Payton Luokkala: Indecisiveness and how to treat it

Tuesday, September 8, 2015 - 7:10pm

I was alone in the aisle, looking at Camelbak and Nalgene plastic, where I could not hide that I had a problem. My mom, sister and I were scoping out Target before leaving for school. I needed a new water bottle and my sister wanted a bigger pot for her plant. The discussion in my head was so loud I didn’t hear when my mom entered the aisle, finding me crouched, examining the flip-top lid of my predator, my brain in the fetal position.

“I don’t know … I just don’t know.”

I don’t remember exactly when it started or what it stemmed from. If I had to guess, I would say a fear of failing, the future or the butterfly effect; I’m dramatic that way. Whatever the cause, I had developed a behavior that fogged my brain: I was indecisive.

Indecisiveness can be a destructive behavior if extreme, quite simply because it stops decisions from being made.

All my life, I’ve made choices slowly and deliberately. No pros and cons lists, but it took time. After getting my college acceptance letters, I became even slower. Never before had a choice held this much importance. I fell into a haze. If any one decision could be this important, every other decision I made could no longer be taken lightly. I clung to every option I was presented like a child in a grocery store clinging to a stranger that looks like his or her mother.

Which brings me back to Target. I had it in my head that a portable container held the key to having a good college year — a good future. With a bottle in each hand, I questioned: Did I want my future to be 20 or 32 oz.?

“Payton, you’ve been here half an hour.”

I tire my mother. I grabbed the first one I saw and walked away, though I was tempted to return with each step.   

Problems only get bigger, choices more important. My palms sweat a little bit just thinking about it. The priority, however, needs to be getting rid of this incessant deliberation when extreme. I, for instance, can no longer decide what to do with my arms when I sleep. While the behavior itself isn’t always threatening, indecisiveness is a symptom of many mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety disorder. In addition, if you can never make a choice, life will never go anywhere.

However, there are some ways in which you can help yourself (ways only previously tested by me).

First, do not believe in the butterfly effect. What I have for dinner tonight is unlikely to affect the grades of my Spanish class. Second, take the time to remember this, but don’t take the time to make simple decisions. If you finish shampoo, run into the store, grab any bottle and run to the cashier. Test yourself. Third, on the bigger choices, be patient with yourself. Acknowledge when a decision is bigger than most, but be proactive. For example, declaring a major is imperative, but also a decision big enough to spend time on. Finally, give yourself wiggle room. If there are no choices that are entirely appealing, make your own. Consider a double major, because the next best thing to not choosing is choosing two.

Payton Luokkala can be reached at payluokk@umich.edu.