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Choice anxiety seems to be a theme in my world lately. Choosing between two options and figuring out which one would be the best to pick is always a challenge. For some of us that challenge gets increased when we are constantly doubting our choices. Did I make the right decision? Did I pick correctly? What if I had done ____?
For many of us, a simple place this choice anxiety reveals itself is around food. You are in a restaurant and you are choosing between a burger which you are really craving and a healthy salad with fresh greens and other vegetables. You decide (after much debate) to go for the burger. However, the whole time you are eating the burger you are wishing you had ordered the salad. You are hammering yourself for not eating healthy, eating red meat, not eating your vegetables, etc. Not only did you eat something that might have not been as nutritionally sound but you didn’t even enjoy the fact that you really wanted it!! You didn’t just pick one and go with it. Ideally you would debate which one you wanted, make your decision and go with it. No guilt, no what-ifs, no anxiety. You would eat the burger and enjoy every juicy bite. You would commit to the burger and be totally in the moment as you took each bite. Now I am not saying that once you commit you can’t be wrong. You could really regret not getting the salad, and so next time you will know the salad is a better option. The key is not to be beating the decision to death once it is already made.
So often when we have choice anxiety after we make our decisions we spend so much time obsessing over if it was the right decision or not we don’t enjoy the option we picked. This can leave us paralyzed and miserable. Basically we begin to doubt our guts, our inner voice, our place of knowing. I believe we KNOW if we want the burger or not, we are just so caught up in our heads hearing other people’s words as to why we should or shouldn’t eat a burger and that can leave us debilitated.
One of my favorite ways to get in touch with the gut again is the coin flip test. I use this test frequently with clients. A few years ago, a client was debating between taking a job out of state or staying in Ohio and going back to school. We spent a few sessions going over the pros and cons and whenever I thought she had come to a choice she would return the following week more confused. Finally, I said we are going to make the choice today. Whatever this test decides is the answer. She nodded her head emphatically. So I told her the test was that I was going to flip a coin. She looked at me stunned. The rules were that if it landed on she stayed in Ohio and if it landed on tails she moved, no exceptions. The coin was deciding and she had to commit. I flipped the coin and it landed on tails, and immediately, for a split second, her face fell. I said, congratulations you are moving!” She just smiled at me. Then I said, “Do you want to go for the best 2 our of 3?” and she smiled and said, “Actually, yes”. There was her answer, she didn’t want to move she really wanted to stay here. Her emotional, gut level response was disappointed by the idea of moving, her gut wanted her to stay here. You could see that a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. She had made the decision and she felt good about it!
The key to making a decision is getting as clear as possible on what your emotional/gut level response is. It is easy to get clouded in the shoulds and what if’s, but we need to pick and commit. We need to enjoy the decision we have made and not obsess over it once we have committed to an option. Even with the coin toss test we can make bad decisions the key is to learn from those decisions not hammer ourselves for making them!