Dear Barb – Making Decisions

Dear Barb:

I grew up in a very strict, structured home environment. My parents made all my decisions for me. Consequently, now as an adult I have a great deal of difficulty making decisions. In fact when faced with a decision I become almost paralyzed with fear. Can you possibly help me?

Anxious Al in Tucson

Dear Al, you’ve already made an important decision in choosing to ask for help. Decision-making is a learned task, which obviously because of your situation, you didn’t have the opportunity to do. However I’m sure your parents did not intend to hinder you in such a way, but rather saw it as taking care of you.

Decision-making can be stressful. In fact the inability to make a decision is considered a phobia by some experts. Decidophobia, is the fear of making decisions. When these individuals are faced with having to make a decision they exhibit all the symptoms of other phobias, such as dizziness, shortness of breath, anxiety and excessive sweating. However, there are steps you can take that will make decision making less stressful.

Several factors need consideration before making decisions. First, reflect carefully on what you want or need as a result of the decision. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured by others into making a quick resolution. Likewise don’t choose to do what everyone else is doing, just to avoid making a decision. You are the one that has to live with the results of what you decide. Start with small decisions to see how it feels. You can gradually work up to the big life changing modifications. This way you will learn to trust yourself and thus build confidence in your judgment.

There are several important strategies involved in effective decision-making. Begin by gathering as much information as possible; include both the pros and cons of whatever issues you are considering. Then judge how your decision will affect others in your life. For example if you are considering quitting a full time job to return to school, how will that affect the people in your life? If you have a wife and children, how will they cope financially? Another consideration is whether you will be able to live with the results of your decision. If not, perhaps you need to consider other options. This scenario could include working part time and attending school part time. By anticipating the negatives of your decision you can avoid a lot of repercussions.

Also try not to make a decision when you are in a depressed mood or in an extremely elated state, as these factors will inevitably affect the outcome of your decision. Moreover be prepared Al, because you will unavoidably, from time to time, make wrong decisions. Don’t be hard on yourself, it is all part of the learning process.

Finally Al, I hope I was able to help you in your quest to become a more decisive person.

E-mail your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.