Why do I find it hard to make a decision?

why do find hard make decision

When faced with a big career or lifestyle choice, we can become completely overwhelmed and find it impossible to make any decision at all. We consider every possible implication, we gather as much information as we can, and we talk to other people in the hope that someone will tell us the “right” answer. Today, we’re faced with many more decisions like these, as we’re questioning things that used to be taken for granted – if and when to get married or have babies, buying versus renting, changing mid-careers, and so on – while getting an unprecedented glimpse into other people’s choices via social media.

The funny thing is that smaller, quite trivial decisions can be paralysing as well. We may agonise over which restaurant to go to, which dish to order when we get there, or maybe which film to watch on Netflix.

Too much choice

Now I’ve read that there are two kinds of people when it comes to making decisions.

First, there are satisficers: these lucky individuals will make a decision once a set of criteria is met. Those criteria may be demanding, so it’s not that these people are “settling” necessarily, but they’re simply satisfied once they find what they were looking for.

Then there are maximisers: these people want to ensure that they make the absolute best choice, so they might wander up and down the street until they’ve looked at each and every restaurant menu, or spend hours reading reviews on Amazon.

This distinction is something that Barry Schwartz talks about in his book, in which he argues that it’s the satisficers who are likely to be… well, more satisfied! Schwartz questions the assumption that more choice means more freedom, which in turn leads to greater welfare. He points to two negative consequences from all this choice: (1) it makes it harder to make any choice at all; (2) once we’ve made the choice, (a) we’re less happy with it because we worry if maybe the alternatives would have been better, (b) there are always opportunity costs, i.e. benefits that you’re missing out on because you made this particular choice (FOMO!), and (iii) our expectations escalate as we think that with so much freedom and choice we should be able to make the perfect choice. If we don’t make the perfect choice – well, then, that’s our own fault!

A lesson from BDSM?

I watched Fifty Shades of Grey the other day – my excuse is that I became overwhelmed by the endless choice available on Netflix – and when Christian Grey describes his time as a submissive, he explains:

“By giving up control, I felt free, from responsibility, from making decisions. I felt safe.”

I can see some truth in this: taking away the need to decide can give you a sense of peace and help you to simply go with the flow, removing all sense of responsibility and blame. It’s the same with the stories I’ve read of people who’ve turned to dice to make important decisions, or committed to saying “yes” to everything for one year – it can be quite liberating.

But which is the RIGHT choice?

Philosopher Ruth Chang has dedicated her research to understanding how to make hard choices, and she explains that choices are most difficult to make when the two (or more) options are both good, just in different ways; so no alternative is actually better than the other overall. We may think that we just need more information and then we’ll be able to decide, but this fear of the unknown in fact rests on a misconception that we’re not smart or informed enough to make a decision – which is why we often take the (in our eyes) least risky option. The truth is: there is no best option! So we shouldn’t be looking for reasons “out there” that will tell us which is the right choice, but rather we should look inside of ourselves to create those reasons for ourselves.

What Chang means by this is that we create stories as to why one decision is better than another, in a way post-rationalising so that we feel better about a particular choice. We tell stories, convincing ones, around why we chose a particular career path, or a house, or a partner, making one alternative better than the other and therefore helping to reassure us that we’ve made the right choice.

Easy peasy!

So here’s the good news: there is no right choice.

Hurrah! That should take some of the pressure off, and prevent you from conducting a never-ending search of information or advice that will magically tell you which is the right decision. Whichever path you take, you will find a way to explain it to yourself and to other people, so that it becomes the right choice for you.

That being said, it’s in these decisions, these stories that we create, that we define who we are as individuals and what kind of life we will lead. Am I an adventurous and independent soul who is willing to take a risk and do something different, even if it means a few raised eyebrows from my current social circle? Do I choose the less risky choice of the status quo and stay in a comfortable job where I know what I’m doing and I have my daily routine, stable relationships, and above all a regular salary? Am I a lawyer or an artist, an employee or an entrepreneur? A singleton or a wife, a father or an eternal bachelor?

I actually don’t find those latter labels particularly helpful, as we are more than one thing, more than just a noun, and identifying ourselves with such an explicit category simply gives us an excuse to act in a certain way. Humans are inherently adaptable, our brains scientifically proven to be plastic, and although we may think that we are what we are and we’re unable to change, that’s simply not the case.

The point, though, is that our decisions are what make us who we are – so make those choices with care!


Further resources:

I was inspired to write this post by the NPR TED Radio Hour called Decisions, Decisions, Decisions. It referred to Ruth Chang’s Ted talk on How to Make Hard Choices as well as to another great talk on How to Make Choosing Easier by Sheena Iyengar (you can find her book, The Art of Choosing, on Amazon).

You can also find Barrys Schwartz’s book on Amazon or watch the Ted Talk.





One Response

  1. Our life is everyday filled up with opprtunities and choices. It is more important which way will bring us deep freedom and the feeling this is my personal and independent choice. We should more hear what our intuitive voice deep inside tell us. This also includes a possibility to fault.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

You might also be interested in these articles

“Everything you’ve ever
wanted is one step outside
your comfort zone.”

Book a free consultation

Get on the phone with Anna to discuss your unique goals and situation to determine the best programme for you, so you can start taking action towards creating the business and lifestyle you desire.

Explore a broader definition of success

Download this free assessment to consider what ‘success’ means to you across different areas of your life, evaluate where you are today, and prioritise the right goals to get you to where you want to be.

We will use and protect your data in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

Explore a broader definition of success

Download this free assessment to consider what ‘success’ means to you across different areas of your life, evaluate where you are today, and prioritise the right goals to get you to where you want to be.

We will use and protect your data in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

Download the brochure

Find out more about our flagship mentoring programme for experienced professionals who want to translate their skills and experience into a profitable business that brings them more freedom, flexibility, and fulfilment.

We will use and protect your data in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

Privacy Policy

This privacy policy sets out how One Step Outside uses and protects any information that you give One Step Outside when you use this website (https://onestepoutside.com/).

One Step Outside is committed to ensuring that your privacy is protected. Should we ask you to provide certain information by which you can be identified when using this website, then you can be assured that it will only be used in accordance with this privacy statement.

One Step Outside may change this policy from time to time by updating this page. You should check this page from time to time to ensure that you are happy with any changes.

What information we collect and why

We only ever collect the information that we need in order to serve you.

Generally, this just means collecting your first name and email address that you enter, for example, when you request a resource, register for a webinar, or submit a message via a contact form.

If you are a paying customer, we also collect your billing information including your last name and your postal address.


When visitors leave comments on the site we collect the data shown in the comments form, and also the visitor’s IP address and browser user agent string to help spam detection.

An anonymised string created from your email address (also called a hash) may be provided to the Gravatar service to see if you are using it. The Gravatar service privacy policy is available here: https://automattic.com/privacy/. After approval of your comment, your profile picture is visible to the public in the context of your comment.

Contact forms

We use Gravity Forms to allow you to contact us via the website. We will use the information you submit for the sole purpose of that specific form and will explicitly ask you to provide your consent to allow us to do so.

Embedded content from other websites

Articles on this site may include embedded content (e.g. videos, images, articles, etc.). Embedded content from other websites behaves in the exact same way as if the visitor has visited the other website.

These websites may collect data about you, use cookies, embed additional third-party tracking, and monitor your interaction with that embedded content, including tracking your interaction with the embedded content if you have an account and are logged in to that website.

Advertising and Analytics


We use Google Analytics to track and optimise performance on this site as well as embedding video content from YouTube, and this means that your web browser automatically sends certain information to Google. This includes the URL of the page that you’re visiting and your IP address. Google may also set cookies on your browser or read cookies that are already there. Apps that use Google advertising services also share information with Google, such as the name of the app and a unique identifier for advertising.

Google uses the information shared by sites and apps to deliver our services, maintain and improve them, develop new services, measure the effectiveness of advertising, protect against fraud and abuse and personalise content and ads that you see on Google and on our partners’ sites and apps. See their Privacy Policy to learn more about how they process data for each of these purposes, and their Advertising page for more about Google ads, how your information is used in the context of advertising and how long Google stores this information.


We use the conversion tracking and custom audiences via the Facebook pixel on our website. This allows user behaviour to be tracked after they have been redirected to our website by clicking on a Facebook ad and enables us to measure the effectiveness of our Facebook ads. The data collected in this way is anonymous to us, i.e. we do not see the personal data of individual users. However, this data is stored and processed by Facebook, who may link this information to your Facebook account and also use it for its own promotional purposes, in accordance with Facebook’s Data Usage Policy https://www.facebook.com/about/privacy/.

You can allow Facebook and its partners to place ads on and off Facebook. A cookie may also be stored on your computer for these purposes. You can revoke your permission directly on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/ads/preferences/?entry_product=ad_settings_screen. For more guidance on opting out you can also consult http://www.aboutads.info/choices.

Who we share your data with

We use a number of third parties to provide us with services which are necessary to run our business or to assist us with running our business and who process your information for us on our behalf. These include a hosting and email provider (Siteground), mailing list provider (GetResponse), and a payment provider (Stripe).

Your information will be shared with these service providers only where necessary to enable us to run our business.

How long we maintain your data

If you leave a comment, the comment and its metadata are retained indefinitely. This is so we can recognise and approve any follow-up comments automatically instead of holding them in a moderation queue.

For users that register on our website, we also store the personal information they provide in their user profile. All users can see, edit, or delete their personal information at any time (except they cannot change their username). Website administrators can also see and edit that information.

The main reason for collecting this information is to be able to send you resources, updates and, sometimes, information and products and services, as well as for internal record keeping.

The rights you have over your data

If you have an account on this site, or have left comments, you can request to receive an exported file of the personal data we hold about you, including any data you have provided to us. You can also request that we erase any personal data we hold about you. This does not include any data we are obliged to keep for administrative, legal, or security purposes.

How we protect your data

We are committed to ensuring that your information is secure.

Where we have given you (or where you have chosen) a password that lets you access certain parts of our site, you are responsible for keeping this password confidential and we ask you not to share a password with anyone.

Unfortunately, the transmission of information via the internet is not completely secure. Although we will do our best to protect your personal data, we cannot guarantee the security of your data transmitted to our site; any transmission is at your own risk. Once we have received your information, we will use strict procedures and security features to try to prevent unauthorised access.

Links to other websites

Our website contains links to other websites. This privacy policy only applies to this website so once you have used these links to leave our site, you should note that we do not have any control over that other website. You should exercise caution and look at the privacy statement applicable to the website in question.

Changes to our privacy policy

We keep our privacy policy under regular review. Initially created on 18th November 2016, it was last updated on 23rd May 2018 to be compliant with GDPR.

Contact information

If you have any questions or concerns related to your privacy, you can get in touch here >>