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Why making decisions is hard and why changing your mind is ok.

Updated: May 12, 2022

If you can’t change a situation, change your mind. Unknown.

Do you find decision making easy? Are you able to decide quickly between the available options and then once decided, not let it trouble you further? Or are you one of those people who dances at the water’s edge, considering every possible eventuality before you will get even your toes wet, and once you have, do you back and forth from one stance to another?

Some years ago, in my corporate role, I received some feedback as part of an annual review that labelled me indecisive. I can remember really clearly how that made me feel – hurt, disappointed, frustrated and indignant. And I became curious about why this had riled me to the level it had. The conclusion I reached was it stung because it was true, and to be indecisive or to change my mind, felt like a weakness, a failure even.

Since leaving corporate life and starting my own business in 2020 I have had to make more decisions than ever before, and I have become better at it. Where once there may have been indecisiveness, now I am bolder in choosing a path. I am now able to identify that this is largely due to the work I have completed (and continue to do) with my own coaches. Making decisions more easily comes from understanding my core values and articulating my vision and goals. It gives me a sense of direction, purpose and motivation.

Much of my work now is around determining what you, the client, wants, even when you protest that you too don’t know what that is. Mining for values is a key component and as I explain it to others, it creates the navigation system from which we can start to plot a course through pending decisions and upcoming junctions in our lives. When we understand what we need and what we want, decisions become much less daunting and overwhelming, we are better in tune with ourselves and from there, trust our own inner knowledge.

Decision making can also be difficult if we approach it from a perfectionist standpoint. If there is a driver within us demanding that any path we choose must lead to nirvana, then the pressure we exude on ourselves is huge. When we make friends with the concept of “good enough”, decision making feels much lighter. The need to micro analyse every option is lessened, as our own expectations also lowered more in line with the realms of possibility and reality.

So many of us are waiting for perfection before we will make that decision and get started. I love this from @LizandMollie, because truthfully what are we missing out on by waiting?

But the gamechanger for me has been learning to embrace changing my mind. I have never pivoted so much in my life, as in the past 18 months. Former me may have experienced an inner critic overload because the narrative I had around this, the story I told myself, was that changing my mind was failure. My little critics, in the event that I did ponder a change of heart, would always seem to march out with their clipboards and proudly declare “nil points” knocking my fragile confidence into the long grass. I now know that I was not at all alone - there are a huge number of you, for whom failure remains a dirty word.

And yet failure offers us such rich ground for learning and creating. Certainly, it has provided me with greater insight than success has. It has only been through trying new things – experimenting, that I have been able to check if my assumptions were correct. We all have so many beliefs and thoughts which are just that – they aren’t fact. The only way to get to a fact, is to test the theory and in order to do this we must act, there must be a doing part. And we must expect that this will not always work out, that’s just statistics, and if we find ourselves in failure why would we doggedly stay there hurting ourselves, when we could instead proudly declare that this hasn’t worked and march off in a new direction, but now armed with more information and experience? And what experiences indeed can be had along the way!

The ability to change our mind, is, I feel, an enormous show of strength and an invaluable skill to master. It relies again on laying down the perfectionist part, being humble and accepting that there is growth (and adventure!) to be had now and always.

Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. George Bernard Shaw

We often ignore that nothing in this world is static, so decisions made in the past which were right at that time, may no longer be serving us. The world and everyone in it have evolved, they do daily. So perhaps now there is new information:

When the facts change, I change my mind. John Maynard Keynes

That’s growth, a sign you are learning, listening, evolving and it’s a quality of the smartest and most interesting people. Who wants to be that person who just won’t hear another perspective, the person who clings (often smugly) to their position, regardless of any other information, who at best pays lip service, but really has no intention of allowing themselves to have their mind changed? How stifled and stagnant a place to be. To change your mind is the very essence of courage.

What I am learning is this:

  • Getting to know myself better, understanding my values, gives me direction and in turn makes decision making easier

  • Holding decision making more lightly, loosening my grip, ensures no decision is do or die, and I am able to take myself less seriously as a result

  • Decisions are easier because I give myself permission to change my mind at any point – it’s a smart strategy – I am the scientist in the laboratory gathering data

  • Interesting and courageous people change their minds – and I want to be one of those!

A wise man changes his mind, a fool never will. Spanish proverb

If you are interested in how I can work with you around personal values, decision making and more, you can speak to me directly, you can book a free initial one hour session with me here

You can learn more about me on YouTube

Follow mw on Instagram and Facebook @start2thrive and join the Start to Thrive Mailing list for future blog posts

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