Did you know that the average adult makes 35,000 decisions a day? (Sahakian & Labuzetta, 2013)
Think about it. The alarm on your phone rings. You reach over on the nightstand, right where we’re not ‘supposed’ to keep our phone. You decide to hit snooze. 8 minutes later, the alarm goes off again. You choose to turn it off. You get out of bed on the same side you do every morning. You put on your slippers, grab your robe, and trudge out to the kitchen. The cat meows – do you stop to give her the food she wants before you start coffee or not? Cat food first. Then coffee. You open the cupboard and look for a mug. What kind? It’s Monday so it’s your yeti for the morning commute. You go to pour creamer and you’re out. Do you abandon your coffee and wait for drive through or add milk? Milk it is. One sugar or two?
You’ve got a dozen decisions (or more) in before you’ve had your first sip of java.
We careen through our days making an average of 35,000 decisions with little to no thought about how we make decisions, why we make them, or even what we believe about decisions.
Here’s the kicker: the quality of the decisions you make determines the quality of your life.
What do you believe? Do you believe decisions are hard? Do you walk around saying things like, “I hate to make decisions.” Do you say things like, “I have FOMO (fear of missing out)?”
Our beliefs about decisions affect the quality of decisions we make and therefore the quality of our life.
And I’m guessing that you, like me before I wrote, “How Do You Like Your Eggs” never gave any thought to my belief about decision making at all.
In my book I say, “All suffering is on the side of indecision. Once you decide, all that’s left to do is take action.”
So why don’t we decide?
I think that a part of that answer lies in what we think about decision making.
Here are some of the myths that we believe about decisions:
- There is one right decision. There is no bigger cause of analysis-paralysis than the belief that there is a ‘right’ decision and a ‘wrong’ decision.
- Some decisions are hard and some are easy. Nope. You just choose to believe that some are hard and some are easy. Let’s take ordering dinner, for instance. I have a friend who is a well respected professional that others seek out for life saving advice. Literally. She is always, I repeat, ALWAYS, the last person to order at the dinner table. She is capable of making life or death decisions on the fly, and yet when the waitress gets to her, she never has her order ready. Me? I can make decisions like that on the fly, no sweat. You’d call what to eat an easy decision, but not for my friend.
- I’m not a good decision maker. No. Choosing not to decide is still a decision. Avoidance is a decision. Deciding, then undeciding and then deciding are actually 3 decisions instead of choosing once.
- Small decisions don’t matter. This is one we all believe, even though we act as if we don’t. We hit snooze and skip our exercise plans. We drink one extra drink when we’re trying to cut back. Missing one workout won’t hurt, one extra drink won’t hurt… and they won’t… unless we keep making those small decisions that lead us away from our goals.
- That leads us to the fear that if we make a mistake (see number 1), that it will ruin everything forever and ever and ever. If we pick the wrong college, we’ll never succeed. If we marry the wrong person, our lives will never recover. We act as if we can’t just pick up and make the next right decision. Take the college example. You sign up. You go. It turns out that you hate the campus, the food sucks, and you don’t really want to become a history of early Germanic literature (I heard this in a book recently). Okay. You look into where you’d like to go. When would be the best time to leave? Who has a major in early basket weaving design? You pivot. (Cue the Friends music.)
The amazing part of understanding that all of us believe these myths about decisions is that we get the opportunity to think differently about them. Let’s go back over this list.
- There is one right decision. What about, “I’ll make the best decision I can in this moment.” This allows room for growth. It allows room for you to use all your best decision making tips and tools… and if it doesn’t work, it allows you to keep moving. To pivot. To grow. Your 20 year old self was probably amazingly mature for 20, but your 50 year old self? Life has kicked her ass once or twice and she has new perspectives. This thought allows you grace, growth and room to keep evolving into the best version of yourself. It puts effort into the decision, it respects the weight of the decision at hand. Yet it also holds loosely and acknowledges that hey, we’re all just doing the best we can.
- Decisions are hard or easy. What if decisions were just decisions? Some decisions require more thought or effort than others. You may want to think a little longer about getting divorced than what you’re going to eat for dinner. You may not. Decisions are just statements about the direction you’re headed. That’s all.
- I’m not a good decision maker. Says who? How about we just make the next best decision for ourselves without judgment? What if we just decide that we’re good at deciding. Have you ever found out you’re good at something unexpected? I was 40 before I learned to swim. The instructor said, “You’re good at floating.” I laughed because I thought she was trying to encourage me as I struggled to relax on my back in the water and not panic. She said, “No, seriously. Some people are just naturally more buoyant than others. You’re one of those people.”
Here’s the thing, I wasn’t any better or worse at floating than before I went into the pool. I just thought of myself differently after her words.
The same opportunity is available to you. You can just decide that you’re a good decision maker and believe it. Try it. You might like this belief enough to keep it!
4. Small decisions don’t matter. Yikes. This one is a double edged sword. We can pretend small decisions don’t matter and sabotage ourselves. We can also get trapped in over-analysis and make decisions by not deciding. We don’t have to do either. We can learn to trust ourselves in small and big decisions. We can act imperfectly as we make our way to our goals. If we decide to get a bottle of water instead of pop 99 times out of 100, we’ll be a heck of a lot better health than if we decide to get a pop 99 times out of 100. Small decisions matter, but we don’t have to try so hard to be perfect that we fail to move forward at all.
5. Mistakes. What if we could no longer believe that it was even possible for us to make a mistake. What if every single choice we make is leading us to the person we’re supposed to become? Every good choice. Every ‘bad’ choice. Every choice we fail to make.
In my book, “How Do You Like Your Eggs” I try to get you in the habit of making decisions. Of writing what you like on paper. Of deciding to do the exercises. Of deciding to try the things you’ve put off trying.
Because I understand that the more decisions you make, the less you buy into all these myths we’ve been taught. The more choices you make for yourself, the more you become confident in your ability to make decisions and, ultimately, to pivot when you find yourself headed in a direction you don’t want to go.
In my next blog post, I’ll talk about how to attack decision making.
If you want to start practicing making decisions, you can make one right now, you can decide to hop on a call with me. We can talk about why you aren’t making the decisions you want to make and come up with a strategy to help you embrace your decision making power.