On Becoming More Decisive


We live in a world surrounded by choices. Though this seems to be a positive thing, we tend to be overwhelmed, exhausted, and discouraged due to so many options.

I think of the times I’ve tried to host something. Instead of getting a clear “yes” or “no,” it seems like people are more likely to say, “Maybe” or add a caveat to their “yes.” The day of the event, I get multiple cancellations via text. The event ends up being much smaller. I was happy to have people who were trying to make it work, but for planning purposes, a simple “no” might have been easier.

Then I’ve also been on the other end—the one trying to decide if she can come. So often it really is true that those of us who grew up in the texting generation say “maybe” just in case something better comes along or (as I’ve found) because we’re afraid of all the things that could happen—kids getting sick, trying to find a babysitter, whether a complicated work schedule will work out.

But usually I feel so much lighter if I just give an answer—a committed “yes” or “no.” Then it frees me to begin planning either way.

I’ve noticed that I tend to want reassurance from someone else for making a decision. I want someone to say, “That ’s a good idea.” I want reassurance that I am making the right choice or the best one. But the thing is, usually I can decide myself, and there’s often not a right answer.

I found this recently when trying to decide about what meal to make for a new mom in our church. I texted two people for their input and kept weighing the pros and cons. But then I realized: I need to choose something and just go for it. So I did. And I felt so much freedom as I planned when I would go to the store and what I would buy. Rather than stressing about the “best” option, I made a decision and freed up brain space.

I’ve mentioned that I have really struggled with meal planning. It overwhelms me. But recently I read Lindsey’s post and realized that I, too, needed to establish a rhythm. It has freed me incredibly in the last couple of weeks. I no longer dread those seven open days because I have already limited myself (what The Nester calls “lovely limitations”). Now I don’t ask, “Should we do Mexican again on Sunday or just make soup?” I know that Sunday is breakfast for dinner night and I plan accordingly. It’s life-changing!

I also find this to be true of any thing we are trying to plan—a weekend getaway, a fun outing. It’s better just to go ahead and decide.

It’s like the old story about kids playing better on a playground with a fence. (And in the Montessori tradition, I’ve found the same to be true with a rug or tray provided for a child’s activity). The boundaries bring a sense of peace that enables us to be productive and enjoy life.

Part of this is a mental exercise in letting go. Once I’ve committed, even if it was my choice, I tell myself that it is set in stone. Then I don’t waste time lamenting or questioning. I just go with the plan. I find a way to operate within the parameters rather than rebelling against them. (I could probably insert something about November 8 in here).

Recently there was a lot of political discourse (which may be too generous a term for what was happening) in my newsfeed (I’m sure yours was the same!). In addition to the general disorientation I felt after the election and the angst I felt as I saw anger or gloating everywhere, I finally realized I was feeling indecisive about responding. I kept thinking of responses in my head.

But I don’t believe Facebook is a good place for political debate. It usually just turns sour, and except for possibly making the poster and those in agreement with the poster feel better, it usually doesn’t change minds. Knowing this, I still kept waffling about adding my thoughts to the discussion.

When I finally made the decision that I would not post, I felt freedom. Even when those posts popped up (and I unfollowed a few people temporarily), I knew I had already committed to not respond. It was a limitation I placed on my life. This limit worked well for me and went along with my values. And I stopped writing semi-angry posts in my head and started living again—thinking about other things.

I sometimes feel this when I get emails from companies I love. I start to ask, “Should I take advantage of this promotion?”

It’s easier to keep those emails out of my inbox until I actually need to purchase new jeans or kids’ shoes. It makes it easier when it doesn’t seem like it should be an option to buy shoes now. I find the same to be true with grocery shopping. I tend to think of all the places I could go and all the ways I should save money. But I’ve found such freedom in committing to just one or two places, even if it may mean spending a little more (although generally I actually end up spending less).

We’ve also found eliminating too many options to be very helpful with our kids’ toys. It is incredible how much longer they will play when they aren’t surrounded by so many toys.

What ways does making a decision free you? Have you found too many choices to be overwhelming?