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Indecision

Take a read of this poem: ‘The Road Not Taken’ By Robert Frost


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveller, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;


Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,


And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.


I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.


Why am I indecisive?

  • Common: fear of failure… fear developed from nurturing?

    • Clinical psychologist, Dr Carla Marie Manly says ‘Those raised in environments where decision making is seen as an opportunity to learn and grow tend to feel more comfortable making choices.’

    • Through practice and progressive attempts, there could be less indecision

    • ‘When decision making becomes associated with making errors or ‘bad choices,’ indecisiveness often results.’

    • The pressure exerted on an individual by parents, peers or even themselves may lead to indecision (Rassin, 2004)

    • For example: a parent’s criticism of a child’s decision could lead to avoidance of decision making in the future - because of the fear of being seen as a failure/feeling disappointed, and the negative feelings associated with it

    • The scale: a ‘good’ decision increases self worth; a ‘bad’ decision leads to self criticism. Over time we can restrict ourselves to the centre of the scale: to avoid deciding.

    • Carol Dweck’s mindset theory can also be used to explain this: a growth mindset means that you are able to learn from experiences and view them as learning opportunities; someone with a fixed mindset may stress on the current situation and thus be unable to decide what to do


  • ‘And be one traveller, long I stood’

Extending thinking time- procrastination & contemplating


  • By being indecisive, decisions doesn’t need to be made in an instant, so less stress is exerted

  • The avoidance of stress is one of the motivations to ‘procrastinate’, or rather to avoid making a decision that could lead to a bad pathway to the future

  • In a biological sense, one could be avoiding the decision now so consequences from those choices will not take effect


  • ‘And looked down one as far as I could, To where it bent in the undergrowth;’

Uncertain outcomes

  • Some individuals do not have enough knowledge about the area, in which they feel the need to learn more before taking action (Reed, 1985)

  • When outcomes are evaluated and they seem reasonably equal in pros and cons, some may fall into indecision when they do not have the courage or will to make a decision


Can indecision be problematic?

  • In some cases, eg. when it prevents individuals from organising their thoughts and environments, as there are multiple pathways - this may lead to restructuring and over categorising thoughts (Tallis, 1997 ; Germejs & De Boeck, 2002)

  • Being indecisive for long periods of time could mean a lower self-confidence, which can be rebuilt over time and practice through stepping out of your comfort zone

  • Whilst it could be symptoms of other mental health conditions, such as ADHD, depression or PTSD

  • In severe cases, indecision could be a diagnosable mental disorder: aboulomania (psychologists define it as indecisiveness to the point where it becomes an obsession and severely impacts daily life.)



Should I avoid being indecisive? What can I do?


Every path is the right path, everything in the past could’ve been anything else.

  • As an individual

    • Indecision is a neutral property! (it is not always a bad thing)

    • If it helps, weigh out some pros and cons: sometimes listing it out can help organise your thoughts

    • Once you make a decision, try looking forward instead of dwelling on the same decision!


  • As a group

    • When there are different choices and opinions expressed in a group setting, it is important to consider and respect other people’s opinions

    • ‘Teamwork is dreamwork!’ often times we stress on the choices in front of us, but do remember there are more choices in the future - this means making one decision will not lead you to a dead end, but lead you further!


‘And that has made all the difference.’

In the end, does the poet know which path is the ‘right choice’ or the ‘one less travelled? The only option, it seems, is to move forward…


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