Why is decision-making so hard? Do you often feel frozen by the number of choices, worried about the potential outcomes of making the wrong decision, or overwhelmed by the pressure you’re placing on yourself to make the right choice? You’re not alone. Many people find themselves having a difficult time making decisions, and if you’re like many of our clients who struggle with anxiety or perfectionism, it can be even more difficult to confidently make a choice and stick with it. In this blog, we’re going to walk through a five-step process to help you take some of the pressure off of decision-making so that you can make choices more quickly with less stress. You don’t necessarily need to go through each of these steps for every decision, but by following them with choices you’re feeling conflicted about, you may be able to come to a decision you feel good about in less time.
1 – Evaluate the Situation
This isn’t a three-hour breakdown of every pro and con on both sides of the debate. Take a breath and step away from your pro and con spreadsheet. Simply take a few minutes to really consider exactly what the situation is. What decision are you making? How quickly do you need to make the decision? Does your choice impact other people? What are the stakes for you? Is this really life or death?
2 – Consider Past Experience & Intuition
Now that you have a good idea of the situation, consider any past similar experiences. Did you make a specific choice that went wrong? One that went right? Have you seen others make similar choices? What was the outcome for them?
Again, don’t spend hours agonizing over the answers to these questions (or try not to). Just take a few minutes to think of your past experiences with similar situations honestly. Then, listen to your “gut” instinct. What overthinkers often think of as intuition is actually the result of their subconscious processing past experiences and current circumstances to help them make decisions that keep them safe. Don’t ignore those instincts! That doesn’t always mean you have to make the intuitive decision, but you should at least recognize and consider these feelings of intuition.
3 – Consider Best Case, Worst Case, and Most Likely Scenarios
Here’s a secret that decisive people will tell you. Most of the decision-making is about finding an option that is good enough and being able to accept that rather than getting bogged down in constantly analyzing every aspect of the decision. It’s a skill that can be learned just like anything else. One of the best ways to develop this skill is to consider each option’s best, worst, and most likely outcomes. Quickly think this through. Then, choose the option that has the best and most likely case scenarios and the most acceptable worst possible outcome. This is usually a decision you will be able to live with.
4 – If You’re Really Struggling, Call in Reinforcements
If you really can’t come to a decision, phone (or text) a friend. We mean one. Do not text your entire contact list or post a poll on Instagram. Instead, choose one person whose opinion you value and who may have insight into a situation and ask for their thoughts. Do not ask them what choice they would make or to make the decision for you. Just ask them to generally tell you their opinion of the situation and possible outcomes of your decisions.
This cannot be stressed enough – it’s really important to take responsibility for your own actions and choices. Asking for advice from a loved one and acting on that advice doesn’t mean that any negative outcomes are now that person’s fault and not yours. You still made the choice, and you need to be able to live with it.
5 – Accept the Outcome with an Eye Toward the Future
Many people who struggle to make decisions feel paralyzed by the thought that if something goes wrong because of their choice, that means it’s all their fault. It’s important to take responsibility for your decisions, but if you’ve made a thoughtful decision (at this point, you really have), it’s just as important to accept that you only have so much control in the world. So don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go exactly as you hoped. We all make mistakes and choose the “wrong” option from time to time. It’s a fact of life, so don’t spend too much of your time watching the internal play-by-play recap of how you messed up. Instead, look toward the future and consider how (and if) you could have made a better choice and try to do better next time.
Want Support as You Learn to Make Decisions More Quickly?
Learning any new skill and applying it to your daily life takes effort and time. You may still find yourself struggling with decision-making, and that’s okay! The goal is to take steps to get a little better at letting go of anxious or perfectionist thinking, so you can start making decisions more quickly and giving yourself a lot more grace if things don’t go exactly how you hoped. In addition, you can develop your decision-making skills and numerous other strategies and tools to make life easier to navigate during therapy sessions. If you’re interested in working with one of the knowledgeable therapists at Family Connections Therapy in San Diego, we hope you’ll get in touch with us to schedule an appointment.