Every day we make hundreds of decisions, usually so small that we hardly notice. Things like what we wear to work, what we will have for lunch, replying to some emails, leaving others, whether to take the stairs or the lift or if we are going to wash our car today or not. For most people, making these types of decisions is easy. It’s the bigger decisions that we battle with – things like resigning, ending a relationship, moving to a different city, having children and buying a new car.

Seeking advice for decisions like these is wise and, often times, essential to making a good choice. For example, if you didn’t ask your friend for advice about leaving your job you would never have found out about that position she happened to see in the newspaper that day.

There is a fine line, however, between asking for advice and depending on it. Many women find themselves phoning their mothers, their husbands, their friends and their psychologists for help with all kinds of decisions on a daily basis. Should I colour my hair dark brown or auburn? Do you really think it is a good idea that I am a vegetarian? Should I go to the party on Saturday night? What do you think? What do you want to do?

These are the same women who go on a date and allow the man to choose where they eat, what movie they will watch and what flavour slush puppy they will share when they are there. Even when asked for their opinion, the general response is “What do you feel like?” or “Whatever you want is fine.”

These are the same women who go on a date and allow the man to choose where they eat, what movie they will watch and what flavour slush puppy they will share when they are there. Even when asked for their opinion, the general response is “What do you feel like?” or “Whatever you want is fine.”

It’s almost as if they don’t know how to make a decision on their own, at least not one that will affect anybody else. Deciding on what to eat for lunch on your own is fine, but deciding on what to eat for lunch when you are with somebody else is an entirely different story. Why do we battle to make decisions?

1. It’s how we grew up.

Many of us were raised in homes where decisions were made for us. We were told which clothes we would wear, which friends we would have and which subjects we would take in high school. You may even have been told which degree to study when you left school and ultimately which career you would follow. Normally these pieces of “forced advice” are given by parents who only want the best for their child, but who unfortunately, at the same time, squash their child’s decision-making ability. If you grew up in a home like this, then it is very likely that you never learnt how to make decisions for yourself because someone always made them for you. You may even have been disciplined for having your own opinion and so learnt to keep them to yourself. Fortunately, skills that you didn’t develop as a child can be learnt as an adult.

2. People-pleasing.

We so badly want everyone else to be happy that we forget all about ourselves. If it makes your husband happy to have a black and red lounge, then that is how it will be. If your mother gives you a disapproving glare when you ask if you should get a tattoo, you don’t (even although you’re 34 years old). If your best friend says you should buy those expensive red shoes, even although you know you can’t afford them, you do anyway. Why? Quite simply, we are trying desperately to avoid any conflict or confrontation. We want people to like us. We want our parents to be proud of us. So we send our feelers out and try and figure out what it is they want us to decide so that they can be happy. We think that will make us happy too. Sadly, it doesn’t. It only gives them control of our lives, a position that should only ever be in our own hands.

3. Advertising.

The media tells us what is expected and what is acceptable. If you have to choose between two pairs of jeans, chances are you will buy the one you remember seeing advertised on TV. They looked so great on the model, she was so thin and appeared happy. Subconsciously we think we will be that way too if we buy those specific jeans. We buy what’s in fashion, not necessarily because we like it or because it suits us but because everyone else is wearing it. If everyone else is doing it, then you just HAVE to do it too. Whatever happened to what you want? What you like? What you want to do and wear and be?

4. Fear of failure.

We’re so scared of making the wrong decision, of having the “I told you so’s” thrown back in our faces. We’re petrified of disappointing not only ourselves, but those close to us. We’re terrified of embarrassment, of all the potential “what if’s” what we rather remain in a state of procrastination. We stay in dead-end jobs because we ask ourselves: “What if we resign and our next job is even worse?” What if I do that great course and then find out I don’t like it? What if I leave my boyfriend and then never find someone who will love me ever again?

The truth is that there is no such thing as failure. Robert Kiyosaki said, “You will succeed or you will learn.” Every so-called mistake is simply another opportunity to learn a valuable lesson. You dyed your hair black and it looked ghastly. Lesson: Never dye your hair black again. By making a decision, you made future decisions about your hair that much easier. Even really big blunders are huge opportunities. Every door that closes opens up another one at the same time. That is simply how life works.

It certainly does pay to be wise and to seek advice from experts and those close to you on really big decisions. This shouldn’t happen every day, however. You also need to learn to trust yourself and your ability to make really great decisions.

Contributor: Michelle Ainslie

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