It’s my experience that most people struggle to make decisions, on matters small and large. Why they agonize is obvious, but most people don’t realize it. Understanding the underlying dynamic will help any of you who struggle on this front.
First, let’s talk about what I mean by decisions. Here are examples of “small” ones:
– Should I order the grilled pork chop or the spaghetti Bolognese?
– Should I buy the white blouse with ruffles or the simple black top?
– Should I see the latest Mission Impossible movie or Oppenheimer?
None of these decisions are going to alter your life in any major way. And yet, they still cause a slight anxious twinge in your gut.
Examples of “large” decisions would be:
– Should I marry this man/woman?
– Should I take this job offer, which would mean moving from Los Angeles to New York?
– Should I do psychiatry, orthopedics or general surgery residency after medical school?
These decisions could have massive impacts on the trajectory of your life. Thoughts of
“He’s a great guy, but what if he turns out to be an abusive jerk? He’s got a fiery temper. What if we have kids and everything goes south? My whole life will be ruined!”
“I love the weather in LA. I’ll probably get depressed if I move to New York. Then again, the people in LA are pretty superficial. Much more interesting people in New York. But I love my house in LA and if I sell now, I won’t make much on it…Blah, blah, blah.”
“Psychiatry would probably be the easiest, but I’d also make less money. Not to mention, I’d be seeing troubled people all day every day. That could be a bummer. Then again, orthopedics…blah, blah, blah…And general surgery could be blah, blah, blah, but…blah, blah, blah…”
Any of this line of thinking ring a bell with any of you? I’ll bet it does. Most of us make decisions like these and most of us struggle.
Why decisions are hard
The $64,000 question is: Why? The answer is obvious.
People struggle with decisions because they aren’t confident they’ll be “okay” if they make the “wrong” decision.
That’s all it is. “If I order the pork chop and don’t like it, it might put me in a bad mood.” “If I get the wrong blouse, I’ll feel bad when I go out wearing it.” “If I take the New York job and I hate it, my life will be ruined.”
So how should we handle this? First, let’s talk about what we DON’T do. We don’t expend energy and attention on trying to get better at making decisions by doing things like amping up our due diligence efforts, like reading everything there is to know about living in New York, etc. That’s working in the wrong area.
What do we work on in order to better handle decision-making?
Yes, you read that right. The anxiety elicited by decisions comes from a lack of inner confidence.
What we need to do is get to a place where with ALL of these decisions, both big and small, we handle it from a place of, “Hmm. I’ll go with the Bolognese. And if it sucks, I’ll be fine.” “If I hate the white blouse, I’ll return it. No big deal.”
Most important is how this works on the big stuff. Like, “I think he’s the right guy for me. I can’t be 100 percent sure. But if we get married and it doesn’t work out, I’ll land on my feet. I always do.”
That is the key to decision-making. It’s about being able to handle life.
I was lucky in this area because I learned from my mom. She was so Zen about life (I even wrote an article about her which you can find here). Her attitude was always to make the best decision you could with the information you had and then make the best of it.
This is such a great way to live! And the opposite is really tough. Agonizing. Second-guessing every move you make. It’s paralyzing.
The key point is that getting better at decision-making is not about getting better and more analytical in your process. It’s about lightening up and developing confidence in yourself…in life…in the Universe.
It’s about getting good at flowing with life rather than agonizing over it.
How do we become lighter so we can flow better with life and become more confident in it?
That’s easy. It’s our egos that paralyze us with fear about all these decisions. So the work lies in quieting the ego.
How? Meditate. Practice mindfulness. Do any practices that calm your mind and allow you to let go of your ego.
I hope you’ll decide to dive into these practices. Don’t overthink it.
Just do it…