When Indecision Strikes: Personality Type and Missed Opportunities
“I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
A reluctance to choose sometimes becomes a choice in itself, when we fail to take action. While deliberating over a decision can help us differentiate our options and weigh outcomes, in the meantime, sales end, deadlines expire, and positions get filled. And when we’re too slow to seize an opportunity, we have little recourse but to accept it.
If you often find yourself feeling this way, then you are like the many members of our community who agreed with the statement, “Your indecisiveness has caused you to miss many opportunities.” Intriguingly, although only a slight majority (56%) agreed overall, the results demonstrated a significant difference of opinion between every personality trait pairing.
To understand these results, it may help to think about our statement two ways: Which personality types are more likely to have trouble making decisions in the first place? And which types are more likely to dwell on regret over missed opportunities?
Let’s delve into the data below.
Diplomats and Analysts (68% and 62% agreeing)
Diplomats and Analysts were the Roles most likely to say they’ve missed out on opportunities as a result of their indecisiveness. A key difference between these two Roles is the Nature aspect: all Diplomats are Feeling personality types, and all Analysts are Thinking types. And while the Nature aspect deals directly with how we make decisions, it actually had the least impact on this survey. Feeling types (59% agreeing) were just 6% more likely than Thinking types (53%) to agree with our statement.
Feeling personality types tend to base their decisions on emotion, while Thinking types tend to decide things logically. Both approaches are valid ways to make decisions, and neither approach makes decision-making easier all of the time. True, Diplomats may feel stymied if a decision requires cold rationality, especially if it puts the well-being of others at stake, but Thinking types may struggle just as much if emotions are the only factor at play in a decision.
Diplomats, however, probably agreed at a higher rate than Analysts because they’re more likely to linger on feelings of regret or frustration over a missed opportunity, whereas Analyst personalities will think that the logical thing to do is simply move on.
The main source of difficulty with decision-making for both of these Roles is their shared Intuitive trait. Intuitive personality types (66%) were 20% more likely than Observant types (46%) to agree with our statement. Intuitive types often thrive on the unknown – they love to explore ideas and imagine possibilities.
Such creative ideation, however, is generally not conducive to quick, decisive action. Decision-making can be difficult for Intuitive types when they become too focused on all the possible outcomes (both positive and negative) and don’t feel ready for the results of a decision to actually play out in reality.
Of all the personality types, Turbulent Mediators (85%) were the most likely to agree that their indecisiveness has cost them opportunities. Mediators are idealists guided by their principles, which is a lovely concept that does not always work in real life, especially when difficult, practical decisions need to be made. Because they’re always searching for meaning, Mediators are prone to agonizing over decisions as well as the consequences of their choices, and they’ll be hit particularly hard by regret if they think they’ve let other people down.
Among Analysts, Turbulent Logicians (84%) were the most likely to agree with our statement. Logicians are probably the most cerebral personality types in a group that prides itself on intellectualism and logical thinking. Brilliant and inventive, Logicians see connections and reach conclusions that others frankly aren’t capable of, but they’re also plagued by a serious fear of failure. If making a decision means risking that their theories could be proven wrong, Logician personalities can easily become mired in indecision and never get the chance to bring their ideas to fruition.
Because Explorers and Sentinels share the Observant trait, they tend to focus on facts and on objects, people, and events that they can tangibly observe. When faced with a decision, they’re generally much less interested in exploring new theories and possibilities than they are in knowing what has already been proven to work. Armed with concrete knowledge, Observant personality types often find it easier than Intuitive types to make quick, confident decisions.
Explorers, however, were much more likely than Sentinels to agree that they have suffered the consequences of indecision, and they have their Prospecting trait to thank for that. We tend to think of Explorer personalities as spontaneous, quick-thinking types who like to keep their options open so they can seize opportunities when they arise. The flip side of keeping your options open, though, is often a fear of commitment.
Explorers may worry, If I choose this course of action, what other opportunities would I be giving up? What if something better comes along, and I can’t pursue it? Concerns like these may cause Explorers and other Prospecting types to languish in their own indecision more frequently than those around them realize.
Turbulent Adventurers (78%) were the Explorers most likely to agree with our statement. As perhaps the most introspective members of this Role, and the most interested in personal growth, Adventurers are more likely than their fellow Explorer personality types to spend time reflecting on their experiences and to recognize missed opportunities in hindsight.
The only Role that had a minority of respondents agree with our statement, Sentinels rely on their Judging trait to help them make efficient, resolute decisions. In fact, the three personality types least likely to agree that they have a problem with indecision all belonged to the Sentinel Role: Assertive Executives (18%), Consuls (23%), and Logisticians (29%).
Judging types believe in being prepared and staying focused on long-term goals – going into any situation, they’ll have a plan, a backup plan, and a backup for the backup plan, so that they’re ready to make whatever decisions may be required of them. As such, they may feel less pressure to leap on unexpected opportunities and less regret for ones that pass them by.
Executives in particular, as administrators of law, order, and tradition, tend not to struggle with decisions because they have such a clear sense of what is right, what is wrong, and what is effective. These personalities know the right thing to do, and even when it’s difficult, they follow through.
Constant Improvement and Social Engagement (75% and 63% agreeing)
The Mind and Identity aspects both played important roles in this survey. It may not be surprising that Introverts (67%) were 19% more likely than Extraverts (48%) to agree that their indecisiveness has caused them to miss opportunities. To take advantage of an opportunity implies some sort of necessary interaction with the external world, whether it’s calling up an employer for a job interview or accepting an invitation to a party. This kind of social initiative often falls outside the comfort zone of an Introvert. Debating whether to take action can quickly drain Introverted personality types of energy, and before they know it, the opportunity will have passed.
Since the Identity aspect gets to the core of how confident we are in our decisions, it’s no surprise at all to see that Turbulent types (70%) were 31% more likely than Assertive types (39%) to agree. In fact, the Turbulent Identity was the single greatest factor in this survey. Even if Turbulent types have other personality traits that aid in making firm choices, like the Observant and Judging traits, their lower self-confidence causes them to question themselves. This can make them indecisive when faced with a choice, and overanalytical after they’ve made (or failed to make) a decision.
The Introverted, Turbulent personality types belonging to the Constant Improvement Strategy thus agreed at the highest rate, followed by the Extraverted, Turbulent members of the Social Engagement Strategy. Both Strategies are characterized by a need for perfectionism, which can hinder clear, confident decision-making. Constant Improvers are the most likely to be hard on themselves, dwelling on negative feelings of failure, whereas Social Engagers may be more concerned about others perceiving them as weak or unreliable because of their indecision.
Confident Individualism and People Mastery (48% and 34%)
The two Assertive Strategies, Confident Individualism and People Mastery, agreed at much lower rates. Their shared Assertive trait means that these personality types are better at making decisions in the first place, because they are confident in their skills and knowledge – and because, even if a decision doesn’t work out, they’re not going to worry too much about the consequences. Relaxed and self-assured, Assertive personalities don’t generally spend much energy looking back and wondering whether they’ve made a mistake.
Introverted Confident Individualists agreed at a higher, but overall fairly neutral, rate. Much as they prefer to do things on their own, it’s impossible for these personality types not to wonder now and then if overreliance on their own abilities is costing them opportunities they can only get by venturing out of their comfort zone.
Extraverted People Masters, on the other hand, feel at home in social situations, and although they may face moments of indecision, they can be confident that, because of their strong personal relationships and extensive network of connections, more opportunities will come along.
“For a limited time only” is not just a marketing slogan. Although many situations call for a cautious, deliberative approach, some opportunities come and go quickly, and those who choose to act win the advantage. While some of us, like Sentinel personality types, tend to be better suited to decisiveness, and others, like Diplomats, tend to dwell on missed opportunities, we all fall victim to indecision sometimes.
Fear is often at the heart of indecision, and regret doesn’t bring a missed opportunity back. If you feel like indecision frequently inhibits you from enjoying life, it may help to step back, look away from the potential outcomes of a choice, and find a different focus. After all, the figs at one’s feet may have turned black, but given time, the tree above will bear fruit again. (And in the meantime, for goodness’ sake, don’t let yourself starve!)
Has your indecisiveness cost you opportunities? What do you do when indecision strikes? Share your thoughts in the comments below!