Making Decisions Without Regret

Reading Time: 3 minutes

decision

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to Wal-Mart or Best Buy to get new headphones. I felt like Wal-Mart would be cheaper but Best Buy would have more to choose from. Driving down the road Wal-Mart was coming into view. Should I pull in and see what they have or head straight to Best Buy? What if Wal-Mart didn’t have the ones I wanted? What if Best Buy had them but they were too expensive? Maybe I should go to Target.

The reason I was wavering was that I didn’t want to waste time having to go to both.

It was at this point I realized that crashing my car into an elderly tree would have resulted in less suffering that the kind I was enduring trying to decide where to buy headphones. Going to both wouldn’t be as bad as the mental discomfort I was experiencing. More importantly, I was developing the habit of investing importance into minute purchases.

There are a few factors here that made the decision so hard.

  • I had too many choices
  • Time was of the essence.
  • The fear of pain: in this case, making the wrong choice and having to drive more.

The disappointment I would have experienced from having to go to two locations would have been dwarfed by the discomfort I experienced by having to choose where to go. If I went to Wal-Mart and realized I had made the wrong decision I’d be displeased. BUT, I would then know exactly what I needed to do next (go to Best Buy).

A number of variables are flying in the head while you decide which one to grasp at. Trying to consider every possible factor is taxing on the brain. “Wal-Mart is closer. Best-Buy has a larger selection so they might have some cheaper ones. Wal-Mart has a clearance section. Maybe I should go to RadioShack. Are there coupons I should have tried to find before?” I have fallen into this type of thinking before. It’s terrible. It’s uncomfortable.

The real issue here is the habit I’m developing. If I’m always hesitating between choices on what store to go to, where should I eat, or what I should wear, what chance do I have at the bigger decisions? If the small decisions cause me to overthink, the decisions where there is more at risk will cause me incredible stress to the point of paralysis. I have spent months wavering between certain choices only to realize I could have decided, strayed from the path, then taken the other path by this time!

Solution

It helps immensely to plan ahead. To have an algorithm for decision making. I like to ask myself “What’s the worst that can happen if things don’t go as planned?” I’m a little dissatisfied with my lunch? I don’t feel confident in my choice of clothes for the day? I have to make one more stop to get the headphones?

The most significant take away here is comfort with what happens after the decision. I’ve ordered food that I didn’t really enjoy. Was I dissatisfied? Yes. How long did that dissatisfaction last? Like a minute, I think.

When things don’t go as planned, it doesn’t affect us as dramatically as we expect. This goes the same for things we enjoy. We generally stay or snap back to our normal state relativily quickly (know how it’s hard to stay angry at someone?).

Here’s a little video that helps me whenever I begin to feel crushed by all of life’s choices.

In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” – Theodore Roosevelt

PHOTO BY JENS LELIE

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