Do You Struggle With Making The Simplest Of Decisions? You May Be Suffering From A Case Of FOBO

If the fear of better options is making you a poor decision-maker, don’t fret says Adele Miner

I’ve always struggled with making decisions. From not being able to choose what I want from the Chinese, to being unsure of what exactly I see for my future, I’m a bit of a nightmare. Making sharp and concise decisions has never, and probably will never be my forte, my boyfriend can vouch for this. Aside from the classic ‘I don’t mind where we eat, you choose’, act, my indecisiveness extends further, to my boyfriends dismay. I’ll spend hours trolling through booking sites, trying to decide on the best hotel to stay in for our next break away, drowning in a sea of tabs and rarely coming to a final decision. I also struggle with deciding what I want for my future, do I want to move to a new and exciting country? And if so, which one? Or should I scrap that plan and stay put in Ireland so I can get a head start on saving for that mortgage?

“Someone who is indecisive may be experiencing burnout and is physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. This decision fatigue results in the ability to make simple decisions – examples of this could be what to cook for dinner, go to see at the movies or even what to wear each day.” Psychotherapist Siobhan Murray tells me, which to my horror, sounds as though she is reeling off my personal profile. Oftentimes people associate the inability to make decisions with laziness, but actually, this could not be further from the truth. In fact, indecisiveness derives from a sister personality trait – perfectionism.

If you’re someone who strives for flawlessness, then it’s likely that you also struggle with making sharp decisions. For those of us lucky enough to live in a first-world country, you know that modern society presents us with an unlimited amount of choice. And while choice is a wonderful thing, with an increased amount of it also comes the increased difficulty to decision make. With that being said, allow me to introduce you to the topic of FOBO. We have all familiarised ourselves with the concept of FOMO (the fear of missing out), and FOBO isn’t all too dissimilar.

If you’re someone who struggles with making decisions because you feel that all choices on offer are viable, then it’s likely that you’re suffering from a case of FOBO, the fear of better options. Not only does society lash a load of choice at us, it also scolds us to never settle, because there is always better to strive for. So, when you’re faced with a decision-making dilemma, the fear of choosing the crapper option, and therefore settling, can be crippling.

You may have just been offered two really great jobs (lucky you!) and you’re struggling to choose the best option, or maybe you’re trying to decide which series to begin on Netflix and they all just sound so great. Or else you’re in a restaurant queue confronted with a menu and you just can’t make up your mind – heya FOBO!

You obsess over every possible option when faced with a decision, fearing that you’ll miss out on the ‘best’ one, and oftentimes your obsessing only leads to frustration, stress, and unhappiness. Heap a silly amount of choice into a bowl, mix that together with a few tablespoons of perfectionism and a dash of fear of settling and you have got yourself one big fat FOBO cake! A confectionery delight I am definitely partial to the odd serving of. 

But, It seems I am not alone in my indecisiveness, Kate, 24, also shares my sorrows. “I’ve always been indecisive for as long as I can remember. I wouldn’t be able to make up my mind about the smallest of things – from what I should order at a restaurant to what dress I should wear on a night out.” Speaking about how her indecisiveness has affected her life, she tells of a time she remained in a relationship which made her unhappy, for fear of making the wrong decision by ending it. “I stayed in a relationship that made me miserable because I couldn’t decide if breaking up was the right thing to do. I’d try ending it loads of times then end up not going through with it because I didn’t trust my decision.”

Caoimhe, 25, says her indecisiveness causes her unimaginable grief when it comes to making decisions for her life and future. “I’m not particularly indecisive about tiny things (It’s easy for me to decide picking a Netflix show) but I tend to be very indecisive about bigger decisions. I analyse things so much that it often leaves me at a loss to knowing how I truly feel,” she explains. “I’m incredibly indecisive about my career. I struggle with the idea of picking one straight career path. For me, it’s like; why can’t I be a marketing and communications person AND a teacher and a writer whilst also running a business and maybe studying psychotherapy?.” “This also means that I struggle to decide where I belong, geographically. I’ve lived in the states, London, rural Ireland (Galway & Limerick), and have now recently moved to Dublin. I feel like different parts of my personality fit these places differently, so it’s difficult to decide where I would eventually like to settle / where I am happiest.”

But, psychotherapist Siobhan says that we need not fret too much, there are some simple steps we can take in order to become more decisive, “When we’re flooded by excess demand from our jobs, friends and family over long periods of time, we automatically look to conserve energy, that’s why even easy decisions become difficult.” And think about it – you now have the answer to every question and anything your heart desires at the touch of a button in your hand, so no wonder you feel overwhelmed. This modern world has a lot to answer for, eh?

But there are solutions to FOBO, here are a few that may help you to kick the bad habit for good!

Preparation Is Key

Research shows that doing simple tasks, such as getting your clothes ready the night before, and preparing your lunch, helps to free up brain space in the morning. Furthermore, As the day progresses, the strength and acuity of your decision-making powers wanes, so get those important decisions done in the morning and not in the evening!

Delegate More

This can be a challenge if you don’t have anyone to delegate to, maybe look to one of your colleagues to see if they could give you some advice on a project you’re working on, or ask your partner or housemate if they could make the dinner tonight. Letting go of certain responsibilities (either personally or professional)can improve your overall efficiency and help avoid burnout and decision fatigue.

Take A Break

When you’re feeling overwhelmed by too many questions, simply take ‘time-out’, Go for a short walk, change your scenery, which will improve your decision-making power and your mood. Give yourself time away from the situation so you can come back to your decision-making process rejuvenated.

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