Dear Rachel,

Over the last 10 years or so, my husband and I have saved up to buy a home of our own. I am looking forward to this new stage. However, I am also filled with anxiety and indecision. So much so, that I sometimes wish we didn’t have the money to buy the house at all. I can’t face having to decide which neighborhood to buy the house in, what kind of house we should buy, what price range we should choose, which kind of mortgage we should get . . . I am afraid of making a decision that I’ll later regret. The truth is that I always find it difficult to make decisions, even relatively small ones like choosing a new outfit or settee. Only now, because the stakes are higher, I am finding it harder.

Can you advise me how to make the decision-making process easier?

Many thanks,

Undecided


Dear Undecided,

What you are describing sounds like a very painful situation.

You have a very special character trait: cautiousness. First, let’s look at the advantages of having this character trait. It means that you don’t spend money recklessly and fall into debt unnecessarily. It I am afraid of making a decision that I’ll later regretmeans that you make sure to look at all options before you make a decision, so you act responsibly. And it also means that you seek advice before taking action, hence your question.

However, as with all character traits, there needs to be a middle path, a path of balance. At the moment you find yourself on the extreme end of caution, which leads to frustration, stagnation, and the feeling of being stuck in one place.

You say that you feel this decision-making anxiety even when buying a product which is cheaper and involves less risk, like buying an outfit or a sofa. That means that you feel chained by the fear of doing something wrong. Let’s look at some of the thoughts that may be causing you to feel stuck when having to make a choice.

Any decision is better than no decision

It’s almost as if you have a maxim emblazoned on the wall of your mind: “No decision is better than a wrong decision.”

This mindset reminds me of a story: There was once a Russian farmer who was happily tilling his field, when the czar of Russia came by in his carriage. He stepped out and handed four sticks over to the surprised farmer.

“W‑what h‑have I done to deserve this?” stammered the farmer.

“The four sticks are for you to plant in the soil. Wherever you plant them, the area in between will be yours.”

The farmer couldn’t get over his luck. He planted the first stick and walked a while. He was about to stick in the second but then reconsidered, thinking that if he walked further, even more soil could be his. So he continued walking. He was about to plant the stick again but then reconsidered, thinking that if he continued walking, he could acquire even more land. This indecision happened every time he wanted to plant the stick in the soil.

So, the story goes, he’s still walking . . .1

Likewise, you may feel so afraid of making the wrong decision that you have decided to make no decision at all.

In fact, making a decision moves you to a better stage in your life. If you make a decision which you later appreciate, then it’s certainly good. But if you make a decision which brings you difficulty, then you can use it as a springboard for growth by learning from it. Let’s say you buy a cream outfit, and then you find that the color doesn’t suit you. You’ll know for next time that cream is not your color, and you can choose a different outfit.

How can you prevent pain in your life?

Another statement that may be preventing you from making choices is “By staying where I am, I can prevent myself from feeling pain in life.”

As you can see, the opposite is true. When you don’t make decisions, you may be preventing the pain of mistakes, but you don’t prevent the pain of feeling stuck and stagnant.

Remember that the outcome is in the hands Making a decision moves you to a better stage in your lifeof the One Above. Think about the story of Bilaam, the non-Jewish prophet who wanted to curse the Jews. He had all the tools to kill the Jews—he knew the exact moment when G‑d would get angry, so that he could curse the Jews effectively. But despite all his planning, G‑d didn’t get angry at that time, and He turned Bilaam’s curse into a blessing. This teaches us that we can plan all we want, but if something is meant to happen, it will happen anyway.2

Sometimes we think we can “outsmart” G‑d by doing a lot of research before making a decision. In fact, all the research in the world won’t help us if a challenge is meant to occur. And if we are meant to make a profitable decision, then even if we don’t ask 20 people for advice, we will still earn the profit. Obviously, this doesn’t absolve us from the responsibility of making good choices.

What are you afraid of?

Another thing to ask yourself is: what am I afraid will happen if I make the wrong decision? Will I lose respect from the people I love? Will I feel like I’m losing control over my life? Will I lose the feeling of security?

Let’s say you fear losing approval of someone you love if you make the wrong decision. But by not making a decision, you are also losing the approval of some people! Some people won’t be too impressed by the fact that you have money saved but you haven’t done anything with it yet. So, doing nothing and not buying won’t help you gain others’ approval.

Let’s say you fear losing control or security. Then you can ask yourself whether the feeling of control or security is more important to you than the joy of moving ahead in life. Furthermore, control and security are very relative. You can also feel secure knowing that you took control of your life and made a responsible decision.

Decide to decide

Whichever option you decide on, the most Control and security are very relativeimportant thing is that you do just that—decide. If you continue weighing your options indefinitely, you will be like the person who stands in the Paris train station the whole day deciding whether to go to Nice or Toulouse. If he goes to Nice, he will have the advantages and disadvantages of Nice. And if he goes to Toulouse, he will have the advantages and disadvantages of Toulouse. But if he stays in the train station, he has neither the advantages of Toulouse nor the advantages of Nice. He’s just living in no man’s land, wasting time.

The same is true for you: If you don’t make a decision, then you may find yourself in the same position you are now, renting a house in another 30 years’ time. However, if you do make a decision, at least you will be moving forward in your life. You may encounter difficulties, but you will also encounter joy.

If you have optimism and faith that G‑d is leading the way and directing you, then you are sure to find blessing in your life.

I wish you much success,

Rachel