It’s been a few weeks since Mom told me she was getting a cell phone. I was excited at first, but that wore off as day after day passed and still no call from her “new phone.”
I’m guessing she has procrastinated and has found other things to do instead. Compulsive hoarders have a tendency to delay making decisions out of fear of making the wrong decision. I’ve seen it time and time again with Mom.
She has a pile of boxes heavy with papers under the desk…the very same boxes she needed to move to check the phone jack on the wall. She was attempting to go through these boxes paper by paper in case there was something important in there she shouldn’t throw away. This meant ALL the papers got kept when only a handful should have been filed and the rest recycled (or shredded for privacy, which is another way of delaying because, um, she doesn’t have a shredder.) The result of her dithering is a desk still jammed with paper boxes and no way to access the phone jack. She’s still paying for the phone service, by the way, and because she wanted to keep the same phone number has maintained a more costly business line they had for my Dad. The phone company also requires 30-60 days written notice of cancellation, so we’re looking at a loss of about $400 since November.
When I began this post, I thought about my own trouble making decisions. My husband and I do research for a long time before making most decisions. It’s a good thing to know what you’re getting into, but eventually you have to s*** and get off the pot (sorry for the crudeness). My husband and I planned to get a new front door for over 18 months. We had contractors come give us quotes. We drove around the neighbourhood looking at other people’s front doors. I visited several door & window stores looking at options. If Pinterest had been around then, I’m sure I’d still be pinning to a “Front Door” board! There were SO many options, we couldn’t pick just one.
Then, one day, Lowes had a sale on doors. We walked in, pointed at one we both liked, and it was installed a week later. We loved it! It brighten the face of our house, is more energy efficient, and has better ventilation. Why hadn’t we just done that from the beginning? We make life too complicated sometimes.
Just Make Up Your Mind!
I want to be better at making decisions. I think it could be a learned skill, and I want to model decisiveness for my daughters. So I Googled “how to make decisions” or something like that, and saw a wealth of information out there. It seems there are some common factors why people can’t make up their minds:
- Too many advisors
- Too many choices
- Fear of worst case scenarios
- Analysis paralysis
- Talking yourself out of a decision
But there are some things you can do to help yourself.
- Set a deadline for making the decision
- Accept you might make a bad decision, be ok with it, and learn from the failure
- Manage your emotions
It seems people make decisions with their hearts more than their heads. Emotions aren’t rational and can confuse you from making a good decision. If you struggle with a bossy heart, consider these:
- Imagine a blank slate in your head. Don’t allow any other thoughts or feelings and start from scratch. (I’ve seen this work…I mean, it works for a character in the Pokemon graphic novels I’ve been reading with my 6 year old, Maddie, so surely…..)
- What’s your body telling you? Take a breath, calm your nerves, and still your movements to focus.
- Visualize the outcome of your decision, and evaluate what would work and what wouldn’t. Is it really so bad either way?
- Ask do you need it, or just want it? This is especially important for hoarders, or compulsive shoppers. If it’s a basic need, it’s easy enough for your brain to make that decision. But if you want it, well, that’s desire. Desire is an emotion. Emotions colour our thinking with all sorts of confliction, and we find we’ve talked ourselves into buying/eating/bringing home something we really didn’t need. It could lead us to a temporary high, and then the all-too-familiar emotion, remorse. And that…is just a bad decision.
- Practice makes perfect. Apply these methods often to get better at them. Decision-making opportunities come up daily…sometimes, several times an hour!
You might find other useful ideas online.
I’m going to have to give these ideas a try. Let me know if they work for you. And remember, not all decisions are life or death. What to have for lunch, what colour socks to wear (I choose black almost always), what route to drive to work…these are examples of ordinary low-risk decisions. I want to get really good at making up my mind in these situations, and I’ll be better prepared for bigger, higher-risk decisions. No more dithering or waffling. No more sweating the details while missing the bigger picture. No more fretting over beautiful, energy efficient front doors while the old ugly one lets in drafts.
In the meantime, I realize I can’t fault my Mom her indecision. I recognize it’s part of who she is. It’s part of her illness. And perhaps she was never taught the skill of quick decision making. I know she didn’t teach it to me. I’ll find the patience next time I’m waiting for Maddie to choose between Raisin Bran & Cheerios at breakfast time. We’ll work on the wants vs needs issues if they arise. I’m sure they will.
While I can’t control the choices of others, I am in full control of my own choices. Knowing that is empowering.