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16 Examples of Indecision

Indecision is an inability to make a decision in a timely manner. The following are illustrative examples.

Last Responsible Moment

Last responsible moment is a strategy that involves delaying decisions and actions until they are required. Things quickly change and making decisions too early can be suboptimal. For example, if you ask a child what they want to be when they grow up and they say they don't know yet, this is an extremely reasonable answer. Last responsible moment is often confused with indecision.

Do Nothing Strategy

In some cases, a decision is to do nothing at all. This is often your best move and should not be confused with indecision. If you hear a strange noise outside your cabin in the countryside, simply waiting and listening to obtain more information could be your best strategy. A conscious decision to do nothing is not indecision. Likewise, indecision is not a decision to do nothing.


Overthinking is the process of considering too many variables in a decision such that it becomes too complex a problem to solve in any satisfactory way. For example, a person buying shampoo who carefully examines the label and searches for the ingredients and investigates all of their health implications until the decision becomes a major project. This can be solved with first principles. For example, an individual concerned about the health impact of shampoo may establish a principle that the product they buy must be made from edible materials such as olive oil.

Information Overload

Information overload is a decision that involves analysis of complexity. For example, the decision to sign up for a social media account may be quite complex if you want to understand the app's privacy policy. This requires a way to reduce the complexity such as a sanity check.

Risk Aversion

Indecision can be caused by risk aversion because decisions commonly involve risk taking. For example, an individual who has a fear of flying may take longer to book a flight because the decision is surrounded in dread risks.


Indecisiveness is a habit or character trait whereby an individual tends to have trouble making decisions. This can be related to overthinking, risk aversion, cognitive dissonance or a fear of being wrong.


Indecision can be caused by a general laziness whereby an individual or team find it difficult to build the motivation or discipline required to tackle a decision. For example, a student who simply puts off a decision on their academic major because they don't feel motivated and lack the self discipline to make decisions that are required.

Big Thinking

Big thinking is the invalid assumption that a decision needs to be permanent, big and all encompassing. For example, a student who assumes their choice of major will forever doom them to a particular life and career path without seeing that any decision now can be changed later. Making a small decision that gives you future flexibility and builds on your experience is often preferable to a gigantic 10 year plan that is set in stone.

Window of Opportunity

Indecision may result from a short window of opportunity whereby an individual is unable to make a decision in the time available. For example, an opportunity to say something to an executive you meet in an elevator whereby you have about 30 seconds to decide what to say and say it.

Fast Moving Situations

Fast moving situations are high speed activities such as driving that require fast decisions. The smallest amount of indecision in these situations may have extremely negative consequences. In fact, indecision can be interpreted as negligence as you may have a responsibility to act in a fast moving situation.

Ambiguity & Uncertainty

Ambiguity is information that is unknown or unclear. Uncertainty is a future probability. These are the two core reasons that decision making is difficult. Dealing with ambiguity is considered a skill whereby an individual can construct a reasonable decision in a short time in an environment where important information is missing. For example, a pilot who is able to make a decision on whether to continue with a landing or abort when faced with a strong crosswind and uncertainty regarding whether the wind will get better or worse in the next 20 seconds.

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance is stress that results from inconsistencies between the self and the world. For example, an individual whose view of justice differs from the realities of the world such that they feel a sense of internal conflict and stress. A strong sense of cognitive dissonance tends to interfere with decision making as an individual strongly desires to make the real world conform to their worldview and this generally isn't possible. This can be contrasted with a pragmatic approach that just does as much as is possible with acceptance of the imperfections that surround all situations.

Consensus Building

Consensus building is a political process whereby a group or diverse set of groups are asked to formulate and agree on a decision. This almost always results in a state of prolonged indecision. This is the reason that human societies tend to be based around the idea of leadership whereby authority for decisions is assigned to a single person who represents a group. The power of the group lies in selecting the leader and the leader's role is to reduce indecision. As such, a leader who is indecisive or who relies solely on consensus is useless to the group.

Desire for Stability

Groups and individuals tend to prefer stability and may select leaders who don't change their minds. This puts pressure on leaders to appear to be consistent even if changing course is the best decision. As such, the desire for stability tends to breed indecision as people are hesitant to make decisions that are inconsistent with historical decisions.

Aversion to Failure

The decision to discontinue a strategy or cancel a project is often complicated by the social stigma surrounding failure. In other words, people are hesitant to recognize failures and may prefer to continue with a losing strategy or failing project as opposed to making hard decisions.

Non-decision Decisions

A non-decision is a decision that simply delays a real decision. For example, a bureaucrat who makes a decision to form a committee to investigate the decision. This is often nothing more than a costly way to mask indecision with the illusion that something has been decided.
Overview: Indecision
An inability to make a decision in a timely manner.
Related Concepts

Decision Making

This is the complete list of articles we have written about decision making.
A/B Testing
Abilene Paradox
Abstract Concept
Analysis Paralysis
Analytic Reasoning
Benefit Of Doubt
Boil The Frog
Choice Architecture
Cold Logic
Collective Intelligence
Convergent Thinking
Critical Thinking
Decision Analysis
Decision Authority
Decision Balance
Decision Costs
Decision Fatigue
Decision Framing
Decision Mapping
Decision Modelling
Decision Quality
Decision Rationale
Decision Support
Decision Tree
Devil's Advocate
Disagree And Commit
Divergent Thinking
Emotional Intelligence
Failure Of Imagination
Group Decisions
Keep It Simple
Maximax Criterion
Minimax Criterion
Motivated Reasoning
Non Decision
Normative Model
Opportunity Cost
Paradox Of Choice
Pareto Analysis
Predictive Analytics
Preserving Ambiguity
Reverse Brainstorming
Sanity Check
Serious Game
Strategic Dominance
Thought Experiment
Visual Analytics
Visual Thinking
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