We’ve all been there, weighing out pros and cons, desperate to make a decision, only to second-guess ourselves after the decision has been made. Each day is made up of a hundred little decisions — what to wear, what to make for dinner etc., etc… For some, it’s no big deal. Yet, for others, it can be agonizing. Good decision making is a skill. But the fear of making the wrong decisions can cost you peace of mind. Here’s why making up your mind is so difficult and what you can do to improve your decision-making skills.
Life is complicated. Especially in these trying times. And with all the complications we’ve had to endure lately, comes a plethora of choices. Think about how many choices you’ve already made today. Few, if any, have long-lasting consequences. Others, however, can have a huge impact on the direction of your life.
Life, it seems, is built on the decisions you make — good, great, bad, and highly regrettable. So, it stands to reason that when you finally make up your mind, you hope you’ve made the right choice and not one that you’ll soon live to regret. Therein lies the difficulty in making up your mind. For some, decisions come easily, but for others, even the tiniest of decisions may cause anxiety as they “flip-flop” through a variety of scenarios. If that sounds like you, you’re not alone.
Why you’re struggling with even the simplest of decisions
Lately, it seems that everyone is struggling to make even the simplest of decisions. The reason? Because the future is so uncertain these days. Making your mind up should be based on memories of how things worked for you in the past, suggests Carmen Simon, PhD. for Brainshark. Since people act on what they remember, not what they forget, the past is a useful tool to predict the future. However, thanks to the pandemic, even the decisions that were at one time considered minor — like “should I go to the grocery store” — have now morphed into “will I get sick if I go to the grocery store.”
Don’t overthink things
With Google at your fingertips and your best friend’s advice just a phone call away, you likely have enough information to make your head spin. But, while data is power and a good basis for decision-making, too much overthinking can leave you more confused and uncertain than ever. Many good decisions, says Linda Sapadin, Ph.D for Psych Central, can be made “based as much on intuition as on meticulous assessment of endless data.” Put simply: You’ll save yourself a lot of headaches by not overthinking your decision and just going with your gut.
Just accept that you can’t have it all
Sometimes you just want it all, which makes it almost impossible to make up your mind since making a decision forces you to close the door on all other possibilities. But sometimes wanting it all will only leave you in limbo — never moving forward to bigger and better things. So, you have to wrap your head around the fact that sometimes you can’t have it all. Live in the present moment and choose. Fantasize all you like about the what-ifs, but don’t allow them to keep you stuck.
What would you decide if no one cared?
Making up your mind one way or another is sometimes influenced by outside factors such as what people will think… If you’re inclined to think this way, imagine instead, a scenario in which no one else knows or cares what decision you make, suggests Juliana Breines Ph.D. for Psychology Today. Recognize what it is that you want to accomplish and what’s important to you, rather than what others want or expect for you. It’s your life after-all — your decision to make.
Don’t stress — your brain is wired to make the best decision possible
If you’re the type that agonizes over the smallest decision, then a good part of your day could be filled with “silent” stress. And the truth is, stress has a sneaky way of building up until one day it becomes a serious problem. So, what can you do to make the decision-making process a little less stressful? Here’s the good news! It seems that your brain does it for you. Your brain is wired to unconsciously make the best decisions possible with the information it’s given.
In recent years, neuroscientists have studied animals to decipher the decision-making process. Researchers have recorded the activity in brain cells. These studies helped reveal how animals and humans make everyday decisions. It all comes down to what you see and hear around you. These sensory signs, as well as others, enter the brain and are recorded in sensory circuits. Other brain cells then collect the data, evaluate and make a judgment call. This is how a decision is born. So, don’t sweat it; eventually, all will be clear.
-The UpWellness Team