Why is it hard for us to decide?
Why is it hard for us to decide?Let’s see what are the psychological causes that often make it difficult for us to make a decision.
Making a decision implies adopting an active attitude towards the opportunities that life presents us and being able to improve our situation to a greater or lesser degree … as long as we choose well. So it is not surprising that something as simple as choosing between a few options is capable of making us very nervous.
It is not a purely intellectual activity nor does it consist in getting closer to the truth, but rather deciding usually has material consequences in our lives.
Of course, despite the fact that human beings are good at deciding (thanks to our capacity for abstract thinking), this series of skills is not given to us “for free”. It is something that is very clear when seeing that many people have a hard time making decisions. But … why does that happen?
So … why is it hard for us to decide? In the following lines, we will address this issue.
Why is making a decision psychologically demanding?
Making a decision increases our chances of adapting better to a challenge or problem that has come our way, but this psychological process has a cost. Let’s see why.
1. It exposes us to failure
Every decision we make is an experience in which our mistakes can potentially come to light.
This fact alone already supposes a cost of decision-making: although technically making mistakes we are the raw material for our learning and improvement of certain skills, it erodes our self-esteem to some extent, although in most cases it only does so in a transitory (we stop remembering most of the decisions we make in a relatively short time).
The opportunity to progress and learn from our failures may allow us to be better at what we consider important and, in the medium and long term, that reinforces our self-esteem, but some people adopt a more short-term logic and focus on trying to avoid making it evident that they are not always right.
That is why, many times, in psychotherapy, part of the intervention program in patients consists of training in decision-making, so that aversion to the risk of making mistakes is not a limitation of personal development and of the person’s capacity to act. be happy.
2. It takes effort
It may seem silly, but the fact that making a decision involves deliberately trying to think about something and reach conclusions (that is, reflecting to generate new information from what we already had) makes us sometimes prefer not to go through it.
In recent decades, a large amount of research has been developed on the two great chains of cognitive operations: the automatic, spontaneous, and agile, on the one hand, and the deliberate, slow, detailed, and systematic, on the other. The second requires much more concentration, time, and energy, resources that we are not always willing to grant (even if the situation does not allow us).
3. May have emotional ambivalence behind
Many decisions are not based only on a pragmatic and instrumental assessment of which option to choose to reach a specific objective. Sometimes, what we have to choose between are schemes of interpretation of reality that have a great emotional charge for us.
For example, practically no one who is considering whether or not to leave their partner does so assuming it as a purely rational operation.
In these cases in which the choice is between perspectives that touch us in a very personal and/or practically existential way, it is easy for what is known as emotional ambivalence to emerge.
In situations like this, we have developed a high degree of emotional connection with two possible scenarios, so that we do not completely dare to take a step and opt for one, nor can we afford to give them up (at least, that is what we initially felt ) .
In the example of the hypothetical breakup of a couple, it is very common for those who consider ending their relationship to have fantasized about returning to singleness and have even convinced themselves that they have already decided to do so, feeling a sense of freedom. Just for, five minutes later, to dismiss that possibility entirely and even feel bad for having even raised it. So all the time, in a constant tug of war of expectations, emotions, personal priorities, future plans …
Thus, as some of these emotions are closely linked to both our way of seeing ourselves and our future and even the physical or social reality in which we live, making a decision that forces us to choose is complex not only intellectually, but also with regard to the management of feelings, moods in general, etc.
4. It does not give us a clear reference on when to take action
The decision-making process takes us from one idea to another as we move toward a conclusion about what to do. However, it does not include any clear reference to when it is time to move from thoughts to actions; that is also part of the challenge of deciding what to do.
This lack of references on when we should take the final step makes us sometimes get caught in a vicious circle of indecision, because as time passes, we extract more information from what we think about, and this new information is accompanied by new questions. And although by pure statistics most of these new secondary or tertiary questions are not too relevant to decide what to do, it is not always easy to detect which are important in that given situation and which are not.
For this reason, some people get used to thinking about an idea all the time before making a decision, or directly, they get used to thinking about what to do until they lose the opportunity to choose. The result of these unpleasant experiences can lead them to pay even more attention to the decision-making process, earning you some fear and fueling the vicious cycle.
Why is it hard for us to decide?