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One Mental Trick that Can Help with Tough Decisions

A Simple Strategy for Analysis Paralysis

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As long as I can remember, I have had a difficult time making decisions. I go back and forth, weigh the pros and cons, and sometimes even spend exhaustive amounts of time discussing my thought process with loved ones. My husband, who can make decisions in a split second, is easily irritated by my incessant rumination.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out why I am this way and I think it comes down to part personality and part upbringing. Growing up, my father placed a high emphasis on thinking before you act and making the right decisions. When I messed up, I heard about it. As for my personality, being Type-A and a subsequent perfectionist, I worry very much about making the wrong choices. As a result, I tend to awfulize whatever negative impact I imagine will result from my decisions.

These factors create the perfect pressure cooker scenario where my anxiety runs so high that I try to think even harder to prevent something bad from happening. The kicker is, there are endless decisions to make in life, and even the smaller ones will bog me down when I get stuck in this cyclical thinking.

Luckily, I’ve learned a few tricks in my 30 plus years and this one has been especially helpful in easing the pressure I feel when I comes to decision making.

I remember this one thing:

VERY FEW DECISIONS IN LIFE ARE PERMANENT.

There, think about that for a moment.

It’s actually very simple.

What can you do in this life that cannot be undone? I can only think of a handful –

Having children, committing crimes, committing suicide…

But what can you “undo?” Almost everything.

Choose a major in college you no longer like? Change it.

Hate your job? Get a different one.

Regret deciding to stay home with the kids? Go back to work.

Even a marriage to the wrong person can be dissolved (not that I advocate taking marriage lightly).

I could go on.

When my sister was really stressed about making the very hard decision of whether to move across the country or not, I asked her to consider what would happen if she hated the place she chose. She realized that all she would have to do was move back. That’s not to say that it would be easy, there’s a ton of work and expense involved with relocating. But she could. Moving does not have to be permanent. And she did end up making that move.

Just knowing that I can unwind almost any decision makes it so much easier for me to drop all the back and forth and do it already. Sure, there are opportunity costs and potentially costs to change direction, but I know it can be done. Of course, I don’t recommend going to the other extreme, making rash decisions simply because you can always correct them later. I imagine this would lead to a very messy life.

But for me, knowing that I can always change my mind gives me the freedom to set my anxiety aside and move forward.

What about you? Do you get bogged down in trying to make the “perfect” decision? How do you get yourself unstuck?

Originally published at www.thesanityplan.com

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