Don't worry about the perfect choice. It doesn't exist.
My cousin lives in a charming old house.
It has a big glassed in area in the back. She keeps lots of plants back there. Her cat spends most of the day in this greenhouse area, sunning itself next to the potted fig tree.
In one corner near the ceiling of the glassed area, she gets a lot of condensation. She isn’t sure if there is a small leak between the panes of glass, or another problem.
She has watched a lot of YouTube videos to see if she can figure out exactly what is going on.
She talked to her neighbor about it. An elderly gentleman. I am sure he enjoyed the conversation, but he didn’t have any sage advice.
She brought several repairmen in for estimates. One she liked, but was more expensive. Another was less expensive and had previous experience. But she didn’t “connect” with him. A third was young and inexperienced. But the cheapest of all.
She’s not sure if she could fix the problem herself. Or if one of the repairman could do it. Or if someone else would be better.
This has gone on for six months. Meanwhile, the condensation area is getting bigger. Now it has started dripping on the floor. She still wonders aloud, often, if it’s from a leak, or something else.
What started as a small problem is getting bigger by the day.
The reason? She can’t make a decision about who to hire or what to do about it.
Until she finds the perfect choice. She won’t make any choice at all.
What is so scary about making a decision?
A lot of decisions feel enormous in our heads. Who is the right repairman? Or, what font should I use on my website?
None of those decisions are life-or-death.
But we don’t want to make the “wrong” choice. The choice that will result in one of two things (or both):
1) we will beat ourselves up for making the wrong decision
2) other people will judge our choice and therefore, us
So we make no choice at all. And the problem gets worse. Or the opportunity is missed.
Then the little decisions start to back up in our heads. Like a growing pile of legos, colorful and sharp. Some of them clicked together. Some separate.
The more we delay making those decisions. The larger that pile of little decisions gets, until it starts to overflow. Then we don’t even know where to begin. So we can’t make any headway through the pile. We’re totally overwhelmed.
But we forget that we have more control than we think.
We can choose not to beat ourselves up
The funny thing about worrying about our own negative thoughts. Is that we could just choose not to think them.
As a teacher of mine once said, your brain is like a toddler running around the house with a knife. Do you trust it to be safe and always make good choices?
Your brain often tells you to run away from scary things. But it can’t tell the difference between the discomfort of other people’s opinions. Or a tiger chasing you through the jungle. Both make your heart pound and your mouth dry. Both make you want to flee.
Sometimes you need to redirect your own brain.
And that can mean reminding yourself. To make a choice. And then stand behind it. Be your own advocate against that toddler with a knife. Remind your brain that no matter what happens after a decision is made:
The choice you made was the best you could do with the information you had at the time.
This doesn’t mean you should go making every decision without any thought or any inputs. To decide to move to Thailand from the US in the next hour, because you’re cold and Thailand has great beaches.
But if you have given a decision some thought. And done some research. You have some information. Enough to go on. Enough to make a choice and see what happens next.
Then you have enough information to make a decision.
We could choose not to internalize other people’s opinions on our decisions too
Our own brain might be like a toddler with a knife. But other people’s opinions are not always the best, or even accurate, either. And the people around you have lots of opinions on everything. If you give them a chance.
Why give them that chance?
Again, have confidence in yourself. Know that you made your decision for a good reason. And believe that that is enough.
And if someone disagrees with you, treat them like your aging Uncle Eugene. When he corners you at Thanksgiving and tells you once again about his Army days in the 1950’s. It’s an important story to him. And he enjoys telling you about it. That doesn’t mean it needs to be important to you. Nod and smile. Nod and smile.
So, how do we make a decision?
Often, we know deep down what we want. I think my cousin knows she needs to hire one of the three repairmen. And not the one that she didn’t connect with. So, she only has to choose between the more expensive guy and the less expensive one.
She could make that decision in less than an hour, if she wanted to. After a quick check of her bank statement.
So, the next time you have a decision to make. Ask yourself, if nobody else knew or had an opinion. Or, if you could do what made you the happiest. And could allow yourself the space to believe that you are making the best choice that you can in the moment.
What would you choose?
Then do that.
And commit to it.
Yes, some things might not end up exactly how you expected. But that is true no matter what decision you make. Even with all the information in the world. You still can’t completely control the outcome.
Keep making those little decisions. Over and over. Chip away at all those small choices.
After awhile, that pile of legos in your brain will get smaller and smaller.
And it will leave more room in your head for bigger thoughts, bigger opportunities, and bigger goals.
Those bigger decisions are the ones that can change your life.