“Generally, in our culture, we say something was the right decision if it was a success and the wrong decision if it was failure.”
One of the things I ask my highly-sensitive students often is:
How are you distributing your energy?
As a highly sensitive person (HSP), it’s important to know how to preserve and distribute your energy and be thoughtful on how you spend it. I like to refer to an HSP’s energy as emotional currency as a way to describe how HSP’s “spending” habits impact their emotional balance.
There are so many parts of our lives that can deplete our energy quickly if we’re not careful, from the stresses at work to giving too much of ourselves to others.
But just like spending $4 here and there at your favorite coffee shop, decision-making habits sneak up on us, and overtime can put us into emotional debt.
How decision-making impacts our energy levels
They say the average person makes about 35,000 decisions a day.
Some are consciously made and others are automatic, depending on our habits, daily routines, and even the way we think. Deciding to wake up (or not) when the alarm goes off is a decision we make every day.
Heading into work at the time your manager expects you might seem like it’s out of your control, but it’s ultimately your decision.
With 35,000 decisions a day, it’s hard to imagine where to find the energy to focus and find clarity on the hard, scary, and life-changing decisions.
From deciding to pursue a career to pursuing a romantic relationship, the decisions that lead to forks in the road and come with a level of risk and consequences (and sometimes wrong turns) require you to make a decision. If not, it just sits in the back of your mind, causing a sense of dissatisfaction and other negative feelings.
As an HSP, I started digging into how difficult decisions impact the highly sensitive. What I found was incredibly interesting and eye-opening.
But when it comes down to understanding an HSP’s greatest strengths and limitations, what holds HSPs back from making decisions or causing decision-making fatigue is not so surprising.
Below I provide an overview of how ineffective, indecisive decision-making can deplete our energy.
(Author note: Highly sensitive traits sit on a spectrum. Meaning, every HSP is unique. For the blog, I use generalizations. For instance, you might consider yourself a highly sensitive person, but you consider yourself empathetic.)
“Perfectionism is a dream killer, because it’s just fear disguised as trying to do your best.”
The fear of making a mistake can leave opportunities left on the table.
By fearing to make mistakes, you face the fear of the unknown. And without knowing exactly what will happen or not being certain that you will do something well can lead to the inability to make any decisions that come with a certain level of risk.
As a result, you might avoid starting a creative project, taking a job that you don’t feel qualified for (even though you are), or moving somewhere new.
After all, a new project could always go not as planned, or the job might not meet your expectations, or moving to a new city might make you feel homesick.
But to make big decisions, we have to get comfortable with letting what we can’t control simply unfold.
After all, not ever making a decision can prevent us from growing and keep us stagnant. Avoiding a decision can also be a mistake, especially if your goal is to continuously grow and feel fulfilled. For instance, staying in a job for too long will eventually lead to burnout and you won’t have the energy to make a change.
I talk a lot about the importance of clarity on this blog, but like anything, not moving forward with a decision because the outcome is not clear will only hold you back. The only thing you can be clear of is knowing what you really want — whether it works out or not.
When I was a young adult, it seemed like every time I went to make a hard decision, I had my mom’s voice in my head saying: “I told you so.”
Whether it’s from love or someone who doesn’t have your best interest in mind, people can easily sway your thought-process and make you believe that a decision you “should” make is the right decision.
Focusing too much on what others feel you should do is often tied with the need to please people. Being prone to people-pleasing can cause an HSP to be even more vulnerable to external opinions and advice.
In some cases, it’s not just from one person but a society as a whole. If you were also told to go to college, for instance, it’s likely you’d be persuaded to go to college even if you know it’s the wrong path for you.
Remember, other people’s opinions are just opinions. Everyone has their own opinion based on their experience and their own set of knowledge. Even the ones that know you the best and have your best interest in mind will offer an opinion, but it’s not always the right choice for you.
Listen always, but the ultimate decision-maker is your soul.
3. Too many options
Think of the last time you’ve been in the grocery store. Just picking out oatmeal offers a wide range ofoptions. Should you go with organic? A household brand or a new one? Should I buy the generic option and save $2?
We live in a world full of options. Let’s imagine you have the option to go back to college or take a high-paying job.
You can break this option down further: what college should I attend or what job should I take (if you were to get multiple offers).
Having the choice to choose might seem like a wonderful thing, but I find that sometimes it can muddy the waters and make decision-making even more difficult.
Instead of choosing, you might withdraw from even moving forward with a decision. In this example, maybe you decide to stay at your current job that pays okay-dollars.
I recently read The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman. In making big decisions, Freeman pulls a tremendous amount of insight from her faith, but you don’t have to be religious to enjoy this book and her soul-searching perspective.
My biggest takeaway from reading her book was her thoughts on being a beginner.
In my experience, I like to think of myself as a “late bloomer” with a lot of the choices I’ve made in my life. It took me until my 30s to finally (somewhat) know what I want to be when I “grow” up.
It’s much easier to be open to being a beginner when you’re very young. I’m talking 3rd grade — when you and all your peers are beginners. It’s exciting and you’re not jaded from the disappointment of not being as good as you thought you could be, or losing interest too quickly, or making a mistake and feeling discouraged (again, back to that sneaky thing called perfectionism).
Here’s the thing I felt Freeman spoke of well of. In every chapter or phase of our life, we are always a beginner at something. Whether it’s being a parent for the first time, starting your first day at a new job, being a newlywed, trying a new hobby, or cooking a new meal — we are constantly playing the role of the beginner.
If you haven’t been a beginner at something in a long time, ask yourself: Is there something holding me back from experiencing or trying something new?
5. The fear of following through
“The ability to go all in — and the knowledge that going all in is an option for everyone around us — is the crucial variable that makes so many decisions so very difficult.”
Lastly, there’s the fear of following through. Once you make a decision, a commitment follows. The idea of following through can be a really scary thing, especially if we’re struggling with finding clarity or have no idea what to expect once you do make the decision.
Here’s the thing: You can always change your mind. Especially when it comes to decisions that impact your well-being.
On Brene Brown’s podcast, she interviewed the author of Grit, Angela Duckworth on the importance of trying new things. She spoke about commitment and the idea that it’s always okay to change your mind or try a different path.
Duckworth shares a strategy she uses with her kids that if they try something new, such as a new sport, they must commit for at least six months before they make a decision to quit or not.
Creating a commitment plan takes the edge of, as well as builds resilience as it pushes you through the hard stages of being a beginner. That way, you don’t give up too easily or too soon.
But like many HSPs, you might feel like you’re not “gritty” enough if you don’t stick with something long term. If that’s the case, a commitment plan done ahead of time has the potential to ease the uncertainty, reduce the feeling of guilt, and open your heart to trying new things.
Decision-making questions to help you find clarity
When it comes down to it, making decisions can be scary. If you find that making decisions is a challenge for you, it’s important to find stillness, so you check in with yourself and see if you can identify any causes that are holding you back.
The 5 sneaky sensitive habits that cause decision-making challenges all have a common trait: fear.
Is fear holding you back? Is there a fear of:
Here are a few other questions you can ask yourself to find clarity in your decision-making process:
- Making a mistake?
- Letting other’s down?
- The pain of feeling regret?
- Looking like a fool?
- All of the above.
- Am I being led by love or pushed by fear?
- Is there an excitement within that you haven’t given yourself permission to explore?
- When I think of making a decision, how does it make my body feel?
- If I end up making the “wrong” decision, what am I willing to risk?
- What does my past experiences tell me about this?
- Is there a hurt you haven’t quite let go?
- A regret that’s been following you for so long you think it’s normal?
Lastly, when it comes to making a life-changing decision, the ultimate question is always: What do you really want?