How to Be More Decisive

By Ali Luke

October 26, 2009   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Image via Creative Commons, Anne-Lise Heinrichs' Flickr photostream. (Source)
Image via Creative Commons, Anne-Lise Heinrichs’ Flickr photostream. (Source)

Do you struggle to make decisions? Do you sometimes find yourself dithering for ages, weighing up multiple options, or trying to second-guess what other people might want you to do? If so, you’re definitely not alone. Many people have trouble being decisive – but it’s an important trait to have, both in life and in business.

Is it possible to become more decisive? Well, maybe, er, possibly, it could be … 😉 Actually, yes, yes it definitely is. Here’s how:

Honor Your Feelings and Preferences
In your life, how often do you let someone else’s choices determine yours? Perhaps you’d like Italian for dinner, but you think your partner would prefer Mexican – so you suggest that instead. Maybe you really want a quiet night in, but you end up going out because you think it’ll keep your friends happy.

Some people don’t even feel that they have any preference: they’re so used to letting others make decisions for them. I used to feel like this and a tip that worked brilliantly for me was to simply pretend that I liked one option over another. Simply making your own choice, and holding out for it, helps you get back in touch with what you want.

Don’t Try to Second-Guess Others
Do you end up making certain decisions because you want to keep other people happy? Maybe it’s your boss, or your mom, or your partner. For the sake of a quiet life, or in the hopes of making a great impression, you try to guess what they’ll want. Does it work? Not usually. Even when you guess right, you can end up feeling secretly frustrated that they didn’t insist on you having your way instead:

In discussing any joint action, it becomes obligatory that A should argue in favor of B’s supposed wishes and against his own, while B does the opposite. … they end up by doing something that neither wants, while each feels a glow of self-righteousness and harbors a secret claim to preferential treatment for the unselfishness shown and a secret grudges against the other for the ease with which the sacrifice has been accepted. (C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, p 143)

Doing Nothing is Still a Decision
Indecisive people often end up doing nothing at all. But, keeping things exactly as they are is still a decision – and often a disastrous one. You might be stuck trying to decide whether you should hire an accountant or do your taxes yourself. Both decisions will probably work out equally, but doing nothing at all will cause you a lot of problems!

When you’re faced with a dilemma – two decisions that seem equally good or bad – ask yourself what will happen if you do nothing. It’s a valid choice: just make sure it’s one you take consciously.

Have “Decision Criteria” to Help You

Sometimes, you really can’t decide between various options. Perhaps you’re out for lunch, and you don’t know whether you want the pizza or the salad. Both sound equally appetizing. So to make a decision, you might consider:

    • Going for the lower-calorie option (if you’re trying to lose weight)


  • Going for the cheaper option (if you’re trying to spend less)


So what should your “decision criteria” be? Obviously, that depends on you. They should tie into your current goals, like in the example above. You might want to think about:

    • Which decision will cost me (or save me) more time?


  • Which will cost (or earn) more money?



  • Which requires a longer-term commitment?



  • Which can be reversed most easily, if I decided wrong?



  • Which will stretch me the most?



  • Which will bring me new skills?


Do you struggle to choose between several options? What decisions are you stuck on at the moment – what are you putting off deciding?

Written on 10/26/2009 by Ali Hale. Ali is a professional writer and blogger, and a part-time postgraduate student of creative writing. If you need a hand with any sort of written project, drop her a line ([email protected]) or check out her website at Aliventures. Photo Credit: Brymo
Ali Luke

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