I have a friend who finds decision making really difficult. We’ll go out for lunch and she’ll spend a good 20 minutes perusing the menu, while I fuck around on my phone because I made my decision before we even walked in the door.
Her decision anxiety doesn’t stop there though. After she’s ordered, she frets about whether or not she ordered the right thing. She only wants haloumi if it’s cooked the right way. Did that salad come with kimchi? She’s not sure if she likes kimchi. Maybe she’ll just go to the counter and see if she can change her order. She’s the same with clothes. Should she buy those shoes? She has a similar pair at home. Are they different enough to justify the purchase? She’ll try them on another twenty times and then won’t end up buying them.
It’s exhausting. The funny thing is that sometimes out of sheer frustration, I’ll just make the decision for her and she loves it. I’ll just tell her I’m coming over with takeaway and wine and she doesn’t give a shit what I bring. She’s just pleased she doesn’t have to contribute to the decision making. This proves that the outcome is not the issue, it’s the responsibility of the decision.
I’m quite a decisive person. I’m not into food so I just pick the healthiest thing on the menu. I like most movies so I’m happy seeing whatever. I prefer red wine but if I’m surrounded by white wine drinkers, that’s totally fine, let’s get a bottle of sav blanc. This didn’t happen naturally, I trained myself over the years to not care about little things and just get on with it. I have a bit of high functioning anxiety so I need to stay on top of this mind set so I don’t end up freaking out over a teeny tiny things that really don’t matter. Here are a few things I do to make decision making a bit easier.
1. Spend your decision allowance on things that matter
Lunch doesn’t matter. What you wear to that wedding doesn’t matter. Thailand and Bali are both lovely so pick a place and book the plane ticket. Save your decision making energy for things that DO matter. It does matter who you marry. It does matter where you buy a house and who you buy it with. If you’re wasting all that energy trying to decide between a taxi and an Uber, when you have to choose between two major job offers, you’ll be too fatigued to give that (much more important) decision the focus it deserves.
I know some foodies will throw their baguettes in the air and scream ‘But food is life! We MUST enjoy it!’ and I totally agree. I love watching foodies enjoy food but you know what? If you order an average lunch today, it’s not the end of the world because you get to have lunch again tomorrow and you can order something else. How ace is that?
2. Don’t let your desires get in the way
A lot of decision making is stalled by people letting their desires get in the way. ‘Should I go to the gym or the pub?’. ‘Should I get a big dirty pizza or roast vegetable salad for dinner?’
Life is about pleasure and we should definitely enjoy our time when possible but if we allow desire to shape all our decisions we’ll end up consistently doing silly things. For example many years ago I was offered two writing gigs at the same time. One was for a massive (at the time) fashion site and the other was for Realstate.com.au. REA was better pay, more consistent, more efficient people to work with and the briefs were subjects that I knew quite a lot about. I almost chose the fashion job but I broke down the pros and cons and went with REA. That fashion site closed down shortly after, leaving many freelancers without jobs and five years later I’m still working for Realestate.com.au. If I’m honest with myself, I only wanted the fashion job because it sounded cooler and it would have been more fun for my mum to brag to her friends that I’m a fashion writer rather than a realestate writer. I was letting my ego get in the way of making a good decision.
If you’re struggling to make a decision, just check in with yourself and see if it’s your desires railroading you that’s the problem. Sometimes the answer really is that simple.
3. Make decisions quickly
At least the little ones and even more especially the decisions you have to make every day like what to eat and what to wear. These decisions do not and should not take up half the morning. Routines can help if you struggle to get through the morning decision making process. Remove decisions altogether or concentrate on making decisions quickly.