By: Abby Gemechu
There are many things I’m good at- retaining useless information, word puzzles, sleeping- but I am not, however, particularly skilled in making decisions. When it comes to making a definitive choice, I find myself in a bit of a pickle. Indecisiveness has always been a part of my personality, and it is, ironically, one of the few traits that I am absolutely sure I possess.
In today’s world, it is important to be able to make a definitive decision that you’re able to stand by and support. And, dear reader, as I’m sure you’ve realized, as a member of modern society, you are faced with so many possible choices in your daily life. It’s probably worth noting that everything you do can be considered a decision (making the effort to get up and eat, taking care of yourself, etc). However, I think it’s when thought and consideration are required that things start to get difficult.
From what to write about to what song I listen to (actually, that’s not as much of a problem as it could be, thanks to Spotify’s despicable shuffle requirement on non-premium accounts), indecisiveness seems to have some sort of hold over everything I do. However, despite this, I still feel the ridiculously compelling need to have a choice. It seems as if I might be more content with someone making my decisions for me- big or small- and while that may certainly be easier, I’ve come to see that’s not the case. Time and time again, when the privilege of choice is taken away from me, I feel its absence more than ever, and suddenly, as if by some sort of absurd, inconveniently-timed magic, I know exactly what I want to do. However, unfortunately, my say most likely no longer matters at that point.
From conversations I’ve had about this with others, I don’t think I’m the only one experiencing this. For that reason, after reading and ranking a slew of bits of advice that address this, I’ve put together a list of mindset changes that might help you reduce your indecisiveness.
- Go for good enough
Oftentimes, when I find it difficult to make a decision, it is because I am nervous about its implications on my future. This is due to the ever-present pressure to make the best possible decision- both for the Me in the present and the Me in the far-away future. How will this affect me tomorrow? What about next year? Twenty years from now? If you’re a decisive person at heart and have not experienced this before, allow me to provide you with an example of this sort of thinking: If I don’t take this science elective, will I miss out on discovering my long-hidden passion for zoology? Am I effectively cancelling out the possibility I become a successful scientist in the future?As highly unlikely (and, quite frankly, embarrassing) as it is, I reluctantly admit that I have thought something along those lines before.
However, psychologist Barry Schwartz suggests taking a different approach: perhaps the best is not what’s necessary. While the concept of settling can sometimes be regarded badly, research shows that going for good enough, as opposed to best, makes people significantly happier and content with their lives. Of course, settling for less than what you need is not recommended, but being fine with whatever gets the job done is, well, good enough. In a New York Times article from 2017, writer Susan Shain points out, “When setting the good-enough bar, it helps to reflect on your original goal. Did you begin your online shopping odyssey to find a toaster that could clean itself, roast carrots and also charge your cellphone? Or were you just looking for something that would brown your bread?…Remembering your purpose can simplify the process.”
- “Follow a balance between listening to your mind and trusting your instincts.”
Out of all three of the pieces of advice on this list, I think this is the most important one. Remembering and prioritizing balance, more than anything, is what helps me to make decisions more smoothly. Of course, balance is crucial in anything, but especially in overcoming indecisiveness, one has to walk a fine line between acting on impulse and overthinking things until even you’re confused. Make sure to think about both what you want and what is necessary, and give them an equal say in your end decision. As psychologist Illene Strauss Cohen writes, “Logic alone will convince you to make the safer choice, which may not allow you to follow your passions. You also may end up stuck making no decision because you’ll convince yourself that more information will help make the choice easier. On the other hand, going completely with your gut feelings can lead you to make impulsive decisions.”
- Visualize and weigh
One of the best things you can do to make the right decision thoughtfully is create what Shain calls “thought experiments.” This means that, when trying to make a decision, imagine the possible outcomes. Picture a button that, if pressed, would immediately take you to the future in which you’ve made this decision, the immediate effects have worn off, and life with this decision is just, well, life to you. At that very moment, would you decide to push the button? If so, then making this decision is probably something you intuitively would like to do. After thinking about it and the future it might give you, it is unlikely that this choice will be made impetuously. However, if the answer is no, reconsider what might be holding you back from taking this step, and make the decision based on that. Writer Tim Urban, who’s written about this in his blog Wait But Why, says they help people “cut through fog to see clarity.”
As a side note, I’ll just add that these are just pieces of general advice that might help you, but nothing is universal, so they won’t apply to everyone. If some of these don’t work for you, that’s okay! Progress is personal, and finding what’s best (or good enough- haha, see what I did there?) for you is most important. Now that you’re armed with these nuggets of wisdom in your pocket, dear reader, go forth and make a whole bunch of decisions! You can do this! I’m pretty sure that’s all I wanted to say-