In life we are faced with countless decisions. From the moment we wake up: “Do I stay in bed for an extra 10 minutes and or do I get up now?” to throughout the day: “Do I want a burrito for lunch or do I want a salad?” until bedtime: “Do I want to watch the Jimmy Fallon show or do I just want to go to bed?” Gone are the days that everything was spelled out and all we had to do was play.
Speaking of those days… a about a year ago, my husband and I were facing some anxiety issues with our son, Aidan. We didn’t realize it was anxiety, we saw it as behavioral stuff and thought he’d hit an inevitable stage of defiance. His Waldorf kindergarten teacher at the time said it had nothing to do with his behavior but everything to do with how many choices we were giving him on a moment by moment basis. “Are you ready to leave the park or do you want to stay a little while longer?” “Do you want waffles or pancakes for breakfast?” “Do you want to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt?” etc. We thought as parents we were doing the right thing by empowering our son, when in actuality we were inadvertently stressing him out. She told us, “Think about it, as adults we have to make decisions constantly. And it’s stressful. With each choice you have to weigh the cost and the benefit. With every choice you make you’re also making a sacrifice.”
I’d never thought about it that way, but she’s absolutely right. As innocuous as it might seem, every decision I make means I’m saying no to something else. By choosing waffles, I’m not going to get pancakes, and am I ok with that? To a 4 year old this can be completely overwhelming. We took many of the trivial choices off the table and his anxiety disappeared and back was our happy playful little guy.
How does this relate to us as adults where we have no choice (ha!) to be at choice all the time?
A common topic among a lot of my clients is around decision making. For significant issues decision making can be crippling. There is an idea that if we don’t make the RIGHT decision then we begin a domino effect of less than ideal circumstances and will consequently live a failed life. Our focus shifts to an imagined future and, with the stress of having to make a right decision, we tend to immediately paint the “what if” picture in the most awful way. We almost never paint the picture that feels fantastic. This doesn’t have to be the case and it’s really quite simple to change your experience as it pertains to decision making.
It all comes down to this: the reason we get so caught up in decision making is because we firmly believe that there is an absolute RIGHT decision and an absolute WRONG decision. It’s like we believe there is a playbook out there that we all have to align to and by doing so we’ll live the good life. But the fact is, there’s not an official playbook so let’s just stop trying to figure out what all those RIGHT decisions are.
In reality there is only A decision. To rid yourself of the anxiety and panic that accompanies decision making you must adopt the idea that there isn’t such a thing as a right decision. There is only A decision. So pick something, anything, and then LIVE IT THE BEST YOU KNOW HOW.
That’s the key. Set something in motion and put your energy into fulfilling it as you’d like to realize it rather than trying to determine which is the best option and then imagine the horrible outcomes by not doing it right.
Here’s why this works.
We waffle into something and then never really commit to that something we chose and then feel conflicted. This is how we realize that awful future we imagined might happen. By not determining the right-ness of the choice (because we can’t) and then not fully lining up to it (because our energy is still channeled towards the what-ifs), then the hope we had for whatever our decision was going to result in eludes us. But not because of the decision, it’s because of how we’re living it out.
If this resonates with you try coming up with a statement to give yourself relief and get you out of a stalled dilemma state. Mine literally is:
“There is no right decision, only A decision.”
It never fails to slap me back into the present and remind myself that I’m always on purpose. I can then save all that energy from deliberating, trust my instinct and make a snap judgment, and use the ample mental and emotional energy to invest in actualizing that decision into a reality I WANT to live. And that’s what the good life is – living life out fully, in the moment, with no hesitation or regrets.
Now it’s your turn. What has your decision-making process been like in the past? Could taking on this perspective help free you to live on purpose? What could be possible knowing that every decision you make is always the right one? Leave your comments, questions, and considerations below. Thanks for being brave today!