162: Becoming More Decisive

Oct 10, 2023

Dr. Marie Murphy has discussed at length the kind of decisions you need to make in resolving or continuing an infidelity situation and what you need to factor in to make the decision that’s right for you. But why is it important to be decisive as you navigate infidelity, and how does it serve you to think of yourself as a decisive person? 

Your time and energy are limited, and when you don’t make decisions quickly and effectively, you’re wasting both. Infidelity situations are often fraught with difficult decisions, and people have real trouble deciding what they want. Sometimes people think there’s value in taking time to think things over. But is that actually objectively true?

Tune in this week to discover how to become more decisive and start considering the benefits of becoming more decisive. Dr. Marie Murphy discusses how humans tend to stall making decisions under the guise of considering their options, how you may have started to identify as someone who is indecisive, and how to start becoming more decisive.  

If you’re ready to take this topic deeper in a confidential and compassionate environment, you can schedule an introductory coaching session with Dr. Marie Murphy by clicking here!  

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • What it means to be a decisive person.

  • Why being decisive is valuable as a human being.

  • 3 patterns of people who display a resistance to being decisive.

  • Why there is no objective virtue or benefit in taking a longer time to think over your decisions.

  • How you may have come to identify as an indecisive person.

  • Why quick decisions don’t have to be haphazard.

  • Practical tips for becoming more decisive.


Listen to the Full Episode:


Featured on the Show:

You are listening to Your Secret Is Safe With Me, non-judgmental talk about infidelity with Dr. Marie Murphy. If you’re looking for new perspectives on complicated relationship issues, you’ve come to the right place. 

Hi everyone, I’m Dr. Marie Murphy.  I’m a relationship coach, and I help people who are engaging in anything they think counts as infidelity to deal with their feelings, clarify what they want, and make decisions about what they’re going to do.  No shame, no blame, no judgments.  A lot of the so-called advice out there for people who are cheating on their partners is little more than thinly veiled judgment, but that is not what I provide.  I believe you are entitled to guidance and support that respects the fullness of your humanity, and the complexity of your situation, no matter what you’re doing.  When you’re ready to resolve your infidelity situation in a way that’s truly right for you, I can help you do it.  I offer confidential, compassionate coaching via Zoom, which means we can work together no matter where you’re located.  You can schedule an introductory coaching session with me through my website, mariemurphyphd.com.  Together we will find you some relief, and a clear path forward.

Okay.  On this podcast, we’ve talked a lot about the kinds of decisions you may find yourself making, or wanting to make in relation to your infidelity situation.  And we’ve talked about some of the ways you can approach making decisions related to your infidelity situation.  

Today we’re going to step back a little bit and talk about why it can be tremendously beneficial to be more decisive, and why, in the service of that, you may want to start thinking about yourself as a person who has the capacity to be decisive, or more decisive.  We’re not going to talk about the specifics of decision-making, we’re going to talk about choosing to be more decisive as a precursor to making decisions.

So let’s get clear about what we mean by decisive, or by decisiveness.  Decisive can mean having the ability to make decisions quickly and effectively.  It can also mean settling an issue, and producing a definite result.  So we might say that being decisive entails making decisions quickly – or reasonably quickly – and effectively for the sake of settling issues and producing definite results.  On top of that, I tend to think about decisiveness as a matter of being WILLING to make decisions.  Or maybe it’s better to say that willingness to make decisions is a prerequisite to being decisive.

Now, there are a lot of reasons why being decisive may benefit us.  Our time and energy in any given day is limited, after all.  And our time alive is being limited, and we don’t know how limited!  And, within our finite time and energy, there are a lot of things we do that prevent us from doing other things, simply because it isn’t possible to do certain things simultaneously.  For instance, you can’t go to the chiropractor and the dentist at the same time.  At least I sure hope not.  You cannot simultaneously be in Bora Bora and Yosemite.  You cannot simultaneously be in a monogamous relationship with one person, and a monogamous relationship with another person.  Well, I mean, you can be in relationships with two people at once and SAY they’re both monogamous, but that’s usually what we call cheating.  And right now what I mean is that by definition, you technically cannot fulfill the promise of monogamy to two people at the same time.  As many people define monogamy, anyway.  And of course in many places, including the United States, you cannot be legally married to more than one person at once.

So our time is limited, our energy is limited, and there are some choices in life that once made, cut us off, at least temporarily, from experiencing alternatives.

These COULD seem like a really great reasons to get good at making decisions, and to intentionally cultivate your capacity to be more decisive.  And for some people, these ARE great reasons to be decisive.  Some people are like, “Well shit, if my time is limited, and my attention is limited, and my choices matter, I want to make choices that serve me well as efficiently as I can so that I can be really deliberate about what I give my precious time and energy to!”

But for other people, being decisive doesn’t sound appealing at all.  Some people are very resistant to the idea of being decisive.  And there are three things I see going on when people are resistant to being decisive.  Just to be clear, these are not definitive statements about how all humans are.  But they are patterns I’ve observed in coaching hundreds and hundreds of people who are grappling with their infidelity situations.

The first thing that’s often going on when people are hesitant to be decisive is that they think there is great value in taking time to think things over.  And I agree that there is value in taking time to think things over, IF you are clear on exactly what it is you are thinking over, exactly what it is you need to consider or evaluate or assess, and if you are clear on how much time you are willing to spend on “thinking things over.”  So often, people come to me and tell me they’ve been thinking over their infidelity situation and what they want to do about it for months or years, and when I ask them what they still need to consider after they’ve done all of this thinking, they’ll tell me they have no idea.

Dear listeners, I want to suggest that sometimes “thinking things over” is essentially stalling.  This is very similar to what we talked about last week in the episode about recklessness.  Some of us have gotten the message that it is VIRTUOUS to think important matters through very carefully before taking action.  I know.  I know this is a Thing.  But there is a big difference between thinking things through deliberately and systematically, and entertaining thoughts over and over and over again for no definite purpose.  This is something a lot of people get really mixed up about.  They lose sight of the possibility that the reason why we think it’s important to think things over thoroughly is to arrive at a clear decision, and they start to think that “thinking things over” is an end in and of itself.  

In addition to thinking that about things really carefully, or for a long time has an absolute benefit, a lot of us kinda believe that by thinking about something for a long time, a decision will make itself.  Or that as a result of all of our thinking, what we want will become so very obvious to us that making a decision will feel really easy and straightforward. 

If that’s what you’ve been thinking, I have liberating new for you.  Thinking through your options doesn’t make a decision.  Making a decision makes a decision.

The second thing that I see happening a lot when people are resistant to or suspicious of being decisive is that they’ve grown really attached to the identity of being indecisive.  That might sound weird to some of you, but I know that some of you are well aware that this is a Thing.  A lot of people out there are SURE that they are indecisive, and that’s just the truth of their being, and are sure that there’s nothing they can do about it.

And sometimes people come to this conclusion because they’ve had multiple experiences in life when they’ve assessed their own behavior as indecisive.  Or maybe somebody told them they were indecisive.  And then maybe that happened again and again, and then they decided, well, I guess I am an indecisive person.  I guess that’s a part of who I am.  And they started to make that part of their identity, or their sense of who they were, or a part of their self-concept.  

It's really important to be aware that we tend to LIKE having an identity.  Or a lot of us sure do, anyway.  We like having a coherent story of who we are.  We to tell ourselves a story of ourselves that makes sense to us.  And if being indecisive is part of who we think we are, we may kind of relish that – or at least, we may treat it as an established fact, and we may find comfort or reassurance in having this certainty about ourselves.  

And from that position, considering the possibility that we could actually be decisive if we wanted to be may seem like a THREAT TO WHO WE KNOW OURSELVES TO BE.  And that can seem like a very bad thing indeed.  Sometimes we really just want to know who we are and believe we can be certain about who we are, even if hanging onto some aspects of our identity doesn’t help us be more of who we want to become.

So in other words, some of us resist the idea of being more decisive because it just seems too foreign to us.  It just seems too unfamiliar, or too out of step with our established self-concept.

Finally, the third thing I see quite often when people resist being decisive is a fear of missing out, or FOMO, OR a fear of feeling FOMO!  That might sound like a mouthful, but I’m completely serious.  Some people tell me that they can’t make a decision because they are afraid that if they make a choice, they might feel FOMO in the future.  They might not be currently feeling FOMO, but they’re afraid they COULD.  And of course, some people are very currently afraid of missing out if they make a decision.  Maybe they fear missing out on specific things, or maybe they just fear the possibility of missing out on SOMETHING.

Now, these three things that I’ve mentioned are not mutually exclusive.  Often, people think there is great value in thinking things through really thoroughly, without defining what that means, AND they think of themselves as indecisive, AND they fear what they might miss out on as a result of making a decision.  And my theory is that there can be a causal relationship between these things!  If we tell ourselves that we have to think things through really carefully before we can make a decision, we’re not making a decision, and we can see that as evidence that we’re indecisive!  And when we are not in the habit of making decisions reasonably efficiently, the fear of what will happen when we make a decision can loom larger and larger.  And thus we may convince ourselves that we really do need to be concerned about FOMO.

Vicious cycles, people.  Vicious cycles.  

Here’s the thing.  It’s TRUE that by making a choice, you will be saying yes to something, and no to something else.  It’s TRUE that by choosing one option, or set of options, you will forgo others.  

But I want to suggest that this isn’t a problem at all.  In fact, it’s actually a GREAT thing.  Making clear choices about what you are going to devote your time and energy and focus to and what you will NOT devote your time and energy and focus to allows you to concentrate your energies on the things you value and care about and prioritize.  Making clear choices allows you to stop dispersing your energy, and focusing on things that are less important to you, or maybe aren’t really important to you at all.

Although we often fear being decisive because we’re afraid we’ll make a choice that would potentially not be to our liking, by being indecisive we are squandering our precious moments in life.  How on earth is that better than making a choice and risking not liking it?  If you make a choice you don’t like, you can always choose again.  And you stand to learn a lot and refine your sense of what’s important to you in the process.  Thinking things through indefinitely doesn’t yield those benefits.  

Before I go any further, let me make something absolutely clear.  If you LIKE thinking of yourself as someone who thinks it’s really important to think things through very carefully before making a choice, and you like what you’re getting out of thinking about yourself that way, great.  If you like thinking of yourself as someone who is really indecisive, and you like what you’re getting out of thinking of yourself that way, again, that’s terrific.  If you like using FOMO as a reason to hold off indefinitely on making decisions, fine.  If you are consciously choosing these ways of being for yourself, that is great.  The end.

BUT what I see ALL THE TIME is that who people think it’s just a fact that it’s better to think things through for a really long time, or think it’s just a fact that they’re indecisive, do NOT like what they’re getting from believing these things are true and then behaving as if these things are true.

I want to propose a few things that might sound totally radical to you.  First, you can consider something thoroughly and carefully without taking forever to do it.  You can make decisions in any amount of time you want to, and perhaps more importantly, you can get really good at making decisions you feel great about pretty quickly.  

Second, you can start thinking of yourself as a person who has the capacity to be decisive.  If you’re really attached to the idea that you are, by definition, indecisive, you can explore loosening your grip on that identity gradually.  You might be willing to consider the possibility that you aren’t ALWAYS indecisive.  You could consider that you have it in you to become more decisive.  Or, if you want, you can also just decide that you are going to be as decisive as possible from here on out.  And by telling yourself that, you’ve just given yourself evidence that you are right.

Third, you can re-think your relationship with FOMO.  For instance, you might decide to believe that even if by making a choice you are missing out on something, you are also gaining the opportunity to participate in something else.  You can let missing whatever you think you’re missing out on get less of your focus, and allow your enjoyment of whatever you’ve chosen to get more of your focus.  Our power to direct our focus is one of the greatest powers we have, so practice using it to your advantage!  If you think it’s a problem to be missing out on something, it’s going to become a problem for you.  But on the other hand, if you think about how great it is to be able to devote your attention to whatever you’ve chosen, you’re going to be able to enjoy what you’ve chosen to a much greater degree.  

Okay.  Now we’re going to switch gears a little bit and I’m going to tell you a little story about why more consideration isn’t necessarily better than efficient consideration.  This story does not have anything to do about infidelity, but it illustrates how we can be more decisive and why it may be really valuable to be more decisive.

Earlier this year, my spouse and I remodeled our living space.  And my spouse, bless him, did WAY more of the work on this project than I did.  We didn’t do any of the actual remodeling ourselves – we are not those people – but he did most of the dealing with the contractors and all of that.  And this degree of involvement on his part began long before the actual work started.  He was thinking about the planning a lot more than I was, and I was and am grateful for everything he did in that department.

Because I was so appreciative of everything he was doing to prepare for our remodel, I went along with some aspects of his approach that I was deeply skeptical of and not particularly inclined to participate in.  And of course, I also did this because I love him and appreciate that his approaches to doing things are different from mine at times, and I try to respect his approaches or at least humor them, at least to an extent.  Because I appreciate this sort of generosity from him, and I want to extend it to him, too.  But only to a point.  

MONTHS before the remodel actually started, he would recruit me to go look at tiles.  Or cabinets.  Or toilets.  Or paint.  Or sinks.  Or whatever.  He’d just want us to go look at stuff.  And when we would go look at these things I’d ask, “Well what are we trying to accomplish today?  Do you have something specific in mind that you’re trying to evaluate or research or compare?” and he’d be like, “Oh, we’re just looking.”  And I’d be like, “Well, what for?”  And he’d say, “Oh, just to get ideas,” or “Just to see what’s out there.”

And at first I was like, okay, fair enough, but then after a while, I was like, what are we actually accomplishing on these missions?  And his answer, initially, was that we were getting ideas.  And I was open to that for about a minute before deciding that the answer was actually NOTHING.  We were not getting ANYTHING out of just looking at stuff for the remodel.

And so, after what I considered to be more than enough of this “just looking” approach, I said, “I am not going back to any of these stores until we are ready to make decisions, and when we go back, we will make decisions during that visit to each store, unless we have a super compelling reason not to.”

And so that’s what we did.  We committed to making decisions quickly and efficiently, and we did.  That doesn’t mean we made decisions HAPHAZARDLY.  We didn’t.  We just didn’t drag out the decision-making process beyond what was absolutely necessary.  Instead of endlessly wondering what questions we should be asking ourselves about the various things we needed to buy, we asked people what questions we should be considering before we made a purchase.  We asked for recommendations from people with specialized knowledge.  We sought out guidance from our contractor.  But we did all of these things with the goal of making suitable choices efficiently, rather than allowing any or every decision to become an endless project.  

But any of the decisions that we made could easily have become endless projects.  We could have gotten sucked into reading every single review that has ever been posted online about particular appliances.  We could have switched our criteria for making choices every other day.  We could have gotten lost for months in the various different shades of white paint that are on the market today.  

But ultimately, my priority was to pick out a shade of white paint – and pick out so many other things – that I was going to be reasonably happy with, and to do it as efficiently as possible so that I didn’t have to spend any more of my life thinking about white paint than I absolutely had to.

The goal, after all, wasn’t to turn the remodel into an endless project, or a major time and energy suck.  The project took long enough, even though it wasn’t endless!  And it took up plenty of time and energy, even though I tried to be pretty ruthless about not letting it take up TOO much time and energy.  The goal was to get the remodel done as soon as was reasonably possible, and to get it done well.  Not necessarily perfectly, but well enough.  This might sound pretty obvious, but the goal was NOT to keep the remodel going for an indefinite amount of time.

And in order to meet our goals, and avoid the fate that we wanted to avoid, we had to make a LOT of decisions, and make them efficiently.

I want to suggest that the same is true of your infidelity situation.  You probably want to bring your situation to some kind of resolution.  I know you may think that in order to get there you have to think things through really carefully, but even if you believe that, what you probably ultimately want is to stop thinking things through, and actually make some decisions and move forward.  Right?  Isn’t that what you want?  If it isn’t what you want, that’s okay!  If what you want is NOT to resolve your infidelity situation, but to have it as a source of unending confusion and drama in your life, that is your prerogative.  If you want to choose that, I will love you all the same, but as always, my exhortation is that you make that choice as consciously as you possibly can!  

But my guess is that you probably DON’T want to stay in a loop of thinking about your infidelity situation without actually making any choices or changes forever.  My guess is that you DON’T want to let your infidelity situation and wondering what you should do about it dominate your life forever.  Why would you?  You’ve got other things to do!  You want to get busy enjoying your love life, instead of dealing with difficulties within your love life.  You want your love life to take up a certain amount of your bandwidth, but not all of your bandwidth. 

If you want to get somewhere different, if you want to be somewhere other than you are in relation to your infidelity situation, the way forward is to make decisions.

Sometimes my clients ask me if everyone has as hard of a time deciding what they want to do about their infidelity situation and then actually doing it as they do.  And when clients ask me this question, I always hesitate to answer this question, for two reasons.  One is, when you’re dealing with a situation in your life that you find challenging, it doesn’t really matter if other people find that situation less challenging than you do.  What matters is allowing yourself to be where you are, and being willing to work with yourself as you are.  And the other reason is that whether something is easy or hard or anywhere in between is always a matter of our thinking.

But, I will tell you that my observation is that some folks DO have an “easier” time dealing with their infidelity situation than others.  And when I say this, I do not mean that these folks would tell you that dealing with their infidelity situation was “easy.”  But some people do grapple with their challenges more efficiently than others, and with less total suffering. 

And as you may have guessed, given what we’re talking about today, the general difference is that folks who are willing to be decisive tend to have an easier time dealing with their situation efficiently, and folks who are reluctant to be decisive, or are RESISTANT to being decisive, tend to have a harder time dealing with their situation efficiently.

In general, folks who have an easier time dealing with their infidelity situations believe in their capacity to make decisions, and the benefit of making decisions.  And folks who have a harder time dealing with their infidelity situations tend to question their ability to make decisions, and the value of making decisions.

And what I want to suggest is that you can be more decisive too, if you want to be.  Even if you haven’t thought of yourself as a decisive person in the past, you can start to think of yourself as a decisive person, or as a person who has the capacity to be decisive, starting right now.  AND I want to suggest that the first step in being more decisive is deciding that you can be more decisive.

Because as good old Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, either way, you are right.”

Now I know some of you are thinking, well, how can I be more decisive if I don’t know how to be more decisive?  And this is a fair question!  A lot of us don’t have great processes in place for making decisions, and don’t know how to manage our monkey minds when they act up and get in the way of us making decisions.  But what I want you to consider for today is all of the decision-making tactics or techniques in the world aren’t going to be fully useful to you unless you believe that you have it in you to make decisions.  

What I’m about to say might sound simple to the point of being simplistic, but it really isn’t.  When we are WILLING to be decisive, it becomes easier to BE decisive, and to make decisions efficiently.  When we believe there is VALUE in being decisive, it becomes a LOT easier to make decisions efficiently.  If you are committed to believing that you are indecisive, or committed to believing that there’s something to be gained from endlessly thinking things through, or something to be gained from leaning into your FOMO, none of the decision-making techniques in the world are going to get you very far. 

So what I encourage you to do today is think about what you get out of making decisions quickly and/or efficiently.  And don’t tell me you don’t ever make decisions quickly and efficiently.  I’m SURE you do.  I’m willing to bet that you brushed your teeth this morning.  And if you didn’t, I’m willing to bet that you brushed your teeth at least once yesterday.  I’m willing to be that if you’ve left your home today, you put clothes on before you did so.  How long did it take you to make those decisions?  Probably not very long.  So think about times when you’ve made decisions efficiently or quickly.  What have you gotten out of making decisions this way?  What are the benefits you experienced?  Have there been any drawbacks to making decisions quickly or efficiently?  If there have been, have the benefits outweighed the drawbacks?  If so, how so?  And if not, how so?

Now, I also want you to think about times when you have NOT made decisions quickly or efficiently.  Have you gotten anything that you liked out of making decisions slowly and inefficiently?  You may have!  And if you have, that’s important to be aware of.  If you DO note that you’ve liked something that you’ve gotten out of making decisions slowly and inefficiently, ask yourself why you liked it.  The point is just to get clear on what’s working for you and what isn’t.  And then of course, ask yourself if there were any drawbacks to making decisions slowly and inefficiently.  Once you’ve identified what they are, ask yourself how they stack up to the benefits.  

The decisions we make and the way we make them have a tremendous impact on our experience of life.  So gaining awareness of how you relate to decisions, and potentially deciding to relate to making decisions in a different way can be some of the best things you ever do for yourself.  And they’re definitely some of the most valuable things you can do if you want to make changes in your infidelity situation.

All right, folks!  That’s it for today.  If you would like my help making decisions in relation to your infidelity situation, let’s work together.  Your power lies in your willingness to make choices.  I am here to help you cultivate your willingness to make choices, and with that, your power to live the love life that you most want to live.  And why would you want to fritter away any more of your precious time doing anything else?  When you’re ready to get to work, you can schedule an introductory coaching session with me through my website, mariemurphyphd.com.  I can’t wait to meet you.

Thank you all so much for listening!  Have a great week.  Bye for now.


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