Got a Bad Case of Decision Paralysis?

weather vane

You know it right?

‘If I could just work out WHAT to do, then I’d be fine, but I don’t know HOW…’

‘If I knew it would be fine then of course I would do it, it’s the thing I want most in the world, but what if it all goes horribly wrong?’

‘I just need to keep thinking about it until I work out the missing steps and THEN I can get going… tomorrow, I’m going to put some time aside to think…’.

Oh my friend, when you come to see me for a coaching session, I nod sagely and smile lovingly.

Inside, I am quietly banging my head on a table.

Because you’ve been doing this for years haven’t you?

Talking about the job you hate, or the country you don’t want to live in anymore or the partner you can never seem to find.  Or the house in the country that you haven’t bought or the business you haven’t set up.

And there you go twirling back and forth back and forth, making absolutely ZERO decisions and believing fervently that if only you could find the missing key, all would be well in your life.  Dedicating your life to the hunting and the thinking and the NOT DOING ANYTHING AT ALL.

Sit down for a minute and let’s have a woman to woman talk.

I want to be really clear.  I don’t care whether you give up your job or not.  I don’t care whether you jet off to the other side of the world or not.  Truly I don’t.

I do care that you stop pretending that all this sitting around, mulling things over and worrying about all the ‘what if’s’ that HAVEN’T EVEN HAPPENED is useful or joyful for you.

I really care about that.

I care that you sit up and notice that you have been TALKING ABOUT THE SAME THINGS FOR A VERY LONG TIME and doing absolutely nothing about them.

I do care that you are kidding yourself that thinking about HOW TO FIND THE ELUSIVE ANSWER is the thing that will give you all that you want in life.

Frankly, my wonderful, beautiful, intelligent friend, this is utter bullshit.

It’s Decision Paralysis.  All that twirling and thinking and sorting and analysing and assessing is doing EXACTLY what it is designed to do.  Which is KEEP YOU RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE.

And I’m really fine with that, as long as you just make a decision, today, that that’s what you want after all.   And then you stop with the talking about working out the thing that you can’t work out.  Because you are not working it out at all.  You are procrastinating.

I know, this seems a bit tough, and my friend, I care about YOU so much that I want you to hear it.  And maybe you’ll put this blog down and go, ‘she’s wrong and I’ll just carry on’ and I’m OK with that.  This is your choice after all.

It’s just if you took a minute to sit back and notice, you might just realise you’ve been talking about the same stuff for years now and nothing has actually changed.  Not a single thing.  So at the very least, it might be worth considering whether you dedicate those precious minutes of your one and only unique life to something else.

Because this:

1. We cannot know the answers.  We cannot have certainty. This is the whole point of life.  If we knew the answers life would be very boring indeed.  

If you already knew that no matter what you do, you’re going to die in 22 years, 4 weeks and 3 days time of an overdose of salted caramel ice-cream (because you know, if we get to choose, I’m in for that one) and that you’ll be in a 3 bed semi in Walthamstow (I’ve never been, no idea why that came up) with a dog called Trixie under the bed and £6,322.21 in your bank account that is left to the kind young gentleman next door who has been bringing you soup and a sandwich on Saturdays to make sure you have company, and that you got to that place by being a pretty decent office manager in a solicitor’s office, even though you always thought you were going to be an Opera Singer, well where would you get any motivation or excitement from to live your life?  Why would you bother learning to sing every day and being in the joy of the sheer moment of music?  (Check me out, world’s longest sentence in there, my English Teacher, Mrs H would not be impressed… you get what I mean though).

2. You are missing out on all the things that are going on in life around you RIGHT NOW.  

You’re so busy living in the, ‘I must decide what to do with my FUTURE, that you’re missing out on right here and now.  The daffodils poking up out of the ground, the nights getting lighter every day, the children laughing at nothing in the park and swinging on the swings that would be so much fun for YOU if only you got out of your own head for a minute.

3. You are becoming one dimensional.

This is not good for you.  When you insist on having the same thoughts and the same conversations over and over and over again, because you know, there MUST be answer in there somewhere, life gets supremely BORING. Thus making you even more dissatisfied with your lot and even more inclined to spend time thinking about what the answer could be… A vicious circle if ever we saw one.

So how about these two things as an alternative?  Pick one and go for it.

Get on with living your life NOW. 

Make a commitment to yourself that you will stop talking about the thing you can’t find the answer to in service of walking around with your eyes and your heart open to every single possibility and opportunity that comes your way.  Say yes to more, talk about the future less and simply be here now.  Join the art class, find a choir, go out for dinner with a new friend every Friday (and NO talking about the same old problem lady, no, not you, those days are gone).  See what you can create NOW by simply putting it down and being ALIVE.


Notice that you could take the teeniest tiniest step EVERY SINGLE DAY in the direction of the dream you believe in and do that instead of talking about it.

Because the way things are right now, it’s like you’re standing on the edge of a cliff with a parachute strapped to your back deciding whether to jump off or not.  You’ve been deciding for so long that your feet have knee length grass around them.  Of course you’re scared, this is a big thing.  What if the parachute doesn’t work?

The thing is, in all your busy looking and worrying in one direction, you’ve forgotten to notice there are STAIRS going all the way down the cliff.  You could just take one a day and in no time, you’d have a different view, a new perspective on whether you want this thing or not after all.  And you can even walk back up them if you choose to, but you know, once you’re half way down, you might just find there are a whole bunch of other stairs going off in different directions and before you know it, you’re in a world of new and exciting choices.

So here’s what to do.

Get out a piece of paper and write the next 7 days names down on it (You know, Thursday, Friday…). Next to each day of the week write the tiniest thing you can think of that keeps you moving and out of procrastination.  It might be call a friend who moved to that place you’re thinking of, or go to a networking meeting, make an enquiry about grant funding, go to an art gallery, join an online dating site – I don’t know, I have no idea what you’re procrastinating over.  I do absolutely GUARANTEE that you could take a tiny step.

And before you get all freaked, just do it.  Enquiring about a class doesn’t mean you have to GO, asking who knows a great headhunter doesn’t mean you have to CALL THEM.  (Although that might be Wednesday’s step…).

Get up every morning and do that action first.

Some people might never write back to you.  That networking group might be awful. Who cares?  YOU TOOK ACTION.  Keep doing one single tiny step and see what happens.

Lady, I’m telling you, this simple, easy process, creates magic.  I know it.

I might even tell you my story sometime.

But before I do it, make your choice.  There’s no need to be where you are right now.  You’re choosing it.  And once you realise that, EVERYTHING changes.

Oh, you ROCK.  Have I ever told you that?

Big love,


4 thoughts on “Got a Bad Case of Decision Paralysis?”

  1. Thanks for this article. It has really helped me. I am starting a new job in May after 14 years at my first ‘proper’ job after university. The 14 years has covered the death of all of my grandparents, my marriage to my husband, 2 house moves, the death of my Dad and my two fabulous daughters being born. My employer has been the only constant through all that. I had been beginning to thing that (after 62 job applications over the last 2 years and 9 interviews) I didn’t really want to leave. Obviously I do! It’s just a little bit nerve wracking but as you say, life would be dull if we knew what was going to happen!!

    Thanks again Danielle x

    1. Danielle Macleod

      Emma, you’re so welcome. And we’re excited for what’s about to unfold for you! Just one tiny step at a time. You’ll be amazed how quickly you find yourself somewhere else entirely…

  2. Thank you for such a refreshing perspective. My situation isn’t far removed from Emma’s.

    I’ve been working in the same organisation for 11 years 8 months (not that I’m counting!). In many ways I love the ethos, the culture, the direction it’s going. There’s just one big drawback – well two. I feel stuck – really stuck. I’ve been at my level for over 8 years, it’s not that I’m not good at my job, I’m regularly told I am, but I’m still overlooked for every promotion I’ve gone for. I’ve spend the last 7 years in a long distance relationship, not buying a house with my boyfriend in the town we want to live in because it wouldn’t be affordable to commute to the job I feel stuck at.

    I’m about to get a job offer from another company, near where I want to live, doing something that would be exciting, challenging and stretching and paying me a much bigger salary that means we can afford to buy a home together. The only downside other than the unknown – it won’t offer me the flexibility I have today. Flexibility that means the anxiety disorder I have is easy to manage or maybe more honestly it’s easier for it to take over and control. So I’m stalling…which is crazy, cos rationally the decision’s obvious. I’m just holding off making it.

    Thank you for an article that’s challenged by thinking and certainly made me be more honest with myself. I’m hoping I’ve the courage to step into the unknown.

    1. Jade thanks for sharing! What if you could have the new job AND manage your anxiety disorder? or have it AND have the flexibility you need to manage it…How about playing with those possibilities…and asking for what you need? we get in a bit of a pickle when we think it’s either / or right?

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