Ahh, indecision. We all know that uncomfortable feeling. It’s like time stops and we are stuck trying to figure out the “best” choice. What to do. What to eat. What to watch. What to study. What career to choose. What money moves to make. From the seemingly insignificant choices to the life-altering ones, we are faced with thousands of decisions a day.
While it is normal to struggle with indecisiveness occasionally, constant indecisiveness can become a huge problem. Not only does it waste your time, cause you stress and anxiety, but it can also stop you in your tracks, and prevent you from achieving your dreams. It can also hurt your finances.
Here, we discuss some common causes of indecisiveness and explain how it can affect your finances. Most importantly, we review what you can do to counter indecisiveness to protect your financial health.
What causes indecisiveness?
Everyone encounters indecisiveness from time to time, and for different reasons. If you want to get out of that feeling of “stuck-ness,” it’s best to face what is causing your indecisiveness. By pinpointing the causes (or causes) of your indecisiveness, you can begin to work to combat it. Below are some common causes of indecisiveness:
1. Fear of failure
Fear of failure, or of even making just one mistake, often causes indecisiveness. When you are so scared that the decision you are going to make is the wrong one, you often stop dead in your tracks. This type of inaction usually leaves people stuck in place, unable to move forward or pursue their dreams.
Similar to a fear of failure, sometimes those who simply do not want to make a mistake and who want everything they do to be perfect, always, can be indecisive. Waiting until the perfect moment or to have the perfect answer means just that – a whole lot of waiting around. That kind of indecisiveness can wreak havoc on all aspects of your life.
It holds you back from making choices and moving forward, never wanting to be wrong or to show weakness. When, in fact, the only way to move forward and grow is to take action and, occasionally, not be perfect.
3. Information overload
The world can feel overwhelming at times. No longer do we have a few channels to choose from a night, we have endless TV shows and movies to choose from. No longer do we have one take-out restaurant to call at night; we have fifty. Have you ever been so overwhelmed by all of your choices that you simply did nothing?
Or maybe you reverted to re-watching or redoing something you’ve already done? That is information overload. When you simply have too many choices, it can lead to indecisiveness.
4. Lack of confidence
If you lack confidence in your knowledge or abilities, you might not be comfortable with making choices. Of course, we all want to have some knowledge so that we can make informed decisions. However, there comes the point where we do know enough to make a choice, but we still feel like we can’t.
Have you ever felt like someone else should make the choice because you aren’t accomplished enough to? Or maybe that you can make the choice, but only after you learn more? That is a sure sign of imposter syndrome, and that often causes indecisiveness.
Lastly, indecision is a major byproduct of procrastination. Procrastination does not mean that you are lazy like many people assume. So, if you are a procrastinator, don’t beat yourself up about it! Procrastination is actually caused mostly by anxiety. Specifically, about anxiety over the unknown.
Those who procrastinate feel anxious about the future and often put off making important decisions (or any decisions at all) because they don’t feel confident or certain in their choices. Instead of making a choice, they procrastinate and put it off.
How indecisiveness can harm your finances
Now that you know what causes indecisiveness, it’s time to turn to how that indecisiveness can affect your day-to-day life. And what is more integral to your day-to-day life than your finances? It has been said that every decision you make is actually a financial decision. That means that indecisiveness about anything can affect your bottom line!
In addition to all of those daily decisions you make, these are some of the key, direct ways indecisiveness can harm your finances:
1. Procrastinating on financial goals
The best thing you can do for your finances? Come up with a plan. Whether you are deep in debt or have a stash of cash saved and are not sure what to do with it, you should have a plan. Not deciding on a plan and not pursuing financial goals will set you back.
Procrastinating on financial goals might look like not starting an emergency savings fund or ignoring your student loan payments. Whatever it looks like to you, indecisiveness about your financial goals can cause stress and make you feel out of control.
2. Missed opportunities
Lots of times, not making a choice is a choice in itself. This type of indecisiveness takes the form of missed opportunities. It might be a small one, like not making a change in your phone plan to a lower-cost provider. If you are stuck weighing the various options, you might miss the opportunity and end up paying more for your phone than you should.
Or, it might be something much larger, like missing out on investing. Lots of people find investing overwhelming. So what do they do? They do nothing. It is easier to do nothing, so they don’t opt into their company’s 401(k) plan and they don’t educate themselves on other investment options. These missed investing opportunities, caused by indecisiveness, can have enormous consequences on your retirement options down the line.
3. Not making smaller decisions can add up, too
Indecisiveness in your everyday life impacts your finances, too. Are you the type of person who always lets someone else choose the restaurant for dinner? Do you go along with whatever your friends or partner choose? If so, your indecisiveness might be affecting your wallet. Other people don’t make decisions based on your finances or ability to pay – they make them based on their own.
So when your friends constantly choose the fanciest of bars to go to, where you find yourself dropping $15 a pop for a drink, that will add up. When you choose what you want, you have your own finances in mind, and can make better decisions.
4. Lack of future planning
Indecisiveness can cause people to live only in the moment. Or rather, to be stuck in only the present moment. The future, including retirement, is going to come, whether we plan for it or not. By burying yourself in indecision and not planning for the future, you are putting your future self at a huge disadvantage.
5. Stops you from seeking financial help
Indecisiveness causes many people to stay stuck in their financial problems and not to seek help when needed. There are so many resources out there for anyone who needs assistance. From financial-savvy friends and family to professional help like consumer credit counseling agencies, if you ask, there is help when needed. But if you sit in your indecisiveness and allow it to prevent you from reaching out, you lose that opportunity of a fresh perspective.
How to counter indecisiveness
So, you’re indecisive. And it is harming your bottom line. Luckily, you don’t have to stay stuck in indecision forever. Here are some ways to counter indecisiveness across all areas of your life, including when it comes to your finances:
1. Let go of your perfectionism
Guess what? That “perfect” solution you’re looking for? It probably doesn’t exist. Or, if it does, sometimes you won’t make it, and that’s ok. Instead of striving for perfection, just try to make the best decision you can with what you know.
For some of us, perfectionism is so ingrained in our psyches that it seems impossible to let go of. But there are ways to combat it. Start by checking out resources like this one, full of tips on how to let go of perfectionism once and for all.
2. Remember that action leads to positive change
Your problem is hardly ever going to magically solve itself. Only by taking action can you start to get yourself on the right track. Sure, you might win the lottery and then you’ll be able to pay off your credit cards. But, you might not (ok, you most likely will not). Instead, why don’t you take action?
Start by at least paying your monthly minimums, and make a plan from there. Remember that action, no matter how small it is, is always better than sitting in indecision.
3. Narrow down your choices
Feeling overwhelmed with all the choices out there (aren’t we all)? There are steps you can take to combat this information overload. For example, if you are struggling with what health savings account to choose, narrow down your choices. Don’t look at every possible option the internet has to offer! Instead, find a trusted resource, like right here at Clever Girl Finance, educate yourself, and make your choice based on that.
4. Practice on the small stuff
Just like anything else, it takes practice to get comfortable at making decisions. If you’ve gone your whole life sitting back and waiting for others to make your choices for you, your decision-making muscles are probably very weak! To firm them up and get yourself comfortable making bigger decisions, start by practicing making decisions about little things.
Every day, decide on what you will wear, eat, or purchase. Instead of wallowing in all of the options, practice making swift choices. Before you know it, you’ll have left your indecisiveness behind and you’ll be confident making big decisions, too.
5. Educate yourself
Information is power. And that is especially true for financial education. Most of us weren’t raised to be financially literate and weren’t taught the ins and outs of personal finance in school. Luckily, there are so many resources available to educate ourselves on personal finance, starting with the tons of (free!) resources we offer right here at Clever Girl Finance.
If your indecisiveness is caused by a lack of knowledge or lack of confidence in your knowledge, educate yourself. Armed with the right information, you’ll be ready to make decisions for yourself and step out of inaction.
6. Use a pros and cons list
Lastly, nothing sets you up for a better decision than a pros and cons list. Especially when it comes to helping you make a big financial decision, a pros and cons list often does the trick. By setting out all of your options in front of you, a pros and cons list helps get you out of indecision and into action. And we all know that action leads to growth, propels us forward, and leads to positive change.
Leave indecision in the past
If you’re feeling particularly stuck in life and with your finances, it might be because of constant indecision. While you can never guarantee the decision you are making is the “best” one or the “perfect” one, taking action and making a decision is almost always better than inaction.
There is always a way to recover from a bad financial decision, but if you never make one, you will never know what could be. If you want to move forward, counter your indecisiveness with these tips. It's time to leave your indecision in the past!