The Paralysis of “I Don’t Know”

We’ve all been there: faced with a decision to make while feeling completely helpless, succumbed to the sheer solidity of not being able to forecast the future. The unwavering cycle of ‘to do, or not to do.’ We subconsciously permit the moment to overwhelm us and in the end paralyze us. What if I told you that you’re actually paralyzing yourself?

The beauty, yet curse, of life is our freedom to make so many choices. So many choices we believe single-handedly impact our future. Society, our friends, family, and even our own selves project so much pressure on us to always make the best decision; however, most of the time that decision isn’t apparent to us, and may not ever be apparent to us. The inherit fear of failing forces us to a standstill, which, to be explicit, is an automatic forfeit. Stop paralyzing yourself.

First, let go of your addiction of needing to be right. You don’t need to feel 100% right to make a decision; the critical component remains that you make a choice at all. Disclaimer: this doesn’t substitute for confidence. You must be confident in your choice in order to set yourself up for success. Manifest your success into existence. By committing to one route, you’ll gain insight onto making better, more informed decisions in the future. If you have an affinity for math, narrow your decision down to your final 2 choices and you have a 50/50 shot of being right. Sure there’s grey area, but the part I can 100% guarantee is that you’ll be closer to achieving your goal after you make your first choice. For my sports lovers out there, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Same goes for sports, same goes for all aspects of life.

Secondly, sometimes you just have to feel your way through life. To be brutally honest, you may never truly know if you made the right decision or not. The “right” decision is subjective exclusively to you and can’t be judged at a later date when you have more information. Everything in hindsight is 20/20. Trust your heart, trust your gut, and make your choice with the information you have available.

When you’re 90 years old, you’ll never regret failing, you’ll never blame yourself for making the wrong choice when you believed you were making the right one in the moment. You’re going to regret not taking chances and making choices. Setting with, “I don’t know” won’t get you anywhere in life. Consider this: the truth may be that you do know, you’re just scared to admit it and take a chance. It’s in our human nature to fear the unknown more than the known. This is why we stay up for hours pondering every possible outcome of a scenario that may never happen. In reality, we may never have those answers. But why let that paralyze us from living our lives in the moment? Live in the moment by accepting things as they are.

So, make this your week to tie up loose ends on decisions you’ve procrastinated on. Take the path less traveled and never look back. You’ll never know how beautiful the places are that trail leads you to until you take your first step.

What’s been the hardest decision you’ve made so far in life? What factors helped you on settling on a choice?

For another article I wrote on believing in yourself and my journey to self-belief, read this:

My personal blog can be found here:

81 thoughts on “The Paralysis of “I Don’t Know”

  1. This is such an important reminder! As children we always hear adults saying, “You can be anything you want to be!” Or, “Reach for the stars!” And then somewhere along the way we are taught to settle. “Welcome to the Real World.” Well, I say there’s no such thing. We all have choices to make, each and every day. Who will we be? How will we act? What will we accomplish? We are all players in this game, so it’s up to us to give it our best. May we all take glorious chances to better our world, and to better ourselves. 🕊

    1. Great to hear from you again, SnapDragon! Yes I agree, the opportunities each new day brings with choices to become who you want to be is inspiring. Oppressing yourself to the comfort of not pushing to be better and making those hard choices lead to a boring, unfulfilling life. The thrill of the chase and journey makes it all worthwhile! Thanks for reading! <3 Ellen

    2. And Gold Stars. Why do we stop giving Gold Stars?
      Buy yourself a sheet of foil Gold Stars.
      Place one on the calendar for every day you don’t give up.
      For every day you rise to fulfill a few more promises.
      One for each day you awake to tell yourself you will leave the world better than you found it today.
      Our parents were not wrong telling us we could be anything we wanted to be.
      If not with them, you can guess where the fault lies for our being anything less.

      Seek peace,


  2. Great post! Thanks! So many things have been tough decisions in my life. I think as I grow my perspective expands, my horizon widens and I recognize the possibilities are limitless if I am willing to work and fail and be “wrong” and embrace the lessons. I forgot about my dreams for awhile. I am so glad I woke up to them again!

    1. That’s such a great revelation and I’m truly so happy you realized you forgot your dreams for awhile. It can happen to any of us as we get caught up in the repetition of daily life… if we live too much in the short term we will forget to keeping planning and shooting for our long term goals. Thank you for this reminder to keep chasing your dreams even when you realize they’ve been out of sight for while. It’s truly never too late to get back on track. Thank you for reading and your inspiring comment! <3Ellen

  3. Wow! There is so much I can relate to here and I’m so glad I read it. I have this inherent need to make sure I’m making the right decision about EVERYTHING…it’s good to hear that I don’t have to be right, I just need to do it.

    1. Lately, I have been in a state of paralysis. This article is Godsent! It was almost as though you knew what was going on in my head! So insightful!

      1. Hi A..B., it makes me so happy to hear that my article positively impacted you and I can only hope it brought you some inspiration to make a decision you’ve been procrastinating on. Thanks for reading, your honesty in your comment, and best of luck to you! ~E

    2. Thank you so much for you comment and for your honesty… it’s in our human nature to try to be right about everything, to defend ourselves, and to not fail. However, there are beautiful lessons in failure that we will miss out on if we’re too worried about being perfect all the time. Sometimes all you need is a little courage and someone to believe in you, but you need to believe in yourself first. Best of luck and go get em!! ~E

    3. Thank you so much for you comment and for your honesty… it’s in our human nature to try to be right about everything, to defend ourselves, and to not fail. However, there are beautiful lessons in failure that we will miss out on if we’re too worried about being perfect all the time. Sometimes all you need is a little courage and someone to believe in you, but you need to believe in yourself first. Best of luck and go get em!! ~E

  4. Sometimes neither choice is right or wrong. Those are the decisions I struggle with. Between right and wrong, my default is right (of course, my “right” doesn’t necessarily match someone else’s). When there is no right and wrong, I just have to do my due diligence, choose, and jump in.

    1. Thanks for your comment and you make a great point. Sometimes there is no right or wrong answer, sometimes it’s choosing the lesser of two evils, and sometimes it’s choosing the better of two good options. In these moments we can learn the best lessons but it still takes that first initial leap to commit to one route and follow it whole-heartedly. Thanks for reading!

  5. This made me think about the time when I decided to leave my old life behind and join the Royal Navy. I had to give up my job, my home and (some friends) but it was the best thing I ever did! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Wow, thank you for my daily inspiration… it’s crazy how decisions you made years and years ago can still be inspirational to people today. I’ve also made big decisions about moving halfway across the country for college, then moving to another country 3 times, all which made me into the person I am today. Thanks for sharing and for reading! ~E

    1. This means so much to me that you found some encouragement in my article… thank you for reading and for your support! Wishing you the best, <3E

    1. Hi Alexandra, thanks for reading and for your support! I am glad you enjoyed it and hope it can be useful to you at some point 🙂 take care, <3E

    1. Love that quote! So simple yet the bigger picture relates to life as a whole. Mistakes should really be given more credit for how much they teach us and give us opportunities to grow. Thanks for your support! ~<3E

  6. Great post Ellie! Analysis paralysis is a very real condition. And can lead to a cyclic anxiety driven loop. You’ve broken it down to very understandable terms, and the “trust your gut” part is bang on. There are many ways to ease decision making. Intuition is one of our best resources. I write a lot about decision making on my blog if you’d like to check it out.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and for your support! I checked out your blog and I love how you tie so much data into your writing! I am a former data analyst and share your passion for creating stories from numbers- love that we have that common ground! Can’t wait to read more. Best, Ellen

      1. Hi Ellen, Great to meet you virtually! How coincidental that you are a data analyst, so you definitely get how the stories come about. If you ever want to guest blog here, feel free. I’d love that. Covid-free Virtual hugs, Shelley

      2. Thanks so much Shelley, I would love to! Looking forward to talking more. Maybe we could brain storm some topics we could co-author a piece on? Best wishes, Ellen

      3. That sounds like a great plan Ellen. Let me know when you’re ready and we can chat out our ideas via email.

  7. ‘I don’t know’ is such an enabler for over thinking everything. I think as humans, we’ve been conditioned to rationalize everything out in our minds, like a game of chess, before anything actually happens. So we’ll always think of every possible scenario and you’ve given it the absolute right word, ‘Paralysis’. Such an inspiring post, thank you.

    1. Hey trippy scientist, I love the word “enabler” you used. I think that really hits home with describing those 3 paralyzing words. That word is almost inspiring to me as well now, because it assumes that we can simply not enable it which is really all it boils down to. Thanks for your unique perspective! Ellen<3

  8. Yes I have been paralyzed so many times in life by decisions… I have feared failure like it was death. I think that being forced to make an unpopular choice got me over that fear…and once I got into the “just go for it and see” mindset it has been so freeing! I look forward to reading more of your writing it rings full of wisdom.

    1. There was a time I couldn’t make a snap decision between Tropicana Pure Premium and Minute Maid orange juice both at the same price point. Who am I kidding. There are times I still can’t. Lol

      For me, what helps get me over the paralysis is constantly reminding myself that unless it’s a life threatening decision, it will all blow over in the end. No matter what.

      1. Hey boston girl, I love the humility here, yes I can totally relate too, sometimes I have the hardest time deciding between which soap to buy at the store. But then I struggled a lot with choosing a job. Life gets increasingly harder with the decisions we have as we get older, but that’s what I love about it! Never boring lol. Thanks for sharing! <3E

    2. Hey KJ, I can totally relate to you with how making unpopular choices helped me to get over the fear of disapproval as long as I knew it was the best for me. Many factors play into this but in the end we can’t blame ourselves for making the most informed decision with the information we have available at the time. I’m still working on making more confident decisions as the decisions get increasingly more difficult with age, but that’s what keeps it interesting! Thanks for reading and for your support! <3E

      1. Some decisions become easier with age and as we get to know ourselves better… but others…like picking out countertops… forget about it! Lol. Keep writing you have a beautiful style and wisdom to share!

      2. Haha you are right about that! And thank you so much I truly appreciate your compliment to my writing I really put my heart into it. Best wishes, Ellen

    1. Ciao, Belladonna, yes I can totally relate with you on that. It seems sometimes as if I can’t ever turn off that debating conversation in my head, but as long as I’m making progress to combat that I’m not blaming myself. Thanks for your comment! <3E

      1. I love this article, it’s so positive and true. Just now, we have to accept the moment. Mother nature has forced us all to stop and have time to take stock. People need to realise that things are not constant, that everyone will eventually reach their mortality. I don’t mean to be down hearted but its a reality check. I’ve learned as I’ve got older that living in the moment gives the best experience. I enjoy life much better when I’m mindful and meditative. Have a lovely evening xx

  9. My personal perspective on the concept of making the right decision: as long as you take as many factors did you consideration related to the choices to be made, ultimately there is no wrong decision. The failing, if there is to be one, which stem from not being honest with yourself as to the true factors, is best known, I take it into account. It takes a hindsight perspective, to reason the ultimate decision made what’s in fact right or wrong. At that point it is only necessary to make an adjustment in the reasoning by which you arrived at the decision made.

    1. Yes, I totally agree. At this point in time, who is to say what’s right or wrong? Only in hindsight will we really have an idea, but even then, if we would’ve made a different decision it might’ve taken us something completely different. At the end of the day, I believe everything happens for a reason, (even though we might not always be privvy to that reason) so there’s no need to regret, just learn. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I’m so happy I could positively impact your day! Even just re-reading this now, I realize I have fallen out of touch with this positive side of me as I have been too affected by external factors in the world today. But there really is some good in every day, and I don’t want to take any day for granted by not enjoying a part of it. Thank you for bringing some joy to me tonight 🙂 <3Ellen

  10. Wow! Amazing article. It was extremely relatable and it feels good to know that others are experiencing the same feelings I have.

    1. Hey Jaz, thank you for sharing. Truthfully, I am glad someone else can relate to what I’m experiencing because sometimes even as I’m writing this there’s a part of me that’s like “am I crazy??” Lol. Thanks for your support and hope you’re taking care! <3E

  11. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the things you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, dream, discover.”

    – Mark Twain

    It’s important to remember that your brain is designed to make decisions by arguing with itself. Like the cartoon characters that appear on one’s shoulder, an angel on the left, a devil on the right. Your human mind has two sides, and when one side says “Hey! Let’s do this!” the other side says “Wait. Hold on. Are we sure? What are the reasons for not doing this instead?” and a debate forms. This can be real quick if we’re choosing our favorite flavor of ice cream, or this can drag out into a long filibuster over weighty things like buying a home or having a child. Still, it’s a natural process. Sometimes it gets a little stuck in a loop when neither side has a convincing winning argument. Sometimes you sort of need to be the line judge and help the decision along consciously. (And we think we are actually in charge making decisions! Hah!)
    Sometimes our inaction is the result of being overwhelmed by tasks. We have difficulty starting because we fear we will not finish. This is my Achilles heel. I have learned to just do something. Start something, start small, start slow, but start to move. Little by little I find tasks completed, and I am rewarded by these small gains, which begins an action-reward-feeling loop which promotes more action!

    “Start by doing what is necessary; then do what is possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

    – Francis of Assisi



    1. Hi Paz, wow, thank you for such a robust comment filled with some great thoughts and quotes. Mark Twain’s quote is definitely one I have tried to live by. I know that I will always regret not taking the chance compared to take a crazy leap of faith. This is what led me to move out of my country 3 times and I came back each time more fulfilled and full of life, enthusiasm, knowledge, and stories of a lifetime. My favorite part about your comment was when you implied that we aren’t even in charge of making our own decisions. I relate to this because many times I make a decision and reflect and don’t even recognize the decision I made or why. But it’s all a learning process, that’s the beauty of it. And I am inspired by you starting small to tackle big goals–that’s the best way to go about it!! Wishing you light & happiness, <3E Slainte!!

  12. Taking a step. A chance… I’m just going to say that if your foundation is good, you can’t go far wrong. The only thing lasting in this world (what the future of our race/society is absolutely made of) is kindness. If you’re immersed in that, you’re foundation is good. You’re good to go!

    1. I love that and I absolutely agree! As long as your intentions are pure and you have kindness at the bottom of your heart, you’re going to have a great path ahead of you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂 <3E

  13. Cool piece. I’ve long had a problem with how we ask very young and inexperienced people to choose career paths. We require that children talk about “what they want to be when they grow up” before they know themselves very well or understand the world of work. This leads to many choosing prematurely and thus the result that many feel trapped in jobs and careers they don’t like. The first step in making good decisions is knowing thyself. Being a good critical thinking, being able step outside one’s “box” is also essential. There’s also great power in reinventing the self, in changing direction midstream. Flexibility and adaptability are key. Wow! There’s so much I could say about what you’ve written…

    1. Hey Troy! I love what you’ve written here and I totally agree. My favorite part you mentioned was the paradox of knowing thyself then also having flexibility and adaptability to change as things develop and life evolves. There will be an infinite amount of situations in life where you must find that balance. Thanks for sharing 🙂 Ellen

  14. Very interesting! We have all made wrong choices or decisions at times. You have to learn to live with that, but honestly try to improve. That requires working slowly to not make the same decisions in the future. Good Luck.

    1. Thanks, Barb! Some really great advice, and advice that takes action every day to build a foundation for that resilience. Thanks for sharing! Best, Ellen

  15. Nice blog. Great points. I believe most of the time the fear is not whether a decision is right or wrong. I think for most decisions the problem is that there really IS no right or wrong. It’s just PREFERENCE. Choosing between right or wrong would be easy (if right or wrong matters to you). It’s choosing between two things that are both viable options. So yes, weigh the best you can then go ahead and choose one and be confident in it. Judge WAY later.

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