It's easy to start overthinking things when we're faced with an important decision to make. Even with seemingly minor decisions, we can sometimes find ourselves going back and forth endlessly as we debate the pros and cons of each possible option.
Much of this overthinking happens when we're committed to making the “perfect” decision. The thing is, we're not perfect, and life is filled with surprises and unexpected twists and turns. A few imperfect decisions along the way are inevitable, and they're a fundamental part of our life experience. Through those imperfect decisions, we learn and grow.
Assess Trade-Offs and Priorities
Furthermore, much of the time, there simply is no “perfect” decision. Instead, it's a matter of assessing trade-offs and priorities:
Writing things down can be a great way to avoid going round and round in your head thinking about things. The process of writing things down, and the opportunity to see things laid out in writing, can both lead to deeper insight as you assess and prioritize.
Rating the desirability of different options on a scale of 1-10 can also provide added clarity as you consider all of your options. Interestingly, you might find that while one option scores higher in terms of desirability, you're reluctant to pursue it and you feel drawn towards something else. This is typically a good indication of that one option aligns more closely with your personal values than the others.
Honour Personal Values
We often get caught up in that loop of overthinking when we set our personal values aside and instead go searching for the "happy ending" decision. This is the decision that we think will make us feel good and give us what we want, while also pleasing everyone else around us, with no negative consequences whatsoever.
The reality of life, however, is that there will be many occasions where any choice you make will have some negative consequences or fallout. For instance, accepting one opportunity might mean walking away from another one. Moving in a particular direction might require that you sacrifice something important to you. Choosing a particular course of action might mean that someone close to you winds up being hurt.
Striving to respect and honour your personal values can go a long way in helping you to make those difficult decisions. Being clear on the specific values that your decision needs to align with can help you avoid overthinking by keeping you grounded and focused on something specific and concrete.
Each one of us faces challenging decisions at one point or another. Abandoning the quest for perfect decisions, clarifying our priorities, and focusing on our values are just some of the ways we can escape the trap of overthinking and make better decisions in the long run.
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