We enjoy easy decisions.
In an era where we’re told life is supposed to be hard, is there anything wrong with having an easy time? A stress-free choice is like room temperature butter on some perfectly crisp toast; it’s smooth, enjoyable, and everyone loves it. Most times, if we’re lucky, we run into easy decisions all the time. This is a great thing, and definitely taken for granted because choices would be a lot harder without our brain being on autopilot. Things like what to eat and what to wear are choices we don’t generally second-guess, unlike some of the people we’ve dated.
My guess is that you’re not here to listen to the easy shit, though; you probably struggle with how to make a decision when stuff’s really on the line. Even if your decision is between A or B, you just can’t figure out which one to go with. You list the pros, you list the cons, and you ask 100 people on top of your grandma’s cat. You sit there analyzing every detail, trying to play the future out in your mind. And yet, you’re still at square zero. Whiskers the cat turned out to be one useless son of a bitch.
The inability to make a choice plagues people’s existence on a frequent basis. That is to say, we can’t seem to make a decision for even the mundane, paralyzing us into a stupor.
What’s the deciding factor between someone who can’t make a decision versus someone who can?
Let’s briefly dive into an interesting area of research.
The Art of Heuristics
Several factors influence decision-making: past experiences, biases, age, individual differences, relevance to your personal needs, the potential for escalating commitment, and quite a few more. Now imagine all these factors meshing together in your Zelda-like quest to whoop a hard choice’s ass. No wonder you struggle, son.
Heuristics is a compilation of techniques used by people to help smooth out the decision-making process. In other words, it’s a way to problem solve that lends itself to getting you a practical, sufficient, and most importantly, quick decision. It may not be the perfect decision, but it’s a decision. Let me rephrase that so you can soak it in: heuristics enables your mind a little “cheat sheet”, or mental shortcuts, to ease the burden of making decisions. Drop the idea of a perfect decision anyway, because that shit is unrealistic. Why? Chasing perfection, in any capacity in life, will just slow you down.
The How To Guide on Making a Decision
Realize What a Decision Actually Is
Recognize that life is a constant game of making choices, no different than choosing a path in a video game. In this virtual world, let’s say you made the “wrong” choice – you can go back and redo it by loading up a previously saved game. In real life, things work a little differently. But in a way, you actually can go back if you so desire. Only this time, it’s through making different choices, instead of the same one. The journey will take longer and you can’t just re-spawn to the fork in the road and take the other path. Remember, video games are pre-programmed lines of code that are for the most part black and white. Would you really want such a black and white take on life?
It’s important to understand that you’ve made hard decisions in the past and you’re most definitely going to have to make them in the future. And since you’re reading this, you obviously survived fucking up a wrong decision in the past, so why get so worked up?
“But it’s not that I made the decision, it’s that I regret the decision that I made…”
You Will Make Wrong Decisions From Time to Time
Every single one of us harbors some regrets about past decisions. You can sit there and replay the past like an out of tune fiddle, but unfortunately that won’t work in your favor. You can instead understand that some of your past decisions gave you a lot of ammo in life to learn hard lessons. Life isn’t really trying to fuck you over constantly, I promise. It may be hard to wrap your head around the idea that you probably shouldn’t have chosen a certain somebody or something, but later on when it blows up you’re going to have to accept it. Like the impending hangover after a night of drinking six types of liquor, you probably saw it coming, but I’ll be damned if you didn’t stop it.
The universe has no obligation to make sense to you, at any time, under any circumstance.
Don’t Look at a Decision as a Dread
It’s just that – a choice. No matter which way you go, you have the ability to assess how it’s going and make adjustments from there. You can’t click your heels together three times to go back in time like Dorothy. But you can take steps to ensure you’re getting back on the right path.
Hard decisions are no joke, but if you’re dreading making the call, it might be time to lighten up. Plenty of people have recovered just fine, and in fact accelerated their life, after what they deemed a “bad step” or a “bad decision”. Whether these people realized at some point that the universe isn’t really here to fuck them over at any chance it gets, they took ownership of things and adjusted.
Go With Your Gut
That little feeling inside that most people ignore is the one you need to run after. Most importantly, catch it at the very beginning when you’re presented with options, or else it’ll be too late. Our minds will take over at some point, so that initial reaction on which way you should probably go can’t be stressed enough.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “don’t talk yourself out of it”. Trying to reason with your mind is like playing the role of a hostage negotiator deep in the middle of a crisis situation. You wouldn’t take on that role in your normal life, so leave that kind of shit to the pros. Deep within, we know what we need out of life. Consider your gut like your inner compass.
Sometimes though, we truly don’t have that initial “this is what I should do” moment.
Write It Out Then
If your gut fails you and you’re dead in the water, try to write it out. Write out the decision you’re facing in a complete sentence, and then make two columns. Start listing the pros and cons. If you notice one column starts taking on an overwhelmingly larger role, it might be time to make the call.
You Are Your Past Decisions
Tony Robbins said it best: where you are right now in life is the ultimate result of all your previous decisions. Good or bad, it’s the truth. The bad news is, you’ve probably made some regrettable and sketchy decisions. The good news is you can reverse them. You have the power to take a step in absolutely any direction you want, and your past results do not dictate your future decisions. Stop living in the past. Start planning your future. Even if you study heuristics and get a PhD in behavioral sciences, you’ll still fuck up on decisions. Don’t sweat it. The point is to not let that dictate your unrealistic expectation to make a perfect decision 100% of the time.