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Take the stress out of decision making

Have you ever found yourself looking at a restaurant menu and felt incapable of making a decision?


That is exactly how I felt when I met a friend for lunch in our local Italian deli this week.  The menu had well over 30 items on it from small plates, to pizza, platters to salads, meat and fish dishes.  And that’s before you get to the specials board!  It’s not that I couldn’t find anything I wanted to eat, quite the opposite.  I hummed and hawed over at least 6 dishes until I was forced to make my final decision just as the waitress came to take our order.


Why is deciding what to order for lunch so difficult?choices


It is because that is just one of the 70+ decisions we have to make each day*.  From the mundane – cereal or toast for breakfast?  To the life changing – handing in your notice at work, starting or ending a relationship or going for promotion.


Whilst some decisions have just one or two choices, some of those 70+ decisions will have many more possible options.  To make matters more overwhelming, the fact that we can now search the internet or our social media platforms for advice to help us make our decision, means the choices are endless!


“We are faced with 70+ decisions each day”.  


So how do we stop ourselves getting overwhelmed?  How do we help ourselves to make the right choice?


One answer is to reduce the number of decisions we have to make.  We spend a lot of our day planning and trying to predict the future, wanting to get things right.  That requires a lot of brain power.  What if we were to focus our attention more on what is actually happening as it happens rather than trying to imagine how things will be in the future?   Paying more attention to what is happening in that moment could clear through a lot of the clutter that all that future thinking creates.

“Clear through the clutter and pay attention to what is happening as it happens”. 


We can get lost in a sea of options.  Weighing up what is the “right”, “healthiest”, “most economical” or “most socially acceptable” decision.  Looking at the situation from umpteen different perspectives and finding ourselves trying so hard to minimise the chance that we make the “wrong” decision.  In the end we paralyse ourselves and end up putting off making the decision to another time.


As I sat in the deli on Tuesday looking at the bewildering array of dishes on offer I found myself wondering how different it would be for those of us who over analyse, over think and over plan our lives if we were able to let go of having to work everything out.  If we were able to drop the story about needing to get it right and could reduce the number of decisions we have to make simply by focusing on what is truly important in each moment and investing energy there instead.


Whether I chose the goats cheese salad or the risotto really didn’t matter in the scheme of things.  So why not save my mental energy for the more important stuff!

Where in your life can you let go of decisions?

When could you be more attuned to your present moment experience and use it as a guide to know what to do?





*Iyengar SS, Lepper MR. “When choice is demotivating: can one desire too much of a good thing?”.  Journal of Personal and Social Psychology. 2000, Dec 79(6):995-1006.

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