Lindsay Dotzlaf

Decision Confusion

Ep #7: Decision Confusion

As a coach, you’ll already know that helping our clients make decisions is a huge part of our work. However, not everyone realizes just how big of a role they can play in the decision-making process, and in getting their clients to a place where they can see that an unmade decision is keeping them stuck.

So much of the confusion we experience actually centers around decisions. I’m sure you already have a framework for making decisions at the ready. But today, I want to talk about how you can see the types of decisions your clients need to make, and where you can help them in seeing how just one decision can get them out of spinning in confusion.

Join me on the podcast this week to discover the four different types of decisions that exist, and how each one affects so much more in our lives than just the object of the decision. I’m sharing how I see my clients (and even myself) sitting in unproductive confusion over decisions that should be easy, and what you can do to reframe these decisions to make them less confusing.

I am so excited to hear what you all think about the podcast – if you have any feedback, please let me know! You can leave me a rating and review in Apple Podcasts, which helps me create an excellent show and helps other coaches find it, too. 

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why decisions play an even bigger role in your coaching than you might think.
  • How I help my clients make decisions.
  • The four different types of decisions.
  • How I see my clients turning decisions into something way more complicated than they need to be.
  • Why there is no such thing as “trying” to make a decision.
  • How to help your clients reframe “trying” to make a decision in a more empowering way, so they can actually make the decision.
  • Where there might be decisions that need to be made that you’re not even aware of.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Featured on the Show:

Full Episode Transcript:

Hey, I’m Lindsay Dotzlaf and you are listening to Mastering Coaching Skills, episode seven.

To really compete in the coaching industry, you have to be great at coaching. That’s why every week, I will be answering your questions, sharing my stories, and offering tips and advice so you can be the best at what you do. Let’s get to work.

Hey, coaches. I’m so excited to be here with you today. And I’m just going to dive right in. I’m just going to get started. Today, I want to continue talking about just the different aspects of coaching and how we can incorporate them into how we coach ourselves and how we work with our clients.

So, if you’ve listened to the last couple of episodes – hopefully you have – you have heard me talk about awareness and then I talked about goals. And today, I want to dive into one of my favorite topics, which is why I’m just going for it, diving right in. It is decisions.

And what I want to show you – hopefully you’ll see – by the end of the podcast today is that, of course, a lot of you probably help your clients make decisions often. And as coaches, I think this is something we do, no matter what kind of coach we are.

But I actually think decisions play a much larger role in coaching than maybe you even think that they do. And I think one of the reasons that I love teaching this so much is because, for me, really creating this, what I’m about to teach you, and seeing this play out in my own self-coaching has been really powerful for me and it has helped me overcome one of the things that used to plague me all the time, especially in my business, which is confusion.

I do not like feeling confused. And I remember a time in my coaching business when I felt confused so much. And now that I have created the business and I’ve made quite a bit of money, it’s so interesting to look back and to see all the times that I was confused and to wish that I had had this tool that I’m about to teach you to really help myself work through it.

Of course, I had amazing coaches and I always ended up working through it. But confusion just is not fun to feel, right? So, hopefully you’re paying attention. Maybe take some notes because you know, if you have ever felt confused, this will be really helpful in your coaching. But also, just think what a gift it will be to your clients.

Here we go. So, when it comes to decisions, it may seem pretty straightforward. Our clients come to us, they tell us they need help making a decision, and then we help them. But what I want to offer today is that a really good coach also can see lots of times when decisions need to be made that the client isn’t even aware of.

And the unmade decisions are causing drama and pain and suffering and they just don’t even know that it’s happening. They think they’re just having lots of mind drama or thoughts about whatever it is that they want coaching on.

And in general, helping your clients make a decision isn’t complicated. Hopefully all of you have some sort of process that you can use to help your clients make decisions. If you don’t, I’m going to tell you right now just briefly how I make decisions and how I help my clients make decisions.

For me, the baseline of where I start when I need to make my own decision or when I’m helping my clients to it – and I want to be very clear, I did not create this. I think I learned it from a coach at one point, or my coach. I think she probably learned it from her coach. So, this is not a novel concept that I have created on my own. I just want to be really clear about that. It’s also really simple.

So, the first thing I do if a client comes to me and says they need help making a decision is a say, “Great, I want you to make two lists.” Let’s say the client is deciding between two things. I have her make two lists. I have her make one list of why would you do option A? Why would you decide on option A? And then one list of why would you decide option B?

And then, after you have the two lists, you can look at the lists and say, “Which list do I like better? Which list has the reasons that I like better?” And it just helps you see, very clearly, what’s going on in your brain. It also helps bring out all the drama when you can look at the list and it’s like, “Oh, I would do this one thing because I’m scared to do the other one. Or I would do this because it’s what I think other people want me to do,” or anything that comes up like that, it makes it very clear and very obvious to then work through those things.

You may already have a process that you use of your own. For sure, keep using it. I am not saying that mine is the best. That is just what I use with my clients.

But when it comes to decisions, this is the part that I really want to show you today, is there are, I think, four types of decisions. The first type is the very straightforward decision that we know that needs to be made. And when I say we, I might go back and forth here talking about you or your clients. Obviously, you can use this in your own coaching and your coaching with your clients because they’re interchangeable.

So, the first one is the decision we know needs to be made. This one is pretty straight forward. This is when your client comes to you or when you know, I have this decision and I just need to decide.

One example of this in my life right now is – I know I’ve mentioned this. We recently moved. And so, when we moved, we actually changed school districts. And my older daughter, since she has been in virtual school, she hasn’t actually changed schools yet because she’s been virtual, so it hasn’t mattered that she still goes to the old school.

We need to decide if we’re going to keep her there or if we’re going to change schools at winter break, which is coming up soon. And this is just a decision I know needs to be made. I’m not having any drama about it. we just haven’t taken a minute to talk about it, to ask her what she wants to do, and to just decide.

So, I haven’t made the decision yet. But actually, my husband and I just penciled it in that we need to do it this weekend. So, that’s pretty straightforward. We need to make a decision. We haven’t done it yet. And we have a time on the books when we’re going to do it.

What this may look like with a client is they might come to a call and just ask you to help them make a decision, just the like the decision I just described to you. It’s like they know there’s a decision. They know it needs to be made. And they are ready to make it and to decide.

The second type of decision is one we are trying to make. I know that you can’t see me, but when I just said trying, I moved my hands like the quotation marks. And here’s why. You can’t actually try to make a decision. You either make a decision or you don’t.

And a lot of times, when we tell ourselves we’re trying to make a decision, what that really means is we’re resisting making it at all. Maybe we don’t like the options. We don’t like that we have to make the decision. We feel like we don’t have good choices. Or just because when we see that there is a decision and, for whatever reason, we’re having lots of drama about it. So, we just don’t make it. We keep putting it off and we are trying to make it.

If you really think about that, you can’t try to make a decision. I know I already said this, but I want you to hear it again. You can either make it or not.

Now, if you have to gather information, I think that would go back to the first type of decision that needs to be made. That’s still not trying to make a decision. That is, “I need more information so that I can make it. I want to make this decision. I’m going to figure out what information I need. I’m going to go gather it and come back and make the decision.”

So, a really silly example of this in my life actually happened this morning. And it made me really laugh because I knew I was recording this podcast today and I had already taken notes on what I was going to say. And then, I caught myself saying, “Oh yeah, I’m still trying to decide.”

So, in our house, in our master bathroom, the tile in the master bathroom is freezing. It’s so cold. And in the morning, when my husband gets up to shower, he notices it every day. And I notice it every day when I shower. And so, this morning, he took a shower and then he was getting ready and I walked in the bathroom and he said, “Oh hey, did you pick out a rug for the bathroom yet?” And I said “Yeah, I’m still trying to decide.”

Which is so funny because I’m not trying to decide. What I actually meant is that, what this looks like for me right now is I found a brand of rug that I love, I love the idea of it. I love the features of it, especially for our bathroom. It has two pieces that you can peel off the top piece and wash it, which I feel like, in a bathroom, that’s a really great option. But then you put it back down and it just sits flush to the floor and it just has all the features that I’m looking for.

But I’ve been on the website at least 10 times and I just can’t find one that I love, that I’m like, “This is the rug.” Of course, I found a few that I like. And my husband didn’t love them. And so, I just keep going to the website like something is going to change.

Literally, probably 10 days in a row, I have been to the website. I look at the rugs. They’re the same every time. I’ve saved my top however many favorites. And I just haven’t done it yet.

And I know this is a silly example, but if you think about this in a more serious situation in your life or in your client’s life, how often do people do this? They hem and haw, go back and forth. It’s like fighting with reality.

For me, what that looked like was just going to the website, thinking there was going to be an option I didn’t see the last time, which I know isn’t true because I’ve looked through it very thoroughly. And it’s just fighting against all of the reality of, like, these are the options and I just need to pick one.

So, when I noticed, literally after I said it and I laughed and thought about this podcast, then I thought, when I noticed I was doing it instead of resisting it, I thought, “Oh, I wonder if there are more options that are like this.” And then I was so empowered to do something about it.

I Googled it. I found some other great options that have better styles that I like. I didn’t have time to actually look through them today, but now it’s like I can move forward instead of just being int his stuck, spinning spiral of trying to decide.

And I want you to think for a second about when you do this and when your clients do this, how much brain space does that take up? Even for such a silly example like a rug that I’ve been thinking about every day for at least 10 days, getting on the website, searching and searching, just waiting for something new to pop up.

How much time do people spend doing that? A lot. It takes up so much brain space. It takes up time, effort, all the things to actually not make a decision at all, but to just try, which is not really a think we can do.

So, the way this will show up with clients is they might come to you and they might actually say the words, “I’m trying to decide…” whatever it is. Or they might be experiencing a lot of anxiety or overwhelm and spinning; spinning in lots of decisions without coming to any conclusions is really pretty exhausting.

So, just notice that when you have clients that come to you that are feeling anxious, that are feeling overwhelmed and just get curious about do they have – and obviously there are other things that can cause anxiety and overwhelm. But I would just get curious about, like, do they have decisions that they know need to be made and they’re just not making them?

The third type of decision that our clients may come to us with are decisions that they have already made, but they haven’t actually committed to. So, this one is really similar to the decisions they’re trying to make, but the biggest difference is that they are telling themselves that they have made it.

So, they’re saying, “I’ve made this decision and now I don’t understand why this thing is happening,” or I just still feel very anxious or overwhelmed or just general unrest. But the good news is, there’s a very easy way to spot when this type of decision is happening in yourself or with your clients. When the actions that you or that they are taking don’t line up with the decision you think you’ve made.

So, either there’s no action happening at all. Or you keep taking actions that just don’t line up with what you’re saying your decision is. I’ll give you a couple of examples.

One example I see a lot with my clients in the past, I’ve worked with coaches now for a couple of years, when they make a big announcement to me like I’m going all in on my niche or I’m starting a podcast or something that’s like a big proclamation, it feels like kind of a big decision and they’re saying, “I’m so excited. I’m all in. I’m so committed.”

But then, they keep taking actions that don’t align with that decision. So, either let’s say they tell me they’re starting a podcast, and two months later I’m like, “Hey, how’s the podcast coming?” And they’re like, “Oh yeah, I just haven’t been working on it,” or whatever. Like, it comes out that they’re not doing it at all. They’re not taking the actions that are going to make the thing happen.

Or, for example, when they say, “I’m going all in on my niche. I’ve decided this is what it is.” But then, they just keep taking clients that aren’t in that niche at all. They keep taking general life coaching clients or they keep taking clients that are completely outside of their niche. Which, by the way, is fine sometimes. But not when you are saying, “I have decided and I am fully committed to this thing,” and then doing the opposite. It’s just very confusing for your brain and it creates lots of unnecessary drama.

Another example of this that a lot of you can probably relate to is, recently, I have been telling myself I’ve decided I’m going to start a new morning routine. So, before we moved, in our old house, first of all it was warmer out. I had this amazing morning routine.

I was getting up every morning, going for a walk with my dog and just starting my day, enjoying the weather, all the things. Then we moved – and I live in Indiana, so it is freezing here now. And there is no sun in the morning. And I also had surgery a couple of months ago, right around the same time when we moved.

So, for a lot of reasons, I quit doing that. I stopped doing my morning routine and I keep telling myself that tomorrow I’m going to start. I’m guessing again that, in one way or another, you can probably relate to this.

So, I create the routine. I’m going to get up 20 or 30 minutes early. I’m going to ride my Peloton for X amount of time every morning. It doesn’t have to be a hard workout, but I’m just going to get up and move my body because I feel better when I do. And then I say I’m all in. I’m totally committed to this. And then the next day, my alarm goes off, and I don’t get up.

Now, I’m totally onto myself. I see what’s happening and I know that I just haven’t really committed because once I do, I will do the thing. I’ll get up. I’ll go to bed earlier. I’ll go to bed on time. And I won’t just make up excuses why, “Oh, I should just stay up just a little bit later. I probably just need a little extra sleep.”

Now, this is one of those times when there’s nothing wrong with any of it, right? It’s like, extra sleep, great. Staying up 30 minutes later, great. None of it matters. It’s just a really good example of making a decision and then being not at all committed to it. My actions are not lining up with what I am saying.

Now, the last type of decision – and this is where it gets a little trickier and this is one of my favorite things to think about when it comes to my clients because this has been so helpful for me. So, I’m hoping that you guys think the same.

The last type of decision is an unmade decision that we are completely unaware of. So, we don’t actually notice that there is a decision to be made. We are just spinning and spinning in all of the drama. And the main way this shows up is when we’re feeling very confused; confused about what to do, confused about why things aren’t working. Just lots of confusion.

Any time you guys are feeling confused, I want you to try this for yourself if you never have, if you’ve never heard it explained like this before. I want you to try it for yourself before using it on your clients. Any time you’re feeling confused, I want you to stop and ask yourself, are there any decisions that need to be made?

And get really curious. Don’t just ask yourself and then, like, “Nope, don’t see any,” and then move on because sometimes they’re harder to see, or you would already know that there’s the decision that needs to be made.

One huge example of this, since most of you listening are probably coaches, you’ve probably either had this confusion yourself or you’ve seen other people experience it. One huge example is when someone tells me, “I have niche drama.” And I say, you do not have niche drama.

And they’re like, “What? No, I’m so confused. How do I know what my niche is supposed to be? How do I pick?” And what I would offer is that 98% of niche drama truly begins with just one unmade decision.

So, if you already have a niche that you’re thinking of and you’re trying to decide between that or just being a general life coach – both of which are amazing. I think you’ve heard me say this before but I just want to be very clear about that. One is not better than the other.

But when you don’t fully commit to one or the other, when you don’t even notice that this is an unmade decision, you can experience so much uncertainty and confusion when you don’t realize that when you let this confusion stay and you don’t even realize that there is a decision that needs to be made, you just spin and spin in very unproductive drama.

So, I define unproductive drama as just lots of thoughts, lots of drama, lots of spinning but not moving one direction or another, you just kind of stay stuck.

So, here’s another example of this. If you have lots of drama and heartache about a relationship and every day you think about how not great the relationship is, you wonder how it got this way, you feel confused about how to move forward. And in general, it just feels awful and exhausting and super-confusing. Why can’t you just know what to do?

Now, if you ask yourself, are there any decisions that need to be made? You might realize the first step is you’ll have to decide what you want to do. You have to decide, do I want to continue this relationship or not?

Now, I’m not saying that seeing that there is a decision that needs to be made just makes it easy. Because it might be still a tricky decision for you. But it’s at least going to show you, this is the direction I want to go in. If you can make that decision, now you have a clear path to move forward.

So, I want you to practice this. Just notice any time your clients come to you feeling confused, get so curious about are there any decisions that need to be made? Can we clear part of this confusion up? Because usually, confusion – which is just so unproductive. I’ll probably do an entire episode about confusion – is just so unproductive.

You have no idea which way to go, which way you’re going to move from here, from where you are. If you make a decision and find the clear path, it still might not feel fun and it still might not feel amazing. But at least you know what to do and which direction you’re going.

So, how to know when this is showing up for your clients is usually pretty easy once you know to look for it. They will be confused. They will come with lots of, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know which way to go.” Just lots of confusion. Lots of spinning.

Alright, so to wrap this up, I’m going to go back through the four types of decisions. So, the first one, just the clear decision that we know needs to be made. It’s there. we just have to make it.

There’s the decision that we’re trying to make, which is we know it’s there and we’re just not deciding. Instead, we’re just spinning with anxiety and overwhelm. Then there’s the decision we have made but haven’t committed to. And last is the unmade decision that we don’t even know is there.

Hopefully this will be super-helpful for you guys. And if you can start just practicing noticing this. practice it in your own mind. Because we make decisions every single day. And the more efficient you can get at making decisions, the more you trust yourself, the more you can help your clients with this and they will be forever grateful.

So glad you guys were here today. I will talk to you next week.

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Thanks for listening to this episode of Mastering Coaching Skills. If you want to learn more about my work, come visit me at That’s Lindsay with an A, See you next week.

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Hi I’m Lindsay!

I am a master certified coach, with certifications through the Institute for Equity-Centered Coaching and The Life Coach School.

I turn your good coaching into a confidently great coaching experience and let your brilliance shine.

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