Second-Guessing. Seven Steps Toward Getting Out of Your Own Way

Let’s say you’ve got a decision to make.  Maybe a new treatment that your doctor has recommended.  Or you’re deciding between two health insurance plans.  Or any of those decisions that often feel like a fork in the road.



Second-Guessing Can Keep You Stuck in One Place 


So you did your homework… you got advice… you evaluated the alternatives… you zeroed in on the best solution…


Ready to move?  Not quite… You turn it over and over in your mind.  Looking for more data.  Asking more questions.  Crossing every t and dotting every i, and then looking for yet another t to cross.


In other words, second guessing.   And as a result, sitting uncomfortably on the fence when it’s time to move.  Most likely, feeling stressed out.


On one hand, you’re wondering if second guessing is that “still small voice” of intuition telling you to hold off on making that decision.  And following your intuition can be a good thing.  On the other hand, maybe you’ve been following more than one still small voice.  So many, in fact, that you don’t know which one to pay attention to anymore.


So here you are.  Stuck.  You know you need to get started.  And you will.  Soon.  But one more question…


Second-guessing can take you way beyond being cautious and thoughtful and drop you off in analysis paralysis.


But there’s a way out.


If you’ve got a decision to make and you’re caught in the cycle of second-guessing, here an approach to gearing up to take action.


First, ask yourself a question:  What’s holding me back from going with what I think is the best decision?  The answer, most likely, is fear.


Now, here’s what to do:


Don’t fight the fear.  It’s normal to experience fear when you have a decision to make.  Let yourself be human.  If you stop fighting your own feelings, you’ll have that much more energy left to focus on your next steps.  Take a deep breath and say to yourself: “Hello fear.  Come on in and let’s have a talk.”


Get perspective on your fear.  Start with asking yourself: What’s the worse thing that can happen if I make the wrong decision?  Would a wrong turn be a setback that could be set right? Or would it be a catastrophe?  And while you’re at it, consider the risk of not making a decision.

Having a perspective on the potential impact of your decision might help you to dial down some of those anxious feelings.


Review your decision-making process.  If you haven’t done this already, you might want to go off by yourself and outline the process you went through to get to your decision.  Did you fully consider all the alternatives?  Look at the pros and the cons?  Consider the risks and the benefits?  Taking the time to review your decision-making process can give you some additional reassurance on your decision, or show you where you need to do more thinking.


Recognize your own intuition.  What’s your gut say on this?  If you’re not sure, ask yourself if all that second-guessing is more about making a decision or talking yourself out of the decision that feels like the right one?  It might help to think back to other scary decisions you’ve made, and how you were feeling when you settled on the best option.  Been here before?  If so, how did you help yourself take the ball and run with it?


Ask yourself: Can I be 100% sure?  Here’s yet another perspective on second-guessing.  If that decision is all about making the absolute perfect 100% decision and refusing to settle for less, your expectations may be unrealistic.  Depending on the specific situation, being 80% may be as close as you can get to perfection.  And some faith may be involved – including trusting the healthcare professionals that have come through for you in the past.


Get emotional support. Is there someone you can talk to about whatever fears are getting in the way of making your decision?  Sure, you’ve had lots of conversations about the decision.  But have you discussed your feelings about the decision?  Talk with a friend or family member who is okay with talking about emotions.  This might also be a time to reach out to a mental health professional.  It’s always easier to jump when you’ve got support in place.


Have an alternate route in mind.  If you’re one of those people who needs to have Plan B – and even Plan C – clearly identified before you make a move, then honor that need.  Know where you can go next if the choice you make doesn’t pan out the way you were expecting or hoping.


Second-guessing can keep you stuck.  Recognize when you’re getting in your own way.  Trust your decision-making process and your instincts.  Get support.  And then take action.