Thirty-five thousand choices a day is what each of us makes, according to decision-making research. And each choice has at least one thought, or two, or more, that accompany the decision-making process. We are wonderfully complex. Each pro and con is weighed while we evaluate the outcomes and possibilities. No wonder we are stressed and overwhelmed. Select this, decide that, and pick one. Just thinking about those phrases takes me back to school and multiple-choice tests.
Our lives are full of choices. If you want a good example of how many choices we have, think about the last time you decided to paint a room. I never realized how many shades of white there were until I decided to paint my room white. Pick one shade, and the room goes in one direction, pick another, and you get a totally different feeling. And that is just paint colors. Anyway, it got me thinking about how we approach decisions regarding our thoughts, relationships, finances, careers, or even our self-care. Everywhere we turn, there are choices. And yes, for those of you wondering about the last sentence, we can totally choose our thoughts. Each of these choices we make affects not only our physical health but also our mental health.
Your choices and experiences either keep you whole or chip away at your well-being. In yoga, we talk about everything being a choice. Guess who makes the choices? You. So, while having to wade through the sea of choices can feel overwhelming at times, learning to flip the paradigm and realizing that you have control over your choices ultimately gives you the greatest control over your well-being. But what happens when:
You encounter obstacles in the decision-making process?
How do you know how to make the right choice for yourself?
What happens when you don’t know what you want?
And what happens when you are overwhelmed by all the options?
Hate to break it to you, but there will always be an infinite supply of decisions and choices to make. But learning how to make those choices in a way that reduces the overwhelm we experience when facing obstacles to them will be the biggest needle mover towards finding well-being.
In today’s podcast, I will share a few insights to help you identify obstacles in the decision-making process that all stem from a lack of clarity and three ways to help you overcome them so you are ready for the next decision – coming up in oh – about 4 seconds. LOL. So, let’s jump in.
Hello fellow Clarity seekers. For the last several weeks, my inbox has been inundated by black Friday ads, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday and holiday offers galore. How about you?
Looking at processing email alone, it’s obvious how many choices we make daily. From what email to open, read or delete to which items to add to the shopping list and how it will impact the budget, what we’ll prepare for dinner in between all the sales and keeping up with regular work, to just plain how to get through the dynamics of the holiday season. The overwhelm that comes with choice-making can quickly spiral out of control if we don’t have the right tools.
So, I want to address the first issue of why we get overwhelmed when we are faced with a choice?
A lack of clarity is one of the biggest reasons behind overwhelm in decision-making. We think we know what we want, but when it comes down to making that final decision, many times when we see all the options available to us, we aren’t exactly sure and end up spinning in cycles of evaluating all the options until we find clarity and can finally make a decision. And then, low and behold, how often do you make a decision and then question if it was the right decision afterward? It’s like one big game show. Is that your final answer? You think it is until placed on the spot, then start second-guessing until the buzzer ensures you don’t get to make another choice!
Clarity. I’m telling you, it’s a big deal. Knowing what you want or what to do without wavering.
Shameless plug for the Clarity Club there. The Clarity Club, for those who don’t know, is a membership program that helps women experience improved health, energy, and life balance while gaining more clarity to overcome overwhelm and stress so they can expand their impact in the world. If you are interested, check it out at www.truebasishealth.com/clarityclub.
So now that’s out of the way, how do we bring more clarity into our lives?
One of the first ways to gain clarity is by becoming aware, and I talked about that briefly in the last episode. Then once we become aware, it is necessary to change our perspective. So let’s talk about perspective.
That begs the question of how we rise above the situation and look at it from a different perspective. Sometimes getting a different perspective involves letting things settle and getting still. I’m reminded of a passage in the Tao de Ching where Lao Tzu talks about looking into a cup of dirty water. It’s impossible to see through, and it’s cloudy. But if you have the patience to let the debris settle, it becomes possible to see through the water and see clearly.
When it comes to decisions, letting things settle may mean taking some time and not haphazardly making a decision. How often have you heard when it comes to an email that has stirred you up not to reply right away? Right? Often if we make a decision too quickly, it opens up a whole host of other issues requiring other choices and decision-making. We compound our work when we act without clarity.
For some, getting still and changing perspective involves meditating. For others, it involves stepping back and letting go of the outcome. Others may be thinking about something else – maybe going for a walk, listening to music, whatever gets your mind off the current situation and decision to be made so you can come back to it with fresh eyes and without emotional attachment to the outcome. This leads me to the second way to gain clarity regarding choices and decisions.
A second way to gain clarity around choices is to be flexible about the outcome. We are often emotionally attached to how we think things should be, and it becomes difficult to see anything but one way.
Think about the last time you went shopping for something specific, and no choice was supposed to be involved. I was reading an excerpt from the Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz. He talked about the average grocery store having over 175 salad dressing choices. My favorite salad dressing for a while now has been Cindy’s Kitchen Gorgonzola and white balsamic dressing.
If I’m attached to that specific dressing, I have blinders for all the other dressings. With attachment, it would be the only choice I consider, and then what happens when it’s not available? If I’m attached to the choice, I start thinking will another store have it, should I buy another, or maybe I should wait until my next shopping trip.
Tons of thoughts start flooding in.
However, by not being attached to that one choice, I realize I might try something new and find I like it better.
My husband jokes about why I’m always coming home with different things. I’m told with certain things; I have no brand loyalty. And I tell him, If you don’t try new stuff, you’ll never know if you like something better. When we get stuck on the little things in life when faced with the big choices, we can put ourselves in a flurry. I’m still a fan of the gorgonzola dressing, but I’ve branched out to other flavors, just in case you are wondering 😊 Now I know salad dressing isn’t important in the scheme of things but think about the bigger things in life you get attached to: your home, your relationships, where you live, your job. Right?
Letting go of attachment can be difficult. We get attached to people, relationships, material things, and the way things have always been. And when we do so, it clouds our judgment and can put us on an emotional roller coaster. I’ve never been a fan of roller coasters since riding the Lock Ness monster at Busch Gardens Kings Dominion!
On a more serious note, though, looking deeper instinctively, we are very black and white. Something is good or bad, and it has to be one way or another. It’s solved or unsolved. Most of us are very binary in the way we look at things.
Life, though, is uncertain. There is gray. This is where being open to all the options becomes an important part of our well-being. Being able to rise above the this or that solution, to pause, and then make a choice is so freeing. We never know what new path we might find by going with the flow.
It reminds me of this old parable about a farmer whose horse ran away.
His neighbors told them how sorry they were about his horse and how unfortunate it was. He replied with non-attachment, “maybe .” The next day the horse came back with a bunch of wild horses.
And the neighbors were like, what good fortune you’ve had. And again, he replied with non-attachment, Maybe. The next day while his son was trying to break the wild horses, he was injured. The neighbors said oh, that’s horrible. Again, the farmer replied Maybe. The parable says that on the 4th day, army officers came by to recruit but rejected his son because of the injury.
The farmer could have chosen to be disappointed when he lost his horse. He could have chosen to be elated with all the wild horses, or he could have selected to despair with his son’s injury, but by choosing not to be attached to any of the outcomes, he could go with the flow. Ultimately everything worked out as it should. So next time you grapple with a choice, consider stepping back with non-attachment and see where your intuition takes you.
Speaking of being open to all our choices when faced with lots of decisions brings up the point that I’ve struggled with and still struggle with—analysis Paralysis.
When faced with too many choices, how many of you throw your hands in the air and spin in circles? It happens to the best of us. Do we go with what we know?
Do we go with something new? How do we know when to trust our gut? What other options are there you haven’t thought about? The questions go on and on. And as you reflect on the choices available, it becomes increasingly near impossible to choose.
What happens when you are in a state of analysis paralysis?
When you are crippled by deciding for fear of making the wrong decision, it is like having a computer issue. Have you ever been trying to do multiple tasks at once and your laptop stops? It can be the most frustrating thing when you are trying to get something done, and technology refuses to keep up with your mind. The screen just freezes – you get that Program not responding message.
What’s the first thing IT tells you? Have you rebooted?
In life, you sometimes need to interrupt the process when faced with too many things at once. Restart. Fresh. The same applies to making decisions.
There are many ways to interrupt the decision process. It could be meditating and letting the answer come to you in silence. It could be going for a walk and clearing/rebooting your mind. It could be having a conversation totally off-topic with someone else. Here’s the thing, even when you refresh or take a break, your mind is still processing in the background. It’s just what it does. It’s still looking for the right choice, but because you are detached from the process, you aren’t feeling the overwhelm and pressure associated with your mind having to filter the options.
It’s like a software update happening in the background while you are still surfing the web.
In overcoming the choice obstacle of analysis paralysis, taking a break, refreshing, and rebooting is helpful. But here’s the thing. Have you ever taken that break come back, and bam? You’ve still got analysis paralysis?
In instances like this, I’d suggest taking a cue from the Coming to America playbook. LOL. Do you remember Eddie Murphy in Coming to America? He’s an African prince who came to America to find a bride – his queen. He and his assistant go to Queens, NY. After, as they say, where else does one go to find a queen? After some time, his assistant Semmi starts getting frustrated and finally tells Prince Akeem; these are the best Queens have to offer. Pick one, and let’s go home. LOL.
So, analysis paralysis. Don’t spend your time spinning in indecision and evaluating. Pick one. And when you pick it, stick with it. It may not be the perfect choice, but it is your choice. I like to look at it from the standpoint that if I make a choice, there is something I need to learn from it. As a recovering people pleaser and perfectionist, it’s a good reminder that perfection should not always be the expectation. Sometimes the best things in life come when we have no expectations.
In the end, each day, we make a choice to move toward or away from our life vision and what we truly desire. And with each choice, we may run into obstacles.
Whether you’ve got a lot on your plate and have more than your fair share of decisions to make or you are just stuck in patterns of choosing more of the same, either way, today’s episode hopefully shed some light on realizing with clarity and support, you can better overcome obstacles that stand in the way of your decisions. You can get off of auto-pilot and out of overwhelm. Making choices from a place of strength and inner wisdom is always best, and to do that, we need clarity.
If you are struggling to find clarity, don’t get disheartened. It’s a lot easier than you think to see it once you slow down. Regardless of how overwhelmed you may feel, you are always exactly where you are meant to be, even if you can’t see it now.
Things happen, we make choices, we adjust, and life continues. Even though it might not seem like it right now, having infinite possibilities, aka read choices available, is awesome if you ok with going with the flow.
And being able to go with the flow comes with clarity. Because deep down, you know whatever comes your way, you can handle. When you gain clarity about what you want, you are free of the thoughts around all the options available. Instead, you find you don’t struggle as much with making the decision. It just happens. And you know with every bit of confidence it was the right decision for you. You are at peace with the decision in your mind. And you feel good in your body too.
With practice, each day, gaining clarity gets easier and easier.
That’s it for this podcast. Hopefully, you’ve got a new perspective to look at decision-making with. As I close out, just a reminder that each week this podcast will invite you to cultivate clarity by sharing new information, insights, and skills. It is my hope that with a bit of momentum, you will continue to move forward in your well-being journey. I’ll offer different ways to reframe things and ways to help bring more ease and fun into your life.
So, until next time – cultivate clarity!
This is Micah Hill signing off.