I generally reject the process of making decisions. Little ones, medium-sized ones – and especially the big’uns.
Anybody who’s even done so much as sit within earshot of me at brunch can attest to the fact that I am the World’s Worst Chooser.
One of the first things I confessed to Tyler after we met was that I was notably indecisive. (We went through this really liberating period of just throwing ourselves under the bus to each other – over and over again – and this was one of the things I stressed in week two. I highly-recommend the humiliating honesty thing right up front, by the way.) Just a couple weeks later when we were picking a place to go to dinner he texted, “I can’t decide. You pick!” He, of course, was being sweet and gentlemanly like he always is, but I immediately mashed my fingers to my screen and shot back with, “No way! I’m the indecisive one. I told you on our second date!”
The thought of even having to pick a restaurant made my heart beat a little bit faster. And not in the lovey-dovey way.
To add to my disability – yes, I’m calling it a disability because I have found it to be fairly disabling in my quasi-adult life – I am almost so decision-adverse that I struggle to be counseled through the process in ways that most people think are helpful. Because unlike a normal person, having kindhearted and well-meaning pleasantries heaved my way does not make decision-making easier. Phrases like, “There’s no wrong decision here,” or “Either one is going to work out,” magnify whatever it is that intimidates me about having to choose. For me, these sorts of conversations feel like a 300 lb. man just sat on my chest and is refusing to get the heck up until I decide. I am not rational when squished beneath the pressure of picking.
It’s disabling. It’s crippling. It’s paralyzing. And I don’t really get it. For someone who’s been engaged in a long-term struggle with idolizing comfort and control, you would think that being given the opportunity to make decisions would appeal to me, no? No! IT DOESN’T! In fact, it’s the exact opposite. I love comfort and I love control, but I would rather sit back and let someone else take the reins in most decisions needed to be made in my life.
However, I am an adult. Well, kind of. I am a person who has a job and pays rent and is no longer a tax dependent of the sweet gems who raised me – so a replica of an adult at best, but most certainly not the real thing. BUT, the point is I have to make decisions. I can’t avoid them – and neither can you.
So, if you’re anything like me, having to choose can make your armpits sweat a little bit. Want to avoid the pit stains? Check out this nifty little four step guide to help you make you next decision (and maybe lather up on the deodorant)!
1. Give yourself some time, if you can – but not too much!
Most times, letting myself believe the lie that I have to decide right this very second is what trips me up the most. Part of it is rooted in the fact that the decision-making process often looms over my head and weighs on me until it’s done – but the other part of me is that I rush through almost every process ever. Decision-making included.
The added stress of a tight deadline (even if it doesn’t exist) multiplies the anxiety I feel when being faced with a decision and refuse to take my time. My pre-disposition to quickly decide often lands me in the even more agonizing place of having decided and then having to take back my decision. (Ask my friends, it happens.) Taking your time in choosing is something that can help you weigh your options and assist you in identifying what is truly best for you right now. But, be careful not to weigh your options ad nauseam.
Taking too much time can also be just as much as a detriment to the decision-making process. If time is on your side, be sure to be reasonable in the amount of time you give yourself to make the decision. Ask your friends and family to weigh-in on a gracious deadline you can give yourself.
There’s also the possibility that you are under the gun and have to decide quite quickly. If this is the case, I highly suggest consulting only a few trusted-friends / family-members and then taking as much time as you can to retreat and process the decision. I find the old fashioned “Pro” and “Con” list to be particularly helpful in these types of instances and typically need to write it out with pretty colored ink on some nice glossy cardstock. (I NEED ALL THE HELP I CAN GET IN MAKING THIS FUN!) When you’re at the point where you’re deciding – or where you have to decide – I recommend letting them know you’ve made your decision and you’re moving forward. Ask them to support you and help you take the next step toward walking in the decision.
2. Avoid ruining the stew.
The last note above bolded and italicized the notion of consulting only a few trusted friends and family members. I get it. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking, “Wait. WAIT. Why? Why just a few? WHY WOULD I NOT TALK ABOUT THIS WITH EVERY PERSON WHO CARES ABOUT ME EVER? WHY WOULD I NOT TAKE A PERSONAL DAY TO TALK TO MY MOM, DAD, SISTERS, GRANDPARENTS, MAIL CARRIER, PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN, BARISTA AND PERSON WHO SAT NEXT TO ME IN THE DMV WAITING AREA BEFORE DECIDING?”
Oh. Oh, friend. I understand. But here’s why: It will overwhelm you.
Have you ever heard the expression too many cooks ruin the stew? Well, I’m pretty sure whoever said that first was someone like me. She was probably faced with some mildly important decision and called every stinkin’ person in her address book to weigh-in on it. And when she had every person’s opinion jotted down – she found herself even more confused.
The truth is this: People have different opinions. And when you involve people who care about you, everyone will have a different opinion on what’s best and what’s best for you.
At a recent crossroads in which I was faced with a decision to be made in a relatively short amount of time, I talked to everybody about it. Seriously, it was all I talked about. I asked people for their pros and cons and rather infamously said, “Seriously. If you were me. What would you do?” And guess what? Peoples’ answers covered every base and every inch of infield dirt that covered the field.
In this particular decision making saga, I actually also learned that I have severe people-pleasing tendencies that lurked deep beneath the surface of my “I’ll do whatever I want” attitude. In all reality, I want people (especially people who are close to me) to approve of and agree with my decisions. This is part of my problem, admittedly, and it only makes having to decide even harder. To avoid this, consult only the “inner circle” or people who are familiar with the context, yet can speak objectively into the situation.
3. Remember: The world is not ending.
BREAKING NEWS! Chances are, unless you are an anesthesiologist, every decision you make each day is not the most important decision ever. (If you are an anesthesiologist, please do continue on with your very carefully calculated decisions.) Your life is made up of a series of decisions – big ones, medium sized ones and big’uns – and the truth is that you will probably choose wrong more than one time. In fact, you’ve probably chose wrong before.
But, guess what? Here you are. Alive and well and probably reading this post from a nifty device in your hand or at a co
mputer in a cozy cubicle. Did you get that part? Friend, you are alive and well.
No decision is outside of the realm of redemption. Our wrong decisions or “less right” choices do not have to define us. If we let them, they refine us.
I have to ground myself in this truth, over and over again, when making decisions. I have to self-talk myself into remembering that if I am motivated by love and by the desire to seek justive, love mercy and walk humbly with God, then nothing I decide – even if “wrong” – is unfixable. I’m not sure what God means to you or where you stand with Him – but this is usually where prayer comes in big time in most of my choosing. This is where I say, “Okay, God. I know You’re in this. I know You’ve got this all worked out – but right now, I’m in the crucible. I’m looking for You, but all I see is chaos. If I make the wrong choice, help me to remember that You’ll be in that chaos too. If I mess this up, remind me to look for You in the rubble. God, I know You show up in the rubble.”
The world isn’t ending because of your choice. The fate of humanity is not riding on your decisions. The butterfly effect is an overstatement. Don’t buy into the lie that one “less right” or “bad” decision – or even a series of them – alters the course of your life past the point of joy.
That’s the funny part about making decisions, you know. Even if you take a detour or it takes some time to shake out, they almost always work themselves out in the end.
4. Trust your gut and decide.
Most times when I’m completely rattled and hung up on a decision, I know what I am going to choose from the very second I am faced with a choice. Most times, I know what I want and I know what I should choose. If that’s the case, why do I get hung up?
I think the truth is this: I have an intense case of decision-induced FOMO. My “fear of missing out” by making the “wrong” decision causes me to get caught up in the tension between what my gut is telling me and whatever the other option is.
And most times? I choose what I knew I was going to choose in the first place. This means I agonize and torture myself (and those around me) for no good reason. This means there’s a whole lot of stress endured by me and my old-lady bones that never needed to happen.
My lack of trust in myself, my gut or the God guiding me to these “gut instincts” causes me to consider every possible outcome – and of course, that’s just impossible. Eventually, I just need to jump. At some point, I just need to take the leap and say, “This is what I’m deciding. I can’t articulate why – it may not even make sense. All I know is that this feels right. From the very beginning, this has felt right.”
That may not be enough for some people. In fact, it might make some people really, really mad. But when you trust your instincts, when you lean into your decisions and say, “I’m doing this because it’s right – for whatever reason, it’s right,” people can’t help but respect you. And even if they don’t, you can rest in knowing you decided well.
Do you identify as someone who is indecisive or are decisions easy for you to make? What are some tips or processes you go through (alone or with others) that helps you make decisions?