being so sad and finally start to find true meaning and purpose in your life.
The more that I was able to take responsibility in this way, the more I learned to trust in my own ability to make decisions, the more I began to feel in control of my life. The interesting thing is that, once I began to see how I could really influence my own life, the more I was able to trust in myself that no matter what happened, I would be able to figure it out. Sometimes the decisions I make don’t turn out to be what I expected or wanted, and sometimes I make mistakes, but at the end of the day I know that it’s OK because I always figure it out. The first step to building trust in yourself is by taking ownership for the things that are within your control, like your behaviours, actions and words.
2.) You Are Not Your Behaviour
In the past I would make judgements about my self worth and who I believed that I was as a person, by whether or not I made the “right” choices. But the thing is, you are not your behaviour. Your actions and behaviours are important, but they do not define your entire identity. They are not you. If you make a mistake or a “wrong” decision, that doesn’t mean that you are a good or a bad person. If you are successful in achieving a goal or making a decision that works for you, that doesn’t make you a good or a bad person.
Behaviour is just behaviour. A habit is simply a habit.
Do you ever notice that you say things like this to yourself “A good person would have done it this way.”, “ Only bad people say things like that.”, “Because I made that decision, that means I’m a bad person.”, “I’m only worthy if I do every single one of these things. If I don’t do even just one, that means I’m not a good person.”
For me, learning to separate my beliefs about myself, from my behaviours really helped me to take in more learnings and to pick myself up and try again when things didn’t go as planned. Instead of judging myself, I was able to practise self-compassion and to move on a lot faster. This enabled me to learn more and as a result, make better and better decisions, which only fueled my trust in myself even more.
3.) Keep At It
See how these steps build on each other and support you with each step? All it takes is a little practise and persistence. The more you can do it, the more it can become your default response. All that I did was I kept on practicing these steps over and over, until it no longer felt like practise and I was just doing them like a habit. These days it’s easy for me to trust in my own ability to make decisions because I’m not so scared about making mistakes. I know that I always learn from my mistakes, I always work to improve and that no matter what, I can find a way and figure it out.
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