In a pandemic ravaged, rapidly changing world where propaganda is proliferating, and traditionally reliable information is being doubted, it feels increasingly difficult to make well-informed satisfying decisions.
The enormity of decisions these days have life and death consequences and life-altering possibilities: should we send our children back to brick and mortar classrooms, go to polling stations, withdraw our children from international studies, volunteer, relocate to another state for our children’s athletic careers, or accept early retirement that has come way too early?
When our emotions are highly charged our ability to make clear decisions are impaired. Emotions derail our thinking process, and make us unhappy with ourselves and the choices we make.
Some people make decisions based on always going for the best option (Maximizers), whereas other people (Satisficers) are content with meeting their minimum criteria. Which are you? Are you a Maximizer constantly exploring and revisiting options, and comparing your own and others’ choices? Or are you a Satisficer happy with decisions taken and rarely look back?
The following suggestions on mindfully making decisions may relieve anxiety, and lead you to greater satisfaction with those choices:
The present moment is filled with all we need to know. From it, we gain information and a complete picture of our situation. It is important to remember that no situation, person, or thing is inherently bad or good or exactly the way we perceive them to be; everything has complex contributing factors feeding into it. So ultimately everything is nuanced. When our decisions are motivated by fear, anger, desire, or attachment, our perspective narrows down, we exaggerate and place qualities onto the situation or person, and we lose sight of the bigger picture. This is an exhausting and demoralizing way to make choices. To avoid this, remain grounded in the present, gain wider perspective, and examine past experiences to learn from them.
If you are overwhelmed by making weighty decisions, practice making small or non-consequential decisions first. Instead of always having a sandwich for lunch, choose a salad. Notice your mental and emotional reactions; is there regret or pleasure? Ask yourself what the cons were with regard to your choice. Chances are there won’t be any. Apply this strategy to any situation requiring a choice.
Know what matters most to you. Being clear about your values will ensure that you make decisions in alignment with them. Stress-based decisions can focus heavily on future rewards (like a big salary) and overlook long term priorities (like spending time with family). If you are unclear about your values, take some time now to jot them down, and begin living from them. You will be happier in the long run with decisions made this way.
The ability to make a wise decision is greatly enhanced when we are well rested. Research shows we process and absorb information during sleep. So don’t overlook this necessary step when a big decision is due. Take time to also walk, exercise, dance, and meditate. Create space around yourself physically and mentally, as this makes it easier to process information and decide on options.
Emotions distort our ability to see clearly. The best decision making process is to rely on your thinking. Make lists of pros and cons of each option available to you. Consider different outcomes and scenarios based on the decision. Then reflect on what you know and whether your decision makes sense with that knowledge.
Ultimately in the decision making process, the final decision is our own. Trusting our ability to make the right choices, feeling confident about yourself, and reassuring yourself of your coping ability and resilience are qualities you will need to recollect now. After reflecting on and evaluating the decision you have to make, trust your instinct. Remind yourself the only thing within your control are the choices you make.
May your choices lead you to happiness and peace.
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