Retrain Decision Leeches

Excerpt from “The Healthy Mind Toolkit: Simple Strategies to Get Out of Your Own Way and Enjoy Your Life” by Alice Boyes (TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2018).

Do other people offload decision-making onto you? Because decisions drain mental energy, it’s smart (and crafty) to outsource making choices to other reliable decision-makers whenever possible. If you’re a sound decision-maker, other people (at home or work) may try to get you to do more than your fair share. Examples of group decisions left to you could be meal and restaurant choices, family finances, decorating, shopping decisions, and whether to say “Yes” or “No” to an opportunity.

Sometimes other people’s methods are sneaky. For example, a family member is in charge of a decision. Instead, of following through, he or she e-mails you links to all the possible choices for your opinion. It’s easy to get sucked into the trap of helping because it’s not a big deal.

You may feel flattered or important when people ask for your help. However, over time, leaving decision-making to you will become their habit. Your lovable decision leeches may even lose confidence in making decisions without your input. Decision-makers often feel a big sense of responsibility for the outcomes of their choices. By sharing the decision-making, you share this responsibility load with other people and liberate yourself from excess responsibility.

How can you retrain others to do their fair share of decision-making? Try this. When someone asks for your help with a decision, push it back to him or her. If other people have entrenched habits of leaning on you, you may have to be quite direct. For example, you might (nicely) say to your spouse, “I don’t mind what decision you make, but I’d like you to make the decision. I’d like you to be in charge of this, without input from me.” When possible, empower others’ confidence in their decision-making. If you have any preferences for what decisions they make, keep your requirements list short, such as, “I don’t mind what washing machine you buy for us, as long as the capacity is at least . . .”


Have you been taking too much responsibility for decision-making? Identify one person in your (home or work) life who needs to be empowered to make more decisions on his or her own and make an effort to practice that with him or her.

Excerpt from “The Healthy Mind Toolkit: Simple Strategies to Get Out of Your Own Way and Enjoy Your Life” by Alice Boyes with the permission of TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright© 2018 by Alice Boyes, Ph.D.

Alice Boyes, Ph.D., is a former clinical psychologist turned writer and is the author of “The Healthy Mind Toolkit” and “The Anxiety Toolkit.” She is a popular blogger for Psychology Today, where her articles have more than 10 million views, and she contributes to various magazines and blogs. Her research has been published by The American Psychological Association.


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