When I was a teenager and into my early twenties, I always described myself as an incredibly indecisive person. Making small decisions, like choosing a restaurant, was just as difficult as making more important ones, like choosing what college to attend. My mind would go cloudy (as I like to call it), anxiety would take over, and my brain would just freeze.
The first time I truly made a decision entirely on my own, for myself only, was when I broke up with my boyfriend of 6 years. It was tempting to want to ask everyone I knew for advice, but in the end, I realized I was just hoping they would all tell me to go for it and that I would be fine. And if that was the answer I was waiting for, then clearly that’s what I wanted.
Once I was able to make that huge life change, I realized something major: I’m not indecisive. I’ve just always had trouble truly listening to my gut and blocking out others’ opinions and judgements. After experiencing this realization, it was like I was set free. I realized that the anxiety I felt when making a decision was actually about what others thought, or would think, and that completely clouded my ability to just listen to what I wanted.
So if you’re anything like me and have experienced some of this stress over making decisions, try following these steps:
1. Wait until you’re clear-headed
Sounds simple, but sometimes we forget. Don’t make any decision when you’re feeling anxious, stressed, or upset. You’re not in the best state of mind to do so, so just don’t. Wait until some time has passed and you’re feeling a bit more clear headed. This is why we sometimes want to “sleep on it”. It’s not that the answer will all of a sudden come, but it’s that you’ll be in a different state of mind that will help you see more clearly.
2. Ignore fears, judgements, and others’ opinions
Whether you’re deciding what to wear or what career to pursue, it’s totally normal to think about how others will perceive your decision. It took me a while to realize just how much I cared what my parents thought about my decisions. I realized I was making a lot of choices to make them happy, but in the end, I’m the one who needs to live with those choices, so I needed to make them for me and only me. So as you navigate through a decision, clear away those distractions. Push them to the side for a moment until you see a clear path to what your deepest instinct is trying to say.
3. Try it on
A very wise person once told me – actually she tells me this all the time – to “try on” each scenario. Imagine yourself choosing one option. What are your initial feelings? Do you feel tense? Relieved? Take note of these feelings. You don’t need to automatically know the answer, just try to be aware and clear-headed. Relief is an especially important emotion to take note of. If you can picture yourself choosing one of the options and feeling a sense of relief afterwards, then chances are that is the best choice.
4. Listen to your body
I never realized just how much our bodies are truly connected to our emotions. When I’m feeling anxious, I tend to get a stomach ache. When I feel heartbroken, I literally feel an aching pain around my chest. These aren’t just coincidences. These are your body’s way of telling you how you feel. So when you’re working through a decision, pay attention to how your body feels when you walk through each side. Does it tense up when you consider a certain choice? Do you feel yourself relax a bit when you consider the other? Go with these signs. This is your instinct kicking in and it’s always right!
5. Remember this: there is no right or wrong answer.
You may have different beliefs about this, but in my opinion, there is no one path we are all meant to go on. There is no wrong choice. If you make a decision and later realize it’s creating difficulties for you, then you make another decision and change your path. You have control over your life and there is no one decision you could make that would send you on a horrible spiral downwards where you end up homeless with no friends (that’s our worst fear, right?). And if this idea of there being no right or wrong answer stresses you out even more? Just know this. The right answer is the one where you listen to your gut. It always, always, always leads you to the right place.
What are some techniques that help you make decisions better?