Paralyzed By Choice

Anyone who’s known me for a while can confirm I’ve always been an assertive and decisive person (my younger brother would probably say bossy, but he’s not the one writing here, so we’re going with assertive). People could rarely, if ever, talk me out of a decision I’d made, and it was not a shock to see “self-assurance” rounding out the top 5 of my StrengthFinders assessment. Making choices is kind of my thing.

Imagine my angst a year ago when I found myself constantly struggling to make choices. Big choices were hard, but even a simple choice could stop me in my tracks.

I slowed down on making choices, not because I was weighing options, but because I felt paralyzed. I was afraid of making the wrong move, which was very unlike me.

Over lunch with a friend one day, I admitted my newfound problem with indecision. “I was having the same problem around your age,” she laughed. Great! So I wasn’t crazy, I was a normal 30-something year old, I guess.

By the time we finished our pizzas (and affogatos, of course), I realized the aim of my 20s was not necessarily what I desired in my 30s. In my 20s, I suppose I had something to prove to the world. At this point I had experienced a lot of what I wanted, which was awesome, but left me wanting something different.

The problem was I had no idea what I was aiming for. Proverbs’ “When there’s no vision, the people get out of control,” was a real thing.

I’m a big fan of developing and revisiting a life plan, so once my vision was sorted, I was ready to get back into being a decision making queen.

These 7 thoughts helped me get the decisions flowing:

1. God is developing your character.
Much of the time last year, I was frustrated because I was waiting for God to tell me what to do. In everything. Now don’t get me wrong, I know there are decisions God absolutely needs to give us direction on, and I trust we can hear His voice in those moments.

God doesn’t actually have to tell us every single choice we should make though. He is interested in the formation of Christ’s character in us, not dictating every little action. We are meant to “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13 NIV).

If we’re letting Him do the work of changing us at our core, then we can trust we’re able to make good, God-approved choices.

2. Establish a focus in life.
Allowing God to work on our character will often mean the things we desire will change. Psalm 37:4’s “he will give you the desires of your heart” doesn’t necessarily mean God gives us everything we want. More often, I believe God literally places different desires in our hearts.

Much of my decision hesitation was probably a result of wanting different things now than I did 5 years ago. Taking the time to re-establish a focus helps with what you’ll decide to do or not do.

3. Grow your no.
I’ve never forgotten a phrase I heard a pastor say years ago: "Grow your no so you can bless your yes.”

Whether we realize it or not, when we decide to say yes to something, we’re saying no to something else. We are not unlimited in our energy, time or emotions, so it’s important to consider where we distribute our limited resources.

Know what you’re called and graced to do in this season and focus on that. Saying no to the things we don’t need to do means our yes can be a resounding one.

4. Establish a routine.
There have been many articles written over the last few years about people in high capacity, constant decision-making roles, and what they do to make life a bit easier. Many of them have a uniform, habitually eat the same thing, largely organize blocks of time, and the like.

Donning a grayscale uniform (like me) may not be your thing, but I’d encourage you to find what decisions in your life could be automated. Establishing a routine saves you from decision fatigue, and gives you the mental margin you need to make important decisions more effectively.

5. Prayer and guidance from others.
The Bible tells us that plans are well established with solid counsel (Proverbs 15:22). Sometimes we just have to admit we don’t have it all together and that we probably never will.

6. Make a decision and don't keep second-guessing yourself.
Hesitation on small choices doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but the more we’re bombarded with decisions to make, the more they stack up. 

Do not avoid making decisions. Failing to make a choice still has consequences. Make the choice and own it.

7. Remember God is actually sovereign.
Like, really. All our choices and decisions are contained within His plan, and He makes our paths straight. It helps to remember that we’re not striving for perfection, but maturity in Christ.


Ebone Bell

Eboné is an LA girl being blown away in the Windy City. When she's not reading or writing (or staring at blank pages), you can find her at church, developing small group Bible studies, or searching for coffee. Follow her on instagram @ebonebell.   

Join the discussion

Kelley O'Brien-Green October 24, 2017 at 9:29pm

I love your article Ebone. It really helped and gave me peace to learn how to move forward. Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts to pour our God's wisdom over other women.

Alice Emor-Kan October 10, 2017 at 10:08pm

Thank you so much for this post. It feels like you have written this specifically for me!

Marie Pena September 29, 2017 at 2:07am

That was really powerful! I felt like you were talking about me personally.
I totally get feeling like we just spin our wheels sometimes and need to change things up. Sometimes we need to change it up and step outside our comfort zone. I am a Certified Nurse Assistant and have my Certification in ASCP Phlebotomy and would like to go further but feel stuck. I have such great compassion and love my work never been afraid of hard work. Anyone know where to point me would be awesome!! Thank You

Julie September 19, 2017 at 11:56pm

Thanks for your writing on Paralyzed by Choice. This really is helping me with a choice I desire to do but struggling if it is what I want or God. I often second guess my choices/decision and then eventually talk my self out of doing it. I too want to make the right, God pleasing decision. Thanks again, I believe this is confirmation to activate/ propel.

Crystal September 18, 2017 at 12:11pm

Great tips Ebone. I certainly have been struggling to make decisions and its frustrating. Your article is very helpful.

Tecora September 17, 2017 at 12:04pm

God truly used you to bless me and your article is spot on. I especially love the part that says, "it's important to remember we're not aiming for perfection, but to have our character transformed to Christ's"! Thanks a lot!

Jessica September 14, 2017 at 1:13am

Thank you so much for writing and sharing this, I really felt with this and still am learning this process of decision making. I couldn't agree more with the points you made. Its nice to know I'm not alone!

Rose Gordon September 13, 2017 at 11:12am

I do resonate with these points you've made. It definitely hits home and enforcing these reminders in my own life I believe will yield peace where at times there was chaos.

Thank you!