Our minds are presented with decisions almost every minute of our lives. Whether we notice it or not, our mind is constantly working, thinking, comparing, analyzing and choosing. Some decisions are made unconsciously in a matter of seconds but other ones, well, they can become too much to handle. This hard choices stay in the back of our minds for days, weeks, months or even years. Most of the time we already know what we should do or want to do, but we procrastinate doing it. The reason is almost always fear, fear the unknown, rejection, regret, failure, losing or simply just leaving our comfort zone. We feel incapable of making the right decision, just thinking about it makes us anxious, stressed, scared or depressed, and of course, our minds hate feeling like that, so they brilliantly decide to stop this negative feelings by just doing absolutely nothing about it. This is called Choice Paralysis, and if you have ever experienced it, you know how much it sucks. It feels like you are in a weird “limbo”, stuck between two (or more) paths without knowing which to take. Your mind may want to get rid of the awful feeling by playing video games, watching some movies on Netflix or taking a nap, but this “solutions” are just temporal. The only way to get rid of Choice Paralysis and it’s negative side effects is to, you guessed it, make a choice and stick with it. In this post, I want to share with you the process that helps me clear my mind, gain more clarity of the situation and feel happy and confident enough to make a decision and get rid of Choice Paralysis.
The very first thing you need to do is to actually commit to do everything in your power to either make the decision already, of figure out how to make it easier for your future self to make it. The best way I know to bring more clarity and peace to your mind, is to sit down and meditate anywhere from 3 to 11 minutes. If you can do more then do more. The goal of meditation is not to become enlightened and levitate your way to work, it is to clear mental fog and open your mind to new perspectives and ideas. You really should be in the best mental state before you begin to plan anything important.
Once you feel more present and open to new ideas, you should take the time to really think about your choices once again. If it’s fear what’s preventing you to make a decision, then you can do this next exercise I learned from Tim Ferriss. It’s called “Fear Setting” and the idea behind it is to bring more clarity to your fears, the cost of inaction and the possible benefits of success. If you haven’t already, you should listen to his most recent TED talk, he covers this exercise in detail, I’m just going to give you a quick summary on how to do it. For the resources and examples, watch my video here.
On the first page of this 3-page exercise, you should completely define the fears that are preventing you to take action. Visualize the realistic worse case scenario in detail. We see “What if…?” and this is whatever you are putting off, starting a business, ending a relationship, move to a new city, whatever. In the first column, “define”, you need to write down all of the worst things you can imagine happening if you take that step. Tim says you need between 10 and 20. On the second column which is “prevent”, you write down what you can do to prevent or decrease the likelihood of those worst things happening. Finally, on the third column, “repair”, you write down what you can do to repair the situation IF the worst case scenario does happen.
On the second page you answer the question, “What might be the benefits of an attempt or partial success?” Here you take a look at the bright side of taking action. This might be the things you’ll learn, the skills you’ll develop, etc. Tim says you should spend 10 to 15 minutes on this.
On the third page, and probably the most important one you define the cost of inaction. Tim says we always consider what might go wrong if we try and fail, but we don’t often consider the atrocious cost of not doing anything. So, you should ask yourself, “If I avoid this action/decision, what might my life look like in 6 months, 12 months and 3 years, again, really get detailed.When you do this exercise, more often than not you will find that your fears are not as bad as you originally thought they where. Most risks are not completely irreversible and I believe you can always do things differently. If you screw up, you can either try again or recognize that you should maybe take another path, but at least you know you tried. Disarm your fears by defining them and resolve today to not let any more time, energy and health be wasted by indecision. Don’t let your fears or bad habits determine the quality of your life, like I always say, you’ve got this, and I mean it.