What do you do when you can’t stop deliberating?

Most people have been in this situation. You’ve got too many choices. Any of them could be good, but you don’t know which one. You’re going around in circles because you don’t have any new information – nor do you need any. You have every fact you need, you just can’t decide.

How do you get around it?

How do you decide between two job offers? Between three different restaurants for dinner? Between four vacation destinations?

I have a process for you. If you stick to it, these decisions will get a lot easier, regardless of what they are.

Step 1: Eliminate any that are absolute “no” answers. You probably already did this, but I don’t want to assume. Make sure all your choices are things you theoretically would be okay with if they were the only option.

Step 2: Pick one of the options at random to be your “doomsday option.” It’s important you pick at random – names in a hat, or roll dice, or something.

Step 3: Pick a reasonable amount of time to think about the decision. For restaurants, that might be 15 minutes. For job offers, three days. For vacation destinations, 2 weeks. You get it.

Step 4: Say, out loud, “If at the end of [reasonable time frame] I haven’t decided otherwise, we’re going with the doomsday option.” Even if no one is in the room, but especially if someone is.

There. Now you’ve taken the pressure off. The decision is made. You can change it, but if you choose to just not expend the mental energy on the decision-making process, a choice is presented. This will feel fundamentally different than committing to just taking the random option, because the ability to choose isn’t removed from you. You still could exercise your free will and avert the doomsday option, but if you choose to just shrug and say “screw it,” then at least there’s a plan in place.

Most of the time, that’s probably what you’ll do anyway. If you couldn’t decide between options because any of them were fine, then you were wasting juice deliberating anyway. And once you have the option to free yourself, you’ll probably do so unless you have a strong preference – and if you have a strong (but previously hidden) preference, this is a great way to reveal it.

By the way, if the choice you’re having difficulty making is the choice between one “active” option and one “inactive” one – say, the choice between whether you should quit your job or not – make the “doomsday option” the active choice; the one that disrupts the status quo. Say, “If I don’t think of a good reason to stay within 30 days, I’m quitting.” Trust me, your life will be better in the long run.

2 thoughts on “Countdown

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