Adulting 101: paralysed by way too many choices? Here's how to streamline your decision-making process

It’s time to give coin flipping a rest and stop relying on your Insta story polls to make your decisions. Here’s how to make them yourself and more importantly, how to live with them

Charlotte Ames-Ettridge |

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Making decisions can be excruciating, whether it’s figuring out what to have for dinner or what career to pursue. We can feel overwhelmed by choices, or worried about how a choice could impact our lives in the future. This is totally normal, but sometimes we have to make choices whether we like it or not. Here are a few ways make it all less stressful.

Sometimes there is no such thing as better, just different

We are often afraid of making a decision for fear that it is the wrong one. But a lot of the time, there is no such thing as a right or wrong decision. Rather, there is simply a range of choices with outcomes which may be different to, but not necessarily better than, one another.

Let’s say you are trying to figure out which university to go to. You might have narrowed down a shortlist, and each option has its pros and cons, but there is no clear “best choice”. This can seem like a huge decision that will impact your life for the next three or four years and even beyond.

But at the end of the day, you’ll go to university and have both positive and negative experiences. If you had chosen a different university, you might have had different experiences, but they would still have been a mixture of positive and negative.

The only way to find out the outcome of a decision is to make it

One thing we should avoid doing when making a decision is to try to predict the future. By all means, do your research and be as informed as possible, but don’t worry about what you can’t yet be certain of. Even though you can never fully know what the outcome of a decision will be, that shouldn’t stop you from making it. If that were the case, we would never resolve to do anything.

All you can do is make a judgement to the best of your ability now. Maybe your future self will know better and make wiser choices, but they wouldn’t have learned to do that if your present self hadn’t taken a leap of faith in the first place.

Don’t worry about making better decisions; make faster ones

Sometimes we think that if we contemplate something long enough, the right choice will present itself. That can work, but it isn’t very proactive. What’s more, some decisions, like the ones we make on a daily basis, really aren’t worth spending too long on.

So give yourself a time limit. Tell yourself that you will make a decision in the next 15 minutes. Set a countdown on your phone if you need to. It’s also a good idea to limit both your criteria and your options.

For example, if you are trying to decide which new item of clothing to buy, select one or two criteria, e.g. it needs to be comfortable and affordable, and then give yourself only a couple of options, e.g. it has to be from one of two shops. The longer you spend trying to decide something, the more important it seems to become, and the harder it is to make. Sticking to a few firm rules will stop you from blowing a decision out of proportion.

Decisions aren’t irreversible

Don’t feel that just because you make a choice, that you are bound to that choice for life. If you decide to study science, that doesn’t mean you have to become a scientist. If you order a meal and don’t like it, you don’t have to order it again the next day. If you get your hair cut and regret it,your hair will grow again.

The great thing about making decisions is that we can also decide to make a new decision if the previous one doesn’t work out. What’s more, we’ll be better equipped to make a judgement that’s more likely to make us happy. Remember, you always have the right to change your mind.

Edited by Nicole Moraleda