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Decision Impossible: How to Make Choices

fork-in-road sign
fork-in-road sign (Photo credit: creativelenna)

In every stage of life, we have to make decisions. As children, very small choices seemed so extraordinarily important: which seat in the classroom? which color of candy? which swing on the playground? With each new year, these once easy choices seem to become more and more difficult and frequent.

One of the most common and stressful choices college students have to make is which subject to major in. People start asking you this question before you even attend a university, and the interrogation won’t stop when you give an answer. The next question is usually something like, “Oh, and what do you want to do with that?” Once you make one decision, the next one or two or fifty are already lined up in front of you.



For some people, decision-making comes naturally. They can evaluate a situation based on pros and cons, or whatever method they prefer, and quickly make a choice without much inner turmoil. For others, nearly every decision with any life-altering capacity does not function as an outlet for the expression of personal desire, but as a terrifying roadblock that leads to stress, worry, and even serious anxiety. When faced with difficult decisions, there are a few things you can do to make the process less nerve-wracking.


1. Accept that you need to make a choice
This is so obvious, but many people don’t commit to the decision when it presents itself. They will push it aside, under the impression that putting it off will somehow make it less pressing or necessary. In reality, you’re only costing yourself time.


2. Determine the costs and benefits
The outcomes of decisions are the reasons we make them. Focus on what will result from each possible choice so that you can make an informed decision, BUT…


3. …Don’t over-think it
This is my biggest struggle with decision-making. I exhaust myself mentally by running situations through my head until every possibility has been visited. The problem is that my visits tend to be unwelcome. It’s wonderful to be thoughtful in your choices, but you are not capable of determining every outcome.


4. Don’t Dr. Phil-zone your friends and family
Dr. Phil-zoning occurs when you convince yourself that everyone around you is somehow more capable of making your decision than you are. You’ll explain your circumstances a thousand times over, hoping they will pick up some detail you missed and magically point you in the right direction. It’s great to use friends and family for advice, but don’t look to them for the answer.


5. Realize your situation is unique
One of the most fulfilling things to discover in another person is a similarity that is so spot-on between the two of you that you may very well be twins. When people have similar views, it is easier to discuss things with them because your opinions will usually align. However, it can be tempting to project yourself onto this person and assume the decision they would make in your shoes is the one you should make as well.


6. Become a third party
This isn’t really a technique to make a decision, but it does help in lessening the amount of stress you will feel about it. Pretend that you are a complete outsider in your own situation, and determine how you would feel about the weight of the decision. Once you’re caught up in your own rambling mind, it’s easy to think a single choice is much more intense than it really is. Just pretend an acquaintance is making the same decision, and ask yourself what they really need to be worried about. By viewing the decision through the eyes of someone who will not be affected, you are able to make more objective choices.


Until next time, have a lovely week!
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