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The A to Z of Emotions – H is for Hesitancy

Being hesitant is a feeling that sometimes makes us feel anxious, vulnerable and well, not quite right in ourselves.  We all hesitate at times and are unsure about things, but when does hesitation become a problem?  It could be when we’re making big decisions, like a career change, or buying and selling a house.  Hesitation when making big decisions could mean missing out on the thing you were unsure about, making the anxiety worse.  However, being hesitant over the small things can be just as stressful and can become a habit.  Before we go on, I must point out that sometimes hesitating is a good thing, it means we are weighing things up, making a measured decision before taking action.  It’s only when it stops us moving forward or makes us feel anxious that it becomes a problem.


I must admit that I have a love/hate relationship with hesitancy.  Sometimes I make decisions very quickly, feeling that it’s right and I don’t worry or hesitate.  At other times, I know I have to do something, but hesitate and it becomes a big thing even though what I’m hesitating about is relatively small.  It gets written down on my list of things to do, but it stays there and looks at me, almost screams “you haven’t done this yet, why are you hesitating?!”.  By looking at what’s behind this, I realised what the problems are.  Let me give you an example.  A few years ago, I decided that I really wanted to do a psychology degree.  I got prospectuses from various colleges, selected a course I liked the look of and actually quickly made a decision about which college and which degree I wanted to take.  Then it just sat there…..the details of the course rested on the dining table, and my decision and my desire to apply for the degree sat in my mind….for weeks, then months, then a year.  So what was making me hesitate?  I knew it was right, I really wanted to do it, what was wrong?  It was fear.  Fear of making a big commitment to study for years and fear of making a change in my life.  Then I realised that if I didn’t go for it, I never would, and the thought of missing out on doing something I’d wanted to do for a long time put me into action.  Now, I’m enjoying the second year of my degree (I’m doing part time over 6 years) and know that it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made and I’ve got real zest for learning.  But what if I’d gone for it once I’d made the decision and didn’t hesitate in applying?  I would undoubtedly be closer to graduating, but would it have been the right time?  Whatever the answers, I’m happy with the decision I finally made.


Can you remember the last time you hesitated? And if you were honest with yourself, you realised that you were anxious and scared of what would happen if you either did or didn’t do the thing you were hesitant about?  When this next happens, ask yourself “what’s the worst that could happen?” and work it back from there.  If it helps write the stages of your thinking down, you might be able to come up with alternative solutions and it might help you be less hesitant and more confident.  Question yourself – nobody else can solve your hesitancy.  Sure, you can ask people for advice and what they think about a certain situation, but unless you’re sure in your own mind, then that hesitancy will still try to get to you.

Let’s look at hesitation when it comes to the small things.  Again, I’ll give you an example of how I deal with this.  I usually have a list of things to do, it’s full of everyday, ordinary things like replying to e-mails, do the ironing, vacuum the living room, buy a birthday card, make bread, put out the bins etc.  I dislike vacuuming the house and put it off, I can see the floor needs doing, but I hesitate, looking at the dirt and dust.  Because I hesitate, it makes me feel bad about myself and that makes me more hesitant.  It’s a horrible feeling.  So now, if I’m being hesitant with the small things and don’t have a reason for that hesitancy, I just jump in and do it, because it makes me feel myself again and because there’s no reason not to do it.

If you suffer from anxiety caused by hesitating, try this.  Make a list of things that you’re hesitant about and that you have to take action on – it’s better for this exercise if they’re small things (no big decisions on this one please!).  Pick one of these items randomly (roll a dice if it helps make a decision!) and give yourself 10 seconds – are you going to do it and if so what action are you going to take?  Jump in!  How does it feel to take action and throw your hesitancy away?  I’m going to join you….which means I’m going to vacuum the living room….now!!

Would you like to work on your hesitancy?  Coaching can help you look at situations in different ways and helps break unhelpful patterns, if you’d like to explore this further, contact me to get started.

Next month – I is for Inspiration.  Where do you get your inspiration from?  Do you lack inspiration and need help in getting it back?  I will be looking at inspiration and how we can gain strength and energy from it – out on 1st April.

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