How We Decide What To Do When When We Don’t Know What To Do

As someone who always seems to be in a constant state of indecision, I know that there are endless scenarios with countless options to agonize over. Whether it’s the perpetual brunch dilemma of savory versus sweet, or whether to use your precious free time for a workout or drinks with a friend, or any of the many other more difficult choices one might have to make in life, the opportunity for indecision is constant.

This is an area I know I personally have a lot of space for improvement, so I’m making an effort to become more conscious of it, and to not stress over pointless decisions when I know that to be in limbo is actually far worse than the unnecessary paranoia that I made the wrong choice. Wondering what the other path would have led to — as I so often do when a server walks by with the French toast as my omelette arrives — is a thankless and pointless thought process. It not only is unpleasant in its own right, but it detracts from the value of the route you chose to pursue, tainting it with the hues of what-ifs and the scent of doubt and discontent.

Addressing my subpar ability to be decisive led me to ponder the many elements that can go into a decision, and how easy it is to lose sight of what elements are most important. Sometimes it’s easier to decide which criteria are most important, and then determining to stick to whatever decision that leads to. It is important to be able to distinguish between different elements of a scenario before either making a hasty and perhaps poor choice, or becoming crippled by the uneasy weight of indecision.

One particular area that lends itself to such a thought process is that of weighing options in terms of making a new commitment – whether it’s to a new relationship, a new job, or otherwise.

In this area, it seems it’s very easy to confuse three important elements: 1) your standards which you wish to maintain steadfastly, 2) your shallow deal-breakers that you know are shallow but you’re sorry-not-sorry about, and 3) the areas in which you have a preference but would be willing to compromise because people, jobs, and opportunities are ultimately a sum of their parts. Being able to distinguish among these three categories, and taking care not to treat one as another, is an excellent skill to develop, and relevant to many realms of life. Otherwise, we run the risk of sacrificing where we ought to stand strong, and remaining rigid when we ought to reassess. Both instances result in a loss — whether of an opportunity, or of our integrity.

Integrity is one of those tricky things that needn’t be tossed away in blatant disregard for it to be damaged or lost. In fact, it is the small disservices that chip away at it over time — quietly, discreetly — until we have travelled far enough away that we are granted the illuminating burden of retrospect — the newness of our position expanding pixel to big picture, revealing the damage we unknowingly inflicted upon ourselves. This is what we risk when we confuse our standards for an area upon which we should compromise.

On the other hand, when we become so accustomed to a requirement on our list without reassessing as our circumstances — and, more importantly, as we ourselves — change, we can hold steadfast to anchors that provide no stability but rather stagnancy, that do not ground us but stunt our growth.

A thought process, an expectation, a desire can become habitual — so much so that you may not realize you no longer need or even want it. You are simply so familiar with needing and wanting it, that your instinctual reaction to giving it up is definitively opposed. We are dynamic and we (hopefully) mature over time and so what might once have been an absolute unbreakable demand can become a fading suggestion, as open to dismissal as acceptance. If we don’t sort through them, divvying them into piles to be kept, considered, or discarded, we will find ourselves cluttered, with truly meaningful and relevant desires getting buried beneath outdated, irrelevant whims, suffocating under the congested weight that is an inability to change or move on. This clutter certainly does not help in making efficient and well-informed decisions.

In doing some mental and emotional spring cleaning, we not only remove old items that are useless clutter at best, and distracting or misleading factors at worst, but we create new space to focus on our current needs and desires. It allows for a fresh, clear space to assess goals, yearnings, and how to go about getting them, or, to evaluate negatives in your life and how you might go about removing them. Habit is a powerful tool — but it must be controlled. While we often struggle with developing habits that we consciously wish to achieve — be it an exercise routine, flossing daily, or carving out time each week to read up on current events — it is remarkably easy to fall victim to our habits that are so ingrained we do not even recognize their existence.

If there’s anything I’m learning as I attempt to discern which habits I wish to employ, and which I wish to break, it’s that it is crucial to live consciously, to be self-aware in all facets of life. This awareness will ultimately be a key contributor to making clear decisions; in being aware of where you stand in each aspect of your life, you are far more likely to realize which criteria are currently most important to take into account.

It is for these reasons that distinguishing between standards, shallow desires, and areas of compromise; consciously forming habits; and reassessing needs and values all can be instrumental in making decisions that lead to progression and improvement. It’s at least something to think about it, preferably over brunch. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

featured image – Chellseeyy

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