For the past three months, I’ve had an unopened corkboard sitting on the floor next to my desk.
I bought it with a plan, but then my plan changed, and I procrastinated on returning it. Then, I entered into a period of indecision about what to do with it.
Put it in the attic? No, I would never see it again.
Hang it? Why go through the effort if I didn’t need it?
Sell it? It’s barely worth it.
It became just another one of those small but irritating items that never left my to-do list.
Today, I finally just decided. I took three minutes and posted it on Facebook Marketplace for less than half of what I paid (something is better than nothing, right?). And if it doesn’t sell in two weeks, I’ll donate it.
For such a small, insignificant event in my life, I can’t tell you how good it feels to have finally made a decision about what to do with that corkboard.
Deciding almost always brings relief, so why do we often avoid it?
Why We Don’t Decide
Indecision is a very common problem. Most people experience it from time to time. But for some of us, it can be a very serious issue.
I’ve noticed that it’s often tied to an emotion that I’m experiencing: Fear over possibly making a bad decision. Let’s face it, there’s very little that’s fun about making a choice in the face of uncertainty. Life is often messier in reality than it is in our daydreams, so it’s natural that we try to avoid these situations when we think we can get away with it.
Then there’s guilt or regret about a past choice. Part of the reason I avoided making a decision about my corkboard was because thinking about the corkboard made me feel guilty for wasting $25 on what was probably an impulse purchase.
Sometimes there’s also a lack of pressure to decide. Have you ever noticed that it’s the small decisions that you procrastinate on the most? The big ones tend to have their own natural deadlines or pressures to decide. But the small choices don’t have those deadlines, and for some of us, that allows them to expand far beyond the amount of time they deserve.
The Cost of Indecision
Of course, avoiding a decision doesn’t make anything better. All it does is add compilations to your life and make the future decision (that you’ll eventually have to make) even harder.
Sometimes we spend hours “researching” about a minor decision. There are few decisions in life that require more than a few minutes of thought. Sometimes when you’re “researching,” you’re really procrastinating, and this is time you don’t get back for more meaningful or enjoyable pursuits in your life. The solution is simple: Do the real thing.
But that’s not all—indecision isn’t even fun. In fact, it’s kind of miserable. When we’re avoiding decisions in life, we often walk around feeling “scattered” because of so many open loops. Or we feel guilty because we know we’re avoiding decisions and making things worse, but a small step seems insignificant, so we don’t even bother.
The Power of Choosing
Every single time I’ve climbed out of a hole that I dug from indecision, I’ve been amazed at how good I felt after just the smallest bit of progress.
Making just two or three small, quick decisions fuels me to want to make more. Pretty soon, after getting back into the groove of being decisive, I begin to feel good about myself. I’m not talking egotistical pride, but rather the good kind of pride that comes when your actions are aligning with your values.
There’s another thing that I’ve discovered about making decisions: I learn so much more by simply making a decision than I do by analyzing it from a million angles. I’ve become convinced that knowledge gained from experience is massively underrated, especially compared to knowledge gained from “researching.” Making more and faster decisions is the way to supercharge your experience.
Simple Rules for Deciding
The process of becoming a decisive person isn’t magic. As with any challenge in life, you just need a good system and a commitment to stick with the process until it becomes second nature. I think a lot of people assume that change is more complicated than that. Sure, it can be hard, but the difficulty comes from slugging it out day after day, not in trying to discover some unknown secret.
OK, fine, if you’re looking for a secret it’s this: Decide right now to follow the system described below for three months and not “research” anything else. You’ll be amazed at how much progress you can make in just 12 weeks.
My simple system with just three rules:
Decide once. When you make a decision, stick with it. An OK decision with firm resolve is much more powerful than a great decision that you’re wishy-washy about. Just decide and don’t look back unless the facts on the ground change significantly.
Decide fast. When faced with a decision, your goal is to decide as quickly as is reasonably possible. Obviously, there’s some nuance that I can’t get into here, but my main suggestion is that most decisions can be made much faster than we usually make them.
Learn as you go. The reason the first two rules work is that most of life’s decisions aren’t nearly as important as they feel in the moment. Deciding what to do with my corkboard is a perfect case in point. The best way to get better at making decisions is simply to make more decisions and learn from them—not by overanalyzing and tormenting yourself to make the perfect one.
“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.”—Teddy Roosevelt
This article was originally published on This Evergreen Home.