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  1. Blog
  2. The Pipeline
  3. March 25, 2024

5 Ways to Overcome Decision Paralysis

Plus, the importance of supporting the whole person at work

The Pipeline header image
Photo by InHerSight

Conversations about careers come with the territory of working at InHerSight. Whether during work or in my personal life, I’m almost always talking to someone about jobs, money, gender, and what it means to be fulfilled, or not, through the work we do.

Lately, many of those conversations have centered on decision paralysis, or what happens when we can’t decide between multiple options so we eventually end up doing nothing at all. You can think of decision paralysis as simply feeling stuck—or you can do what I do, and reread Sylvia Plath’s famous fig tree quote for the umpteenth time. (Depressing but recommended.)

What I’m hearing from friends, who all seem to be wandering right now, is that there are competing feelings happening: People are really yearning for change—new careers, new cities, new connections. But such changes are daunting, and they require an immense amount of bravery, which, let’s be honest, doesn’t sound like the sunniest option. Who ever looked at a mountain and said, Thank goodness it’s so steep?

Those feelings are completely valid, especially in the greater context of our reality. We’re still regrouping after the start of a global pandemic, which has uprooted careers, lives, and dreams. I’ve heard many 20- and 30-somethings voice angst over those “lost” years in their “prime.” There’s immense pressure to have your next choice be the perfect one—perhaps because it feels like those exploratory years were stolen. Or, perhaps, because you just really need a win.

But that desire to choose “right” is what causes you to freeze.

I’ve felt all of this, and I won’t lie and say I’ve thawed every worry over whether I’m on the correct path. I’m evolving. However, I have become really good at breaking out of decision paralysis. That’s what I want to share here. Whether you’re considering a career change or major life change, here’s how I talk myself through the big what-ifs and start making moves:

Honor your feelings

There are likely a variety of emotions keeping you in place. Temporarily remove the pressure to “do something” and let yourself be upset or overwhelmed. Grieve, even, if life doesn’t feel like it’s going the direction you expected. When I feel this way, I like to go for a hike, run, or put on headphones and wander around thrift stores. Whatever your therapy, the goal should be to get to a place of equilibrium, where two things are true at once. I like the phrase, “I really wanted that, and this could also be good.”

Limit your focus

Moving past the feelings stage, start lowering the bar on what you hope to achieve. I think of my life as a giant pie, sliced into segments like work, friendships, romance, health, etc. Realistically, I only expect significant growth in, maybe, two areas at a time (because I’m human). Even if I feel everything needs a makeover, I pause efforts in some arenas to give others the time and attention they deserve. This is also a great way to start taking some options off the table. It’s not “never”—it’s “not now.”

Start small

Once you have your focus areas, create small goals. So you’ve decided Summer 2024 is the season of your career glow-up—maybe you want to change careers entirely even. Awesome. Create goals around setting up informational interviews, networking, talking to your boss about trying new projects, working with other teams, or exploring your passions. The more intimidating the overarching dream is, the smaller I like to make the initial steps. Then I can tell myself, “It’s just a quick coffee chat with an interesting person on a topic I’m curious about,” instead of, “I’m overhauling my career.”

Keep track of your progress

Amid major change, it can be easy to overlook signs of our own growth. Find a way that works for you to keep track of how much you’ve achieved. For instance, one area I’m currently focusing on is physical health, so in the margins of my weekly planner, I document my runs, walks, or yoga sessions. Occasionally, I’ll flip through the weeks to see all of the tiny stars next to each day, congratulating myself on the consistency I see there. Then I reflect on how it makes me feel—better, worse, energized, depleted—and whether I need to pivot again. I’m a work in progress.

Lean into your own hype

Hot Girl Walks went viral for a reason. Positivity motivates us. I keep a list of favorite affirmations in my notes app (unsurprisingly, the fig tree quote is not there), and yes, I did spend part of the weekend listening to One Direction bangers. Figure out whatever boosts you and lean way in. A common mental framework is that growth is a struggle, and that can be true, but working on yourself can and should also be joyful, because prioritizing yourself is ultimately a good thing. Create that joy.

That’s all for now. You can discover more about self-reflection, affirmations, celebrating small wins, and setting realistic goals, and more on our blog. Cheers to an April of discovery!

Managing Editor, InHerSight

A Perspective We Love

Polina Panich, Chief People Officer at our partner company InfoTrust, on the company's journey toward gender equality. Read more thoughts from company leaders on how their organizations support women at work here.

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