Overcoming the Fear of Making Decisions

This week on the show, Nikki puts on the coaching hat to walk us through some of the questions that can help you walk out of decision paralysis and conquer your fear!

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Do you ever find yourself stuck in research mode? Are you overwhelmed with options? Do you resent regret? If you’ve ever found yourself living in fear of making decisions, you’re not alone. It can be a debilitating cycle knowing that you’re facing the same questions over and over again either because you can’t make a decision, or you can’t live with the decisions you’ve made. This week on the show, Nikki puts on the coaching hat to walk us through some of the questions that can help you walk out of decision paralysis and conquer your fear!

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Episode Transcript

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Pete: Hello, everybody and welcome to “Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast” on RashPixel.FM. I’m Pete Wright and right over there is Nikki Kinzer.

Nikki: Hello everyone. Hello, Pete Wright.

Pete: Hello, Nikki Kinzer. A happy, sunshiny day to you this fine June.

Nikki: It is. It’s a beautiful day. Beautiful start of the month of June. Absolutely.

Pete: Truly, truly it is. I feel like we need to say out loud as we go through June that these are the last handful of episodes through June before our break. Just a reminder, we are taking a break but we are coming back after July so don’t leave. Just know we’re taking a little bit of a break through our annual July hiatus.

Nikki: Yes. But I do have a quick announcement.

Pete: Oh, do tell.

Nikki: Yes. So I am going to be doing a summer group coaching sessions, so they’re gonna be 8 weeks instead of the normal 10 and they will start in July. So even though we don’t have a podcast in July, I’m still working with my groups in July. So check out the website for more information about the group coaching.

Pete: Excellent. And we will continue to do with, we’d still have our hangout for patreons, our happy hour with Pete and Nikki and we’ve got some workshops coming up. We just won’t have a few episodes of the podcast while we do our annual rethink. Rethink, reshape, redo, renew.

Nikki: Renew.

Pete: All the re’s.

Nikki: All the Rs. And maybe a little rest in there too, right?

Pete: Yeah. There might be a little rest, a little vacation. A revay. But we are going to be talking about overcoming the fear of making decisions today. Before we do that, head over to takecontroladhd.com to get to know us a little bit better. You can listen to the show right on the website or subscribe to the mailing list on the homepage and you’ll get an email each time a new episode is released. You can connect with us on Twitter or Facebook @TakeControlADHD. And I think, do we have any questions today? Do we have any listener questions?

Nikki: No. Well this actually, the inspiration came from a survey that I did a long time ago, like an old survey but it’s not really a question.

Pete: All right. Well, the survey just came out, so if you didn’t respond to the survey, it’s too late now but be on the lookout for that because it’s a great way to get questions in. You should be checking out our Discord group and that Discord group has been so lively, over the last, particularly over the last weekend. I checked in this morning and so much going on.

Nikki: I know, it’s crazy.

Pete: I missed in all of the sunshining and swim meets that we had going on this weekend and so you should check that out. And how do you check that out? Well, there is a great way to access that community. Now you can access it for free right now, you can jump into the general ADHD community chat room on Discord. And the link is in the show notes. You’re welcome to jump into that anytime. There’s a fantastic community of people in there talking about ADHD stuff, sharing resources, doing all of that great stuff. If you want access to the extra stuff, we deeply encourage you to check out patreon.com/theadhdpodcast. By becoming a patreon, by sharing a few bucks with us each month, you get access to a long list of chat groups over on our Discord server. You get access to the resources. You can get access to resources and downloads and our video workshops that we do each month at the supreme level and you get access to one another.

I mean, the group there has put together an amazingly rich set of channels to talk about everything from medication, ADHD support, accountability. You can jump into accountability group sessions for things like homework or just getting work done or scanning or whatever you have going on. It has become such an incredible resource. I’m deeply gratified to jump in there every single week. And all of that is available to you as a paying patreon over at patreon.com/theadhdpodcast. More importantly, most importantly, this is listener-supported podcasting. And so each week we get a chance to just ask one more time, celebrating the ADHD community. Joining the ADHD community also helps Nikki and I continued to flourish as we produce this podcast going into our 10th year. And it is gratifying. It’s satisfying. It’s…you’re building our career as we continue to grow this part of our respective businesses. And so, you know, think of it like public radio, it’s public podcasting and this show comes to you. You still get the podcast for free. You absolutely have access to that. We’re not changing anything about that, but we sure appreciate your help in helping us continue to thrive. So there you go. That’s the pitch. Now…

Nikki: Wow, almost 10 years. That’s amazing when you say that out loud.

Pete: It’s crazy. It’s crazy.

Nikki: That is crazy. That is crazy. And we still here, even going into 10 years, have different topic topics to talk about every week.

Pete: Oh, we sure do. And like this week, making decisions. So this inspiration came out of the survey. Tell us about the survey.

Nikki: But it was an old survey. So it wasn’t the one I did most recently but it was when they think I did like two years ago. And what I was doing is I was computer cleanup. I was doing, you know, I was purging old files and I was going through Evernote and I was going through Dropbox and some other places that I keep things. And I had come across this Excel sheet that said, you know, here are some of the pain points for people, and decision-making became a theme all of a sudden. Now people had different reasons, different comments. So there were a few that would say, I’m just overwhelmed with options. I have too many options. I don’t know which one to do. I overthink the decision was a very common theme, you know, putting too much analysis in it.

I put too much emotion in the decision. In fact, there was a specific question at one point, I couldn’t find it because I did try to, but I couldn’t find it. But there was a specific question at one point that said, “How do I take the emotion out of making decisions?” There was a question about am I investing money in the right or wrong thing, right? So when it comes to money and it’s actually costing something, how do I know if I’m making the right decision? But the big kicker here, and this is the one that I really want us to focus on today is just fear of making the wrong decision. What if I regret it later?

Pete: Is that a perennial thing? Like is that not just out of the survey, but is that a sense that you’re getting working with your coaching clients?

Nikki: Absolutely. And that’s why I caught onto this so quickly is that, you know, as soon as I started seeing the trend and I think about, you know, the things that I talked to my clients about, it definitely is a pattern all around. Absolutely.

Pete: I absolutely relate to this, and I think it’s at the root of at least some part of my fascination with exploring technology tools and where my dopamine push comes from is that, oh God, I’ll settle on one thing for you know, weeks, months, maybe a year but always in the back of my mind is, did I make a mistake? I guess I’d better rebuild my to-do lists again just because I may have screwed up and I have to constantly reaffirm that choice. Whatever choice it was, I have to reaffirm it and make sure it’s still right because it’s only right for that second when you make that decision, and in my head it becomes an open question the second I make a decision again. Does that make sense?

Nikki: It does. Well, it’s something you were saying earlier that it reminds me of just the rabbit hole of research that people can go into. You know, when they are looking for either a new to-do app or if they’re looking for, you know, a kitchen appliance. I mean, it can so easily turn into, you know, hours and hours of research and trying to make that right decision. And today I’m gonna be talking about this sort of on a broad level. I mean, there are different decisions to make that have bigger impacts, right? So making the decision of what to have for dinner versus making a decision if you should move to another state and take a different job. I mean, obviously those are two different things, but the common denominator here is just the fear of making the wrong decision, right?

And so, you know, I love looking at definitions. I love knowing what things really mean because when you think of fear, you know, everybody probably has a little bit different way of describing what that means to them. So I went to webster.com. Fear is the most general term and implies anxiety and usually loss of courage. And it kind of went on to a few more sentences, but it was basically the fear of unknown. So in our show notes, I’m gonna put a different link or another link that actually is from “Psychology Today” because it was a really interesting article about fear. And what it said is that it says it’s a vital response to physical and emotional danger. If people didn’t feel fear, they couldn’t protect themselves from legitimate threats. It also says that common fears today have more to do with the impression people make and how others judgments affect their self-worth.

So couple of little angles here, right? And it’s kind of all over the place but I really liked these three statements because this is where I see my clients fitting in. You know, the fear of anxiety, right? There’s anxiety of making the right or wrong choice. And then if you’re not sure, a lot of people just don’t make the choice, right? So that’s where the loss of courage comes in. And then you also look at this emotional danger of I need to protect myself because of what other people think of me or the judgments that people are gonna say about my self-worth. But then there’s that physical danger too where I think it’s really important that we don’t ignore fear. Because if you’re in a situation and the little hairs on your neck pop up because you feel like you’re in danger, like something’s not right, then that’s something to listen to because you could be physically in danger. Isn’t that interesting?

Pete: Yeah. Yeah, it is. Well, and that’s the evolutionary danger, right? That’s the thing where you know, it has this route. You could be being chased by a tiger. My…you know, and why often that fear doesn’t translate very well. My fear of making decision on whether or not to use to-do lists is not as life-threatening as being chased by a tiger.

Nikki: Absolutely not.

Pete: Let’s just leave it at that. It is not as life-threatening.

Nikki: Right. So we want the life-threatening fear to certainly be in place. We don’t want to ignore that and we don’t want to overcome that.

Pete: Exactly. What we can’t ignore is, and this is the ridiculous part, the fact that my choice to use some organizing system is not as relatively dangerous as being chased by a tiger, doesn’t discount the fact that in my ADHD head, it feels that way.

Nikki: Totally. I know, right? So that is so, I mean that is the reason why we want to have this conversation is that, you know, bringing this to light, right? We have to embrace this fear and confront it, I think, in a way that really does help us go on making those daily decisions. And you know, what is keeping us stuck? Because if we really feel like what I’m making for dinner is going to be just as big as being chased by a tiger, we’re getting stuck in something that’s not logical. So we’ve gotta try to get ourselves out of that a little bit. And I think one of the worst places to be is in decision mode. I just think that is like the worst place to be because that thinking and processing it and talking about it, it can drive a person crazy, right, you know, you’re just sitting in that limbo and it’s an awful place to be.

But I do want to go back, I want to circle back to Webster’s, our friend, Webster and his definition because especially with the part where it says loss of courage. Now when I think of courage, I think of Brene Brown because she is really the researcher of courage and vulnerability. And so my first recommendation when you are trying to overcome the fear of making your daily decisions, not the ones that are gonna protect you for your life, I highly recommend that you check out Brene Brown’s book or her work, not just her book. She has several books. But check out her work, listen to her TED Talks and listen to the way that she reads the quote from Theodore Roosevelt, “The Man In The Arena.”

I’m not even gonna try to do it because I won’t do it justice the way that she does. So I definitely want people who are listening to this to, even if you’ve heard it before, go back and listen to it again. In short, I will give you a summary. It’s not the critic who counts, it’s the person that’s showing up. It’s the person that’s showing up in the arena. They’re the ones that are trying and they have the courage. And she will tell you that, Brene Brown will tell you, that when you are in the arena, you will fall and your butt is going to get kicked. And, you know, you’re gonna get scratches. It’s not going to be an easy fight. But you keep getting up, you keep showing up. And that’s what’s important. And so I take her work so seriously when you talk about making decisions and this fear of anything but specifically making decisions, because the reality is we will never know the outcomes of our decisions until we make the decision and live it. And so life is full of choices and full of decisions and we’re gonna make fantastic ones, right? You and I working together, fantastic.

Pete: Great choice.

Nikki: Great choice. You know, we’re gonna make okay ones, we’re gonna make choices that maybe wasn’t my best choice or really, really bad ones and ones that you will regret. It will happen, right? Just because we overcome maybe this little bit of fear we have doesn’t mean we’re gonna still make the right choice. And we want to be honest about that.

Pete: And the truth of the matter is the only way you can guarantee yourself the opportunity to make a next choice is by making a current choice. That’s the only way we can guarantee that we build any sort of inertia, any sort of momentum, is by actually making a choice.

Nikki: And I think the problem comes down too that when you don’t make the choice, somebody else makes it for you and that may not have been the way that you wanted to go. So we have to kind of take back our control a little bit. So I got my coaching hat on and I have a couple of questions for people to think about. So when you’re listening to this show and you’re thinking about, “Okay, what am I fearing? What is the decision that I have to make in my life right now that I’m, you know, not sure of?” And I want to ask, you know, what if you weren’t afraid to fail.

Pete: Are you asking me?

Nikki: No, no, I’m just saying anybody in general.

Pete: That’s good because that’s a terrifying thing to face.

Nikki: It is a terrifying thing. And that’s the thing about good coaching questions. It’s not something you necessarily can just answer like right away. But no, this is for our listeners to take this away after you’re done listening to us and think about it. What if you weren’t afraid to fail, how would that affect your decision with either this or just as a pattern in general? So if you were always in a place where you weren’t afraid to fail, how would this affect your decision-making patterns? So those are two really important questions to think about. And I think something else that we have to connect the dots here is that fear and decision-making are tied to confidence, right? So if we confront our confidence level of how confident we feel about whether we fail or not, that’s going to tie into being a little bit more courageous in your decision-making because you’re gonna know that, you know what, no matter what the outcome, I’m gonna be, okay, I’m gonna figure it out. It’s going to be all right. I’m gonna learn from this and I’m going to talk about learning in just a second. What do you think about that? How does that sit with you, Pete?

Pete: It resonates with the decisions that I have struggled with in the past. And this idea that, you know, I am not making a decision or I guess on the other side of that spectrum, I am hyper making decisions, right? I’m making all of the tiniest little decisions and then I’m making them over and over and over again. And I think that stems from, that comes from the same wellspring of emotional like knots that, you know, the decisions that are hardest for me to make, I sometimes celebrate the fact that I am enabled or I’m empowered to make a decision and so I’ll make it and then immediately go back into decision cycle. And so, you know, I only live in that space of having successfully moved on for a short period of time because it feels unsafe to live outside of a question.

Nikki: I wonder by listening to you, because a lot of times what we focus on is what’s wrong or we focus on what’s missing and we’re not always focused on what we did right or what, you know, that decision I made was really a good decision. So I would just ask the question of, you know, what if we shift that a little bit and actually held on a little bit longer to making that good decision before jumping right into the pool of self-doubt.

Pete: Well, right. I think that’s the grand question, right? What is it? What is it that it takes to hold, to stop moving. And in some cases, the act of making a decision for me, is the thing that I’m hyper focusing on, right? That’s the dopamine rush that I get. That’s where I can’t focus on anything else because I have to make and live in this decision space. That’s the comfort zone for me and it is conversely the unhealthy zone for me. And so to make myself stop and slow down and experience that space after a decision is made in a way that doesn’t thrust me into some new cycle to make the same decision again and again, that’s the challenge.

Nikki: So something you said to me that really resonated was the comfort level. So I’m gonna throw it out there that we need to get a little bit more comfortable in being uncomfortable, you know, and seeing where that takes us. And when it comes to the confidence piece too, I would want to say, I’m going to add two more questions, coaching questions for people to think about as they go on with their day, is what’s holding you back from making the decision? Like really what specifically is holding you back? And really kind of analyzing that and thinking about that, and then what’s the connection between your confidence and the end result? So it’s going back to a personal level of how uncomfortable are you being in that uncomfortableness. And you explained where you are and I would want people, our listeners to think about where they are and how they’re connected to that.

Pete: Right. I think that’s the trick. And that’s what I’m trying to say. Not that I am in a place of comfort necessarily and that that’s the right thing. That is…when my ADHD brain is kicked in, that’s the safe space, right? The safe space because it’s familiar. And so I would just comfort in that context. But what we know about learning anything is that you have to get into this, you know, what others have called the valley of despair. It’s the valley of despair, it’s that discomfort that you’re talking about that actually causes us to be, to operate at our most creative, at our most energetic, at our most sort of integrative, like being able to look at all the disparate signals that are coming in and acclimate to them. It allows us to adapt. And I think when I’m at my worst, it’s because I don’t let myself dip into that creative space, that space of discomfort, that learning space because I feel so safe and comfortable. I’m habituated into the other space of not being able to make a decision or making them again and again and again and again.

Nikki: Yeah, absolutely. And going back to Brene’s or the Theodore Roosevelt quote, you know, it’s much safer to be the critic on the side than it is to be the person showing up in the arena. I mean, it is much safer for sure. So you have to kind of make a choice of where you want to be and where you’re okay with, you know, what you’re okay with. And I think that one of the things that we can definitely do is start thinking a little bit differently about the word, failure. And you know, when we look at how we speak to ourselves, we know that words matter and failure…there’s two things I want to kind of compare against each other and that’s failure versus having it be a true learning experience. So when you say, I failed at this, or this didn’t work out the way I wanted or this to-do list was a bomb or whatever, when you say you failed at it, it doesn’t invite any kind of learning or forward movement.

There’s a lot of judgment that’s around failure and for ADDers especially, it takes you down a path of a lot of shame, you’re not empowered any longer. You’re not inspired to take any further action because, you know, once again, here’s this moment of failure that you experienced. And so the other thing that I want to compare that to, what I want to compare it to is having it be a learning experience. So you tried something, you made a decision. Maybe it didn’t work out the way that you wanted it to. So, all right, I’m gonna change my perspective from it just being a failure and look at it and think, what did I learn from this? What am I taking away from this? How can adjust this for something, you know, going more towards my goals. I’m not saying this is easy and I’m not saying this is something that’s gonna just happen overnight.

I’ve seen people who have worked years on certain things and didn’t accomplish what they wanted to accomplish and they had to grieve over that, right? They had a lot of grieving. So by no means do I want to make this sound easy, it’s just a different way to look at it that, you know, to try something, you have to put yourself out there and it may mean that you don’t get it and if you don’t get it, what are you gonna do with that now? How are you gonna move forward? And, you know, it’s something that if you have a really hard time coming to terms with this, then I really encourage you to get help, get support, don’t do it on your own and talk to a therapist, talk to a professional who can help you process, you know, what’s going on and how can you move from this. And, you know, that’s kind of where I would go with that. Especially those really big, huge disappointments that we have that sometimes it’s just so heavy that it’s like, I can’t seem to get over it. Definitely get help.

Pete: I think this is really powerful stuff for me. And it’s as yet again, as regular listeners will know, sometimes even after living and practicing this stuff for 20 years, you get sort of sideswiped because I feel like what you are describing is something that is so insidious. Because it feels so good to live in that space, because it feels so good to live in question space, it satisfies that need for me. You know, that adrenaline rush, that dopamine push to live in that period of uncertainty because it allows me to just not make decisions or make them again and again, I think that it just reminds me that it’s still something that I’m dealing with all the time. And that, I guess if I could add anything, it’s that this is not necessarily a solvable thing. It is a thing that has to be practiced constantly. It is a practice. Let’s say that. It is a practice that, you know, like anything else that you do every day to make yourself stronger and healthier. There’s no end and that’s okay. What are your coaching questions?

Nikki: Two more questions for people as we wrap up. What decision are you stuck on right now? So think about a decision you’re stuck on right now and what will it look like for you to show up? That’s it.

Pete: What will it look like for you to show up. Just show up. I love it. Thank you, Nikki Kinzer. Great subject. A great topic, given me, once again, a lot to think about. And thank you, everybody, for downloading and listening to this show. Once again, we appreciate your time and your attention. On behalf of Nikki Kinzer, I’m Pete Wright, and we’ll catch you next week right here on “Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast.”

Through Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast, Nikki Kinzer and Pete Wright strive to help listeners with support, life management strategies, and time and technology tips, dedicated to anyone looking to take control of their lives in the face ADHD.