an indecisive woman facing the sun
Growing up,  Medium

What does indecisiveness mean? Your superpower

Indecisiveness can help you reach better decisions.

I’ve never been able to plan my life. I just lurch from indecision to indecision.“

Alan Rickman

My cousin (40) is going to leave his wife and two small kids behind and go drive a semi-truck across Europe. He is a mailman, doesn‘t know any foreign language or people outside Serbia (Southern Europe). He‘ll be on the road all day, trying to save enough money to move his family to Western Europe. Appartments are 8 times more expensive there. My cousin has just bought a small one in Serbia the loan which he’ll be paying for until he’s 65.

I‘m not so sure about emigration. I‘m 40, with 2 preschoolers, a master‘s in Engish and 15 years of work experience. My partner works in the IT industry. Sure we could find some jobs in Western Europe. Our kids would have a better education there.

But we are not sure.

Our parents raised us through a civil war, hyperinflation, and NATO bombing. They babysat for our kids. It’s time to give back to them now they are old and poor.

And you are always a foreigner in Europe, which is full of immigrants. Will our kids find friends because they come from a different culture even though we are liberal intellectuals?

Recently I heard a story of a Serb who spoke his mother tongue with his son in a park in Vienna. An unknown woman approached him: “You are in Austria now. Speak German.“

Imagine someone told you: “Don‘t speak English outside the US“.

I don‘t know if we should emigrate.

Would Vienna accept us as immigrants?
Deciding about Vienna?| © Jacek Dylag, Unsplash

Many times in my life people told me to Just choose! But I believe I’m thinking the right way.

Even Jeff Bezos looks for smart people who often change their minds

Smart people are often indecisive because they can see both the good and the bad in a situation. Therefore, when they are in a position to decide, they don’t do it for good. Also, being able to predict the consequences of their decision, they try to postpone it until they get more information.

Intelligent people are also aware of the fact they can be wrong. Therefore, they are more willing to change their minds when they have already reached a decision. Being wrong is a sign of curiosity and being open to new information. This quality of the mind to be so flexible is called intellectual humility. Duke University explains it as open-mindedness to different views on morality, religion, way of life, etc.

Mark Leary, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke says:

“If you’re sitting around a table at a meeting and the boss is very low in intellectual humility, he or she isn’t going to listen to other people’s suggestions,” Leary said. “Yet we know that good leadership requires broadness of perspective and taking as many perspectives into account as possible.”

In an interview that Bezos gave a few years ago to Basecamp, the Amazon founder said he doesn’t see the consistency of thought as a positive quality. On the contrary, you are smarter if have one idea today, and a contradictory one tomorrow:

“He’s observed that the smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they’d already solved. They’re open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking.”

Still, there’s a catch:

Not every kind of indecisiveness is the same

Longman Dictionary states the word indecisive as “unable to make clear decisions or choices“.

Not being able to make up your mind is often seen as being un-tough. Not knowing what you want and not being able to get it. You are an underachiever. A loser.

There are many causes which can make it hard for you to make up your mind. You overanalyze things. Perfectionism. Desire to please others. The fear of making a mistake. Being afraid to take responsibility. Maybe you are a highly sensitive person. Or insecure. Maybe you feel you need more information to be able to choose.

Sometimes people can‘t even decide what they want for dinner.

Kimberly Key, Ph.D., the author of Ten Keys to Staying Empowered in a Power Struggle, in her article for Psychology Today says that indecisiveness often has roots in childhood:

If a child was told “no” to their answers and directed in all of their answers, over time the cognitive dissonance between their desires and those of the hand that feeds them will lessen and cut them off from their desire. They may rebel and have trouble with authority and do all kinds of things that go against what others want in an attempt to be free, yet the scar of not trusting their instincts may be so severe that they can never connect to what they want.“

To help their kids have faith in their own judgment, parents should let them make choices about small things every day. This way kids practice decision-making skills. It’s a good thing to ask them what they want to wear or eat. To make it easier, give them 2 options to choose from so they don‘t get overwhelmed.

Teach your child decision-making skills from an early age
Teach your child decision-making skills from an early age, so they are not extremely indecisive when they grow up | © Sandy Millar, Unsplash

Everybody is irresolute sometimes. Some people are indecisive because they are afraid of a disaster. In extreme cases, obsessive indecisiveness can be qualified as a disorder:

Aboulomania is a mental disorder in which the patient displays pathological indecisiveness. It is typically associated with anxiety, stress, depression, and mental anguish, and can severely affect one‘s ability to function socially. Although many people suffer from indecision, it is rarely to the extent of obsession.“

– Wikipedia

Luckily, not many people suffer from pathological indecisiveness. Average hesitancy can be solved over time.

How to deal with indecisiveness

Karin Sieger, a psychotherapist, claims that being irresolute is completely fine. In her text Why indecisiveness can be valid and helpful, Sieger writes that our attitude towards indecisiveness is what‘s causing us trouble:

Indecisiveness can signal transition. Sometimes we are just not ready to make a choice. Because more thinking and exploration is necessary.

Sieger claims that if you are impatient or frustrated about your own indecisiveness, you will only make things worse:

Self blame can be toxic in situations, when we need our focus and energy to decide on important and perhaps life changing issues. Self criticism can keep us stuck and dithering. Not trusting ourselves can be disempowering and stifles personal growth.”

Instead Sieger advises us to ask ourselves:

“Why am I not ready to decide?“ and accept what we are feeling instead of being frustrated because we cannot make up our minds.

Because ideas and possibilities need to mature a bit further.

There is a really good side of being in two minds.

Indecisiveness can be a pain, but it can also be areal blessing
Indecisiveness can be a pain, but it can also be areal blessing | © Ümit Bulut, Unsplash

Indecisiveness makes you smarter

Sitting on the fence gives you the ability to see the situation from different angles. Or as postmodernists believe, there is no universal truth but a multitude of individual ones.

Indecisive people are often big thinkers. You can see both the good and the bad in each story. Therefore, when you are in a position to decide, you don’t. And you can also predict the possible consequences of your decision, so you try to postpone it until you get more information.

Moreover, this attitude can increase your empathy because you understand others better. You are able to feel them and realize what galvanizes them.

You are also able to enjoy little things and the status quo. Only when something irritates you a lot, you will do something about it and change that status. Indecisive persons can be glad to be where they are. They just don‘t feel uncomfortable enough to want to change something.

Sometimes you let the other person decide because you are a people pleaser and want to show your love that way – you don‘t mind to do whatever they feel like doing. To you, it‘s no big deal.

What the most famous indecisive person can teach us

Prince Hamlet is depressed and fed up with life. Throughout the play, he can‘t make up his mind if he should kill himself. Be a man and make a decision!

Or is it really that simple?

“To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;“

Hamlet‘s soliloquy from Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1

To be or not to be
To be or not to be | © Ahmed Adly, Unsplash

“To be or not to be“ is the question of human existence. To Hamlet, to be alive means to be passive and suffer the blows of fortune you can do nothing about. You can set yourself free from the suffering if you decide to kill yourself. So, to live is to be passive and to die – to be active. But there is a paradox: you can die only if you take action while you are still alive. And you can‘t because you don‘t have the power of action in life.

Although you may want to die, there‘s a catch. You don‘t know what‘s waiting for you when you pass away. And it may be worse than life itself. The fear of the unknown is stopping Hamlet from committing suicide.

Also, to commit suicide is a religious sin. Because “conscience does make cowards of us all“ Hamlet decides to go on living and suffer.

Moreover, Hamlet is considering if he should kill his uncle Claudius because Claudius killed Hamlet’s father, Old Hamlet. So, there is another sin – killing somebody. Hamlet considers if he should revenge his father by killing his murderer. The young prince makes excuses for not killing Claudius when he has an opportunity. By the end of this soliloquy, Hamlet says that too much thinking about the action prevents him from doing it.

Hamlet delays his decision to kill Claudius because he doesn‘t know if saw the real ghost (the ghost of his father who told him who the murderer was). The prince doesn‘t want to kill an innocent man and wants to check if Claudius really killed Old Hamlet.

In all his indecisiveness, young Hamlet is a very reasonable man.

Shakespeare graffiti
Shakespeare graffiti | © Jessica Pamp, Unsplash

Embrace your indecision

If you are not ready to decide on something bigger, remember that indecision is also a decision.

Indecisiveness is a mark that you see the world in full color. It makes you wiser since you don’t rush into things. As you change your mind, you can make better choices. You are smart enough to be aware of the relativity of truth and real life.

You understand others better and are able to establish deeper, more meaningful connections. You are a good listener. We are all talking about empathy and soul, yet most people see the world through a lens of productivity, efficiency, and brutal determination.

Indecisiveness is a part of who you are. Although you may get on other people’s nerves, Bezos would never employ them for the c-suite. 

So, cherish your hesitancy. Seeing different aspects of something which other people don’t see is a plus. Indecision can be good. It makes you more aware of the world around you.

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