The decision-making paralysis

Jarrod Weiss - Contributing Columnist

In no way, shape or form am I, or will I ever be, a Duke basketball fan. During college I had courtside seats to every home Ohio State basketball game and am a Buckeye until I die.

But, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is one of the most trusted and successful leaders in all of collegiate athletics. Not only can he motivate his players to be winners on the court, but he mentors them off the court to become well-rounded men.

Recently I saw a quote from Coach Krzyzewski that made me think about how my personality has changed in the past decade.

“The truth is that many people set rules to keep from making decisions.”

As a young man in college and in the years to follow, decision making was easy for me. I could make tough decisions, I could make decisions on the fly, I could make decisions that had consequences for others. If you asked me a question on a matter I had an answer and if you needed a decision, I would make one.

But then something happened. I got married. I had children. And the decision-making section of my brain shut off. Completely.

When someone asked me where I wanted to eat, I could easily answer that question and make a decision. If I needed a new pair of shoes I could go to the store, try a few pairs on, and buy the shoes. If I needed to decide a specific course of action at work I could do so in mere moments.

Years later, I am paralyzed. It appears as though I have completely lost my ability to make a decision. I shouldn’t say that. I can still make decisions in my professional life, but when it comes to personal decisions I lock up like middle school boy at the seventh-grade dance when the DJ plays a slow song.

The blame falls squarely on my wife and children.

I can no longer make any personal decision without consulting my wife. There is no personal decision that I make that I don’t automatically ask for her opinion or at least think about what she thinks. It’s like a sickness. A mental illness really. Is it covered under my health insurance?

And it doesn’t matter the level of consequence of the decision. It may be the most insignificant decision, but I need to know what she thinks. I can’t move forward without her guidance and counsel. Sometimes this inability gives me a headache – but I have to ask her how many Tylenol to take. Does this come with the marriage license? Is that what they meant when the said “til death do us part”?

By far the worst decision to make is where to go out to dinner. It is not uncommon for me to ask her where she would like to eat only to hear, “You pick, I don’t really care”.

Don’t tell me that. That’s not what I wanted to hear. When I asked where you wanted to eat I needed a definitive answer to the question. If you are a budding entrepreneur all you need to do is open a restaurant called “I Don’t Care”. You will make so much bank that you too could one day be the leading candidate for President of the United States.

However, my wife isn’t the only paralyzing figure in my life. Regardless of their small stature, preference for Scooby Doo movies, and the fact that one still wears a diaper, my children are a huge factor in my inability to make a decision.

Ever since we had children every decision centers around their needs and I can’t help but take their needs into account. Eating out, our weekend plans, how to structure our time, what time to go to bed, what time to wake up, where to spend money and where to save money — these are all decisions that I cannot make now without the pseudo-opinion of a four and two-year old.

We were just discussing where we would possibly take a vacation this year. We haven’t been on a vacation in a while and it’s time to get away. But, when my wife asks me my opinion my first two questions I ask myself are what does she think and what would like kids like to do?

It’s truly a sickness I tell you. A sickness.

Last week I saw the movie “Race”, the story of Jesse Owens and his sprint toward Olympics royalty. In the movie, Jesse struggles with making the decision to go to Berlin and he asks his wife what she thinks. She tells him not to lay that decision on her to which he responds, “You’re the only only person whose opinion matters and you are the only one who won’t give it to me”.

That’s me. That’s exactly how I feel. Maybe it’s not a bad thing that I care so much what my wife thinks. She is my wife, the person who has willingly chosen to be my partner in life and her opinion does matter. Her opinion is the one I trust more than any other and I only struggle with making personal decision making because I want to do right by her.

The same can be said for my children. Decision making becomes such a consequential act when the lives of others — especially your own children — are affected. The decision becomes so difficult because it is not only your life that is impacted, but the lives of your children. The only reason my decision making process is paralyzed is because I want to make the best decision for them.

Come back full court to Coach Krzyzewski and his quote on decision making. Maybe, just maybe, my decision-making paralysis isn’t the fault of the loved ones around me, but instead are rules I have set up in order to keep from making decisions. Tough decisions. Decisions that I don’t want to screw up because it affects the lives of my most treasured people.

Honestly, I do care what my wife thinks and what would be best for my children. But, if I dig down deep I can admit that the problem is mine and that I have set up rules that prevent me from making decisions because I am afraid of making the wrong decision.

It’s time for me to stop worrying about making the wrong decision and end my decision making paralysis. Coach K was right and I need to leave those rules behind because my family needs the old decision making me back.

Now, if we could just decide where to eat tonight. Maybe I’ll get the chance to say, “I don’t care.”

Jarrod Weiss lives in New Vienna and is a teacher in the Hillsboro City Schools district. He can be reached at

Jarrod Weiss

Contributing Columnist