Have you ever tried to make a decision and found yourself paralyzed because you had not too few options, but too many?
Here’s one example that resonated with me:
As the cultural pressure mounts for us to have perfect weddings, I keep seeing brides (and sometimes myself) freezing like deer caught in the headlights. How can we make a decision on a florist until we have researched every possible floral designer working in our area, and found the one whose style and vision best meshes with ours? … It’s our wedding day, it has to be the best, and it has to be right for us. With so many options and so much pressure how on earth can we choose?
I do this all. the. time, with big decisions and little ones. It drives me bonkers, it drives my loved ones bonkers, it causes stress and heartache I don’t need. This week alone, I have struggled mightily with the choice of paint colours and ceiling fans for our new old house. Nice problem to have, yes. But I bet it’s happened to you — maybe not with a house, but with a restaurant menu or the choosing of a college major or anything in between.
Or maybe it hasn’t. Maybe you’re the decisive type who walks into a store and buys the first pair of pants he tries on (ahem) and then doesn’t second-guess the decision afterwards.
So how can those of us who aren’t hard-wired for decision making jury-rig our systems and circumvent our fears of Being Wrong to do what comes so naturally to others?
1. Impose artificial limits. When picking paint colours, I went to one store, picked up a bunch of paint cards, and brought them home. Any choice of paint had to come out of those. There were no other paint colours in the world. Oh, sure, I still agonized, but at least my choices were constrained. Same for buying a house in the first place.
2. Prioritize. Ever heard of Christine Miserandino’s spoon theory? She developed it to explain how it feels to live with chronic illness, but I use it all the time to talk about emotional and mental energy. It also applies to decision making. You make too many, you burn out. Conserve your strength for the ones that matter. Let those first-pair-of-pants people loose on the other ones.
3. Practice making snap decisions. I’m terrible at listening to my intuition. But practicing anything makes you better at it, right? Right? Even if the decisions you agonize over are the big ones and you’re only making snap decisions about what to eat for lunch, that’s still practice.
4. Don’t second-guess. I’m also terrible at this one. Once you’ve made a decision, don’t look back or you’ll drive yourself mad. Save your energy (or spoons) for making the next decision.
5. Good is sometimes good enough. For most decisions, it doesn’t matter if you don’t scour the Earth to find the absolute best answer. If perfect equals 100%, then 80% is just fine most of the time. And sometimes there is no single right decision, but many. Other times, there’s no way to know for sure ahead of time, so all you can do is get informed and then make the leap.
These are all strategies that I know are helpful, but you can see I’m not always good at putting them into practice. So I’m going to be mindful of them this week, as I spend my days making decisions big and small. I won’t let the fear of Being Wrong rule me. My mental well-being is too important.
Do you struggle with making decisions? What helps you to make the leap? What tips/strategies/hacks can you offer?