4 Ways to Overcome Indecision and Find Your Next Step

by Alli Polin on May 5, 2015

overcome indecision

Who hasn’t been stuck in an endless decision loop? Should I or shouldn’t I? One of two things inevitably happens; you make a decision, or you do nothing and let things fall where they may, which is ultimately a decision too. Still, along the way, it’s a painful process filled with made up stories in lieu of the certainty.

Speaking of certainty, tell me I’m not alone occasionally wishing I had a crystal ball to show me I’m making the right choice. I’m not talking about a Magic 8 Ball either, flipping it over and over until you get the answer you want. Instead, I’d love to gaze into the crystal ball and know that everything will be perfect.

Would you look in the ball? Don’t you want to know that your book will become a bestseller, you’ll be oh-so-much happier at the new company, or your new business will be amazingly profitable within 12 months? What’s the alternative? Leaping into the unknown? (um, yeah.)

 

I have a friend, Mike, who hates Tuesdays because that’s the day he has to get on a plane each week and travel for work. He hugs his kids and wife goodbye and goes to places like Ohio and Upstate NY (are you jealous?). For as long as I’ve known him, he says he wants to quit his job and go to work on a long-held dream, but with every mortgage payment he lets go of his dream a little more. 

“I don’t know what to do,” my Mike told me the last time we caught up. “I’ve been in this field forever; I can’t start over now.” After that, he continued talking for at least 10 minutes, more to himself than to me, to justify his choice. I listened, nodded, and when he finally took a breath, I told him the one thing he probably didn’t want to hear, “That’s a load of crap.” 

He knows the choice in front of him; it’s crystal clear. He’s stuck.

4 States of Stuck

Take a look at the chart below. Like my friend Mike, think about that “thing” you want to do. Move your business forward into a new space, change jobs, write the next great novel…  What state are you in?

four states of stuck

Usually, indecision looks and feels slightly different from each of these quadrants. Let’s take a look at each one to discover some paths forward, overcome indecision and stuck-ness, and finally take inspired action. 

4 Paths to Overcome Indecision

I Know What to Do, but It’s Hard

If you’re afraid of hard work, you better get comfortable with what you’ve got.

Here’s the good news: Hard work does not have to be backbreaking, or unbearable. Think of how your muscles feel after a great workout.  You likely feel a little sore and it tells you that you’re pushing yourself and growing strength. The reason you feel the “good pain” is that you stretched yourself but didn’t go too far in any one session. You gave yourself time to build instead of break. 

Remember:

  • Don’t be afraid of discomfort – it’s a sign of growing strength.
  • Push yourself past your comfort zone, but not so far you can’t recover.
  • Hard work daily becomes satisfying when you start to see results.

Do This to Overcome Indecision and Find Your Next Step:

  • Break down your big goal that feels too difficult into smaller steps.
  • Set interim goals to give yourself milestones to celebrate along the way.
  • Get started. An object in motion stays in motion and an object in rest, stays stuck. I mean, at rest…

I Know What to Do, but It’s Risky

Feeling uncomfortable is not a sign something is impossible. 

Moving from Washington DC to the Australian Outback was a risk. For a while, I was caught in a mental shouting match between a passion for travel and adventure and my desire to live a future that felt more familiar. When asked what I would do if I hated living in the Outback, the answer was simple. I’ll come home… but I don’t plan to hate it. I embraced the change, believed it would be great, and was right. 

Remember

  • Rarely are our decisions irreversible or permanent.
  • Success never happens in a straight line, expect some messiness.
  • Control and predictability are illusions, even if you do nothing new. 

Do This to Overcome Indecision and Find Your Next Step:

  • Admit that you’re afraid instead of buying into your excuses.
  • Step up into your vulnerability. Yes, it’s scary, but it’s also human.
  • Close your eyes and let yourself picture a time that you felt your most confident and centered. Explore the scene in your mind’s eye and allow yourself to embody that moment and feeling as you step forward. 

Overcome Indecision and step into the mystery of following a new path

I Don’t Know What I Want to Do

There is nothing to discover if everything is already known.   

When I was in college, I majored in sociology, moved into business, became a change practitioner and discovered that when I think I know what’s next, I’m usually wrong. When my well-meaning friend, Ken, told me he thought I’d never leave Philadelphia, I don’t think either one of us imagined I’d someday be living in the Australian Outback. Every new path you follow is a mystery – especially if it’s one you’ve never walked before. Nothing is certain. Not success, not failure, not joy not sorrow. It’s all a grab bag. Move anyway.

Remember

  • Every road leads somewhere, and there is more than one road to success, joy, and a fulfilling life. 
  • Consider each step forward as a landing point, not an ending point. 
  • Stressing out about making the perfect choice is what’s blocking you from your next step.

Do This to Overcome Indecision and Find Your Next Step:

  • Allow yourself to enjoy the discovery without becoming obsessed. Research, talk to mentors and then take a beat to listen to your gut.
  • What would you do if money wasn’t an obstacle? You won the lottery. Woo Hoo! What new options are here now? What does this tell you about what you need and want to do?
  • The rest of your life is a long time. Look for a stepping stone, not a new shore.  

I Don’t Know How to Do What I Want to Do

Half the battle is having a vision for where you want to go. You can figure out how to get there. 

A friend of mine always has a new business idea and is a Wisher when it comes to going after her dreams.  She’s always thinking about what she’ll do and never doing it. She wanted to sell pickled vegetables but didn’t know how to do it without a commercial kitchen.  She wanted to open a lunch spot in her town but didn’t know how to find a space that would work. In both cases the how was an easy part of the equation, totally something she could figure out if she really wanted to move forward. (hint, she was actually in a different stage of stuck) Don’t fall into the trap of how, allowing it to become an obstacle to your success

Remember

  • There are people who have lessons learned and are willing to share.
  • You’ll get there, it doesn’t have to be in a single leap.
  • What worked for someone else may not be the secret sauce for you.

Do This to Overcome Indecision and Find Your Next Step:

  • Be honest and determine if you’re a Wisher, Persister or a Succeeder when it comes to your goals 
  • Experiment! We all wish that there was a magic formula for success, but there’s not. Determine desired results, hypothesize, take action, reflect, and adjust. 
  • Hire an expert who has been where you want to go. Work with an experienced coach or engage people with the expertise you need. You’ll find people like Ande Lyons who works with entrepreneurs, Blair Glaser, who helps people step into their authority in their relationships, or Jeffrey Davis, who accelerates the success of aspiring writers. 

Part of being stuck is the indecision that it brings, like an unwanted bff that you just can’t shake. Knowing where you stand can help you to determine your next step, overcome indecision and move forward creating the full life and professional success you crave. 

What stage of stuck resonates most with you? What step do you need to take to overcome indecision and move forward with your next step?

If you want to get clear on your next step, this eCourse is tailor made for you. Get Unstuck and Choose to Move.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Jon Mertz May 5, 2015 at 7:13 am

Alli,

Your two by two is well done. For me, often times I know what to do and how to do it but it is finding the right timing to take the leap forward. In these times, it is preparation time, continuing to learn and and enhance what I want to do. The danger is getting stuck here so the fuzzy word of discernment comes into play. When heart, mind, and soul align, the time is right to take the risk and take the stride up.

Great work and insights. Appreciate them!

Jon

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Alli Polin May 7, 2015 at 11:43 pm

Thanks! You’re the master of the two by two, Jon. Also, I’m with you, timing isn’t always and excuse – it matters. I do agree with the idea that you need to learn to leap before you feel ready (otherwise you may stand still forever) but preparation is essential for success. It’s often our soul that reminds our head what we need to do.

Grateful for your insight!

~ Alli

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Karin Hurt May 5, 2015 at 8:47 am

I love the model! I think it’s a very easy way for people to see where they are stuck so they can face the underlying cause.

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Alli Polin May 8, 2015 at 12:22 am

Thanks, Karin! It’s easy to feel helpless but much easier to move forward when you take a beat to see where you stand.

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LaRae Quy May 5, 2015 at 11:08 am

I loved your graphics, Alli! The images make a real impact!

“Rarely are our decisions irreversible or permanent.” This is so true! Whenever I’ve been hesitant to make a move, in the back of my mind was the reassurance that I could always find a way out if things turned bad.

Know what? I never needed that default because even when didn’t work out just as I’d hoped, another alternative showed up. And usually, it was one that wouldn’t have unless I’d made that move in the first place.

Great advice here!

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Alli Polin May 8, 2015 at 1:40 am

There really is power in letting go of expectation and moving forward. I too like to know that I have an out, but I can’t remember the last time I took it. Besides, even when you take a step back, you’re never back at your original starting point when you bring your experiences and lessons learned with you.

Thanks for your addition and connection, LaRae!

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Terri Klass May 5, 2015 at 1:12 pm

Great insights, Alli! I totally agree with your idea that change is not linear and what might work for one person may not seem manageable for another.

I have a friend who always comes up with ideas about what she would like to do. She spends hours and hours researching possibilities but can never quite land on any one thing. As a result she is still stuck in her original place. I think she would do well with your course and I am going to recommend it to her!

You have shown all of us that even though we may be scared like you were moving to the Outback, we cannot let our fears paralyze us. Change is a process and can take time to totally embrace.

Thanks Alli for helping us see that getting unstuck is first admitting that we are stuck.

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Alli Polin May 8, 2015 at 3:01 am

Your friend sound familiar to me. Research can be never ending! It’s up to us to choose when we really need more and when it’s just a safety net stopping us from moving at all.

It’s also so important to reframe our fear! Moving to the Outback was (and still is) and adventure. Instead of focusing on what I was losing, I made the conscious choice to focus on what I was gaining.

Appreciate how your stories add depth. Thanks for all of your support, Terri!

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John Bennett May 5, 2015 at 5:17 pm

Two things are true: (1) Some planning (Considering – http://johncbennettjr.com ) is always appropriate. But (2) even with the vision, perfection will never happen; get started, collect “data,” and refine your path!!!

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Alli Polin May 8, 2015 at 3:10 am

Yes! Data collection helps… but nothing ultimately creates success other than action. We need to give ourselves permission to course correct instead of beating ourselves up when we fall short of perfection!

Thanks, John!

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Chery Gegelman May 6, 2015 at 10:13 am

Alli – I shared your powerful post everywhere!

I had the same thoughts as LaRae! Love the graphics!

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Alli Polin May 8, 2015 at 1:41 am

Many thanks, Chery! Been having fun with graphics lately. Procrastination? Maybe. Still, I love the power of an image to tell a story.

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Blair May 6, 2015 at 8:52 pm

The classification of stuck and indecision into these four categories is spot on and so useful. Next time I catch myself in one of them, I’m pulling up this post as a reference guide. And then perhaps I’ll work with great coach like you :). Thanks for the plug here. We do have to be willing to experience risk, discomfort and the unknown to truly step into our authority, don’t we?

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Alli Polin May 8, 2015 at 3:12 am

Without risk, progress, if any, is sloooooow. Love the inspiration, hope and real tools that you give so many to step into their authority to have strong relationships.

Thanks, Blair!

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