I was chatting to a friend the other day and asking him about his travel plans. Where is he heading to next after Thailand? What seemed like a simple question to me actually made my friend anxious as he tried to explain why he didn’t know what his next move would be. There were too many options. He’d been looking at other people’s photos, asking for other people’s travel recommendations, and he was worried about missing out on amazing places and making the wrong choice.
And he’s not the only one.
Another friend is tossing up between a month in Bali, or splitting her time between Bali, the Philippines and Cambodia.
Now I know these are obviously pretty great scenarios to be faced with and that choosing your next travel destination is hardly something to be worried about, but the truth is that the more choices we have, the harder it is to make a decision, and the more likely we are to feel stressed and indecisive on a daily basis. And nobody wants that! Barry Schwartz talks about this in The Paradox of Choice. The common assumption is that more choices give us more freedom and yet ironically, the opposite is true. As Barry says, a greater amount of choice produces paralysis rather than liberation.
So what do we do when we’re spoiled for choice? How do we make a decision?
The trick is to ask yourself a few important questions and to realize that what’s important to you can and will change over time and that’s completely okay. You cannot possibly know how something will turn out or what you may want in the distant future. All you can be certain of is how you feel in this moment and what feels more important to you now. Relax and acknowledge that this is just a decision. There is no right or wrong answer. You’re not committing to anything forever. Just pick something and get started.
So if you’re feeling indecisive, here are the 3 questions you need to answer to finally get off the fence and make a decision:
- What are you most excited about right now? Which of your options has you buzzing with anticipation and makes you grin when you think of it?
- If you were on your deathbed and had to make a choice, which option would you choose? This may sound morbid but actually it’s an incredibly effective way of making any decision. It’s amazing how when we’re faced with the reality of our own mortality, we suddenly get clear on what’s most important to us.
- Which option more closely aligns with your values? Obviously in order to do this you need to be clear on what your values are (more on this in another post) and make sure that the decisions you’re making are aligned with these values so that you can feel happy and at peace.
If all of your options align with your values, then revert to the first two questions. And if you happen to feel equally excited by the different possibilities then the deathbed question will be the clincher. You’re always able to make a choice when you have to.
Here’s the other thing about making decisions that are fulfilling and bring you joy – once you’ve made the decision, move in the direction of that choice and don’t start contemplating the ‘what if’ scenarios of all of the options that you left behind. All of this hypothetical analysis of choices you didn’t pursue is not only unhelpful and exhausting; it’s also anxiety-provoking, stress-inducing and sucks the enjoyment out of the option that you did choose. And it’s the quickest way to snap you out of the present moment and take you into the world of the past or the future…the dreaded in-between.
Trust in the decision you’ve made and if it starts feeling like you’ve made the wrong move and you’re not enjoying yourself anymore, then allow yourself the freedom to return to the drawing board and go through the 3 step decision-making process again.
PS. If you’re struggling to decide if you should move abroad or stay put, or if you have another big decision that’s been playing on your mind, then I can help with a 2-hour decision smashing session