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How to Overcome Indecision

By Jennifer Byrne ; Updated August 14, 2017
Fear of taking the wrong path can paralyze decision making.

Also known as aboulomania, pathological indecision can disrupt many areas of life. While most of us don't suffer from indecision to this extent, we may find ourselves overwhelmed by the increasing number of choices offered in modern life. According to science journalist Jonah Lehrer, as interviewed on National Public Radio, the brain's prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for making rational decisions, can only handle about seven pieces of information at a time. Learning how to become more decisive involves a willingness to approach decision making differently.

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Let go of perfection. Many cases of indecision are rooted in the need to always make the right choice, says social scientist and educator Michael J. Formica in "Psychology Today." Your intense fear of negative consequences could be stopping you from proceeding with your life. Formica suggests building the courage to face being wrong, and taking that risk. By freeing yourself from the need to be perfect, you can get yourself "unstuck" from indecisiveness and make choices when you need to.

Listen to your emotions. This may seem to go against all common wisdom about rational decision making, but in fact, it might be more efficient, says Jonah Lehrer on National Public Radio. Because the prefrontal cortex of the brain can be easily overwhelmed by too many options, your emotions or "gut" instinct may prove to be the light in the fog. Lehrer cited a 1980s study by neurologist Antonio Demasio, examining people whose limbic or emotional systems of the brain were incapacitated by tumors. The study found that these people were very indecisive, spending up to five hours choosing a pen.

Practice making small decisions. One way to work up the courage to take bigger risks is by deciding on smaller matters without agonizing. According to cognitive behavior therapist Nando Pelusi in "Psychology Today," mastering smaller decisions with confidence can empower you to tackle larger ones in the future. Slowly progress to decisions with slightly higher risks.


Rule out depression. According to Nando Pelusi in "Psychology Today," crippling indecision can be a sign of depression. Talk to your doctor about this possibility.

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About the Author

Jennifer Byrne is a freelance writer and editor specializing in topics related to health care, fitness, science and more. She attended Rutgers University. Her writing has been published by KidsHealth.org, DietBlogTalk.com, Primary Care Optometry News, and EyeWorld Magazine. She was awarded the Gold Award from the American Society of Healthcare Publication Editors (ASHPE), 2007, and the Apex Award for Publication Excellence.

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