Tough calls and conquering indecision


My client, let’s call her Sophie, had a decision to make. It was a big decision with far-reaching ramifications. She was struggling.

‘And the problem is,’ she sighed, ‘it seems to have made me incapable of making any decisions at all! I couldn’t even decide what sandwich to buy at lunchtime. I just walked out of the shop in the end. I’m exhausted and now I’m hungry too!’

It felt the perfect opportunity to take a walk. A few minutes later, we ended up outside a shop with a display of delicious-looking sandwiches.

‘Why are we here?’ asked Sophie.

‘Because you need some lunch and to practise making decisions.’

We went into the shop.

‘Pick out five sandwiches which appeal to you,’ I asked Sophie. She did so.

‘Now eliminate two,’ I requested. ‘Okay, there are three left. Can we rule out another one?’

Sophie pondered. ‘I can’t decide. That one’s the healthiest, that one’s the tastiest and the other one is somewhere between the two. They’re all pretty equal otherwise.’

‘How about going for the halfway choice then?’

Sophie grinned, ‘you know what, that’s both the best and the worst of the other two all at once. Let’s ditch the middle one.’

‘Right. Which one now – healthy or tasty? You’ve got thirty seconds to decide.’

After 10 seconds or so, Sophie said, ‘it’s no good. I can’t do it. Let’s flip a coin.’

We did. Heads for healthy, tails for tasty. It was tails so I reached out for the tasty sandwich.

‘No, wait! exclaimed Sophie. ‘I don’t want that one. Once we’d flipped the coin, I realised that I want the healthy one.’

We took it to the till. ‘One last thing, Sophie, are you sure this is the right sandwich?’

‘Actually, no, I’m not sure but it’s the one I’ve chosen and I’m sticking with it.’

We sat on a bench for a while whilst Sophie ate her healthy sandwich and mulled over the process  by which she’d made her decision. She had:

  • selected several options;
  • evaluated their merits;
  • eliminated some of those options;
  • re-evaluated the merits of the remaining options and realised that each one had its own set of benefits and drawbacks;
  • eliminated another option;
  • worked within a timeframe to come to a decision;
  • struggled to decide so had left it up to chance;
  • the process of chance had helped her make a decision;
  • when she questioned her decision, she acknowledged that questioning but remained committed to her choice.

In reviewing the process, Sophie said, ‘I know my other decision is a lot more weighty than choosing a sandwich but I feel like I’ve broken through inability to make even the simplest choice. I need to go back to the big question and try out these steps on that.’

Sophie e-mailed me a few days later to let me know that the decision had been made. Several months on, she acknowledges that it’s not all been plain sailing but that she’s remained committed to her choice and has the energy and determination to make it work.

Today’s pebble for you to consider: do you have a big decision to make? Can these steps help you? What else could work?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, email me and let’s have a conversation about how we can work together.

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5 Responses to Tough calls and conquering indecision

  1. juliamanchester says:

    This is great. Another thing I’m finding helpful is the Susan Jeffers idea of both Path A and Path B being ‘right’ but different. Each will have its share of pleasures – and pain, because life. This comforting idea, plus your techniques for sifting the options, make decision making simpler, albeit never easy!

    • I thought I hadn’t heard of Susan Jeffers but I have heard of ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’. Am now going to read up on her: thanks for the tip, and for the comment.

  2. Pingback: Did you get caught in a decision-making trap? | Turning over pebbles

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  4. Pingback: Analysis paralysis – why choice isn’t always a good thing | Turning over pebbles

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