By Lauren Presutti
Life is full of choices. Whether we like it or not, we all have to spend time and energy figuring out how to navigate things like our education, employment, relationships, housing, budgeting, family, parenting, hobbies, travel, and more. Simultaneously, we are constantly forming our values, beliefs, and opinions that may vary drastically from one person to the next. Do you ever feel overwhelmed by having too many choices in life? You’re not alone.
Sometimes it can be daunting to manage the variety of life choices when we are often flooded with media information about how to make the right decisions, how to decipher our experiences, and what to think, believe, or feel. We may have biased friends giving advice about our choices, we may feel pressured by social trends and cultural norms, or we may even feel obligated to mold ourselves to the feedback of others to gain approval or recognition in some way. This may lead to feelings of overwhelm and self-doubt. We might feel confused about how to make the right choices for us when the array of options for any number of life circumstance is vast.
Thankfully, there are many strategies to maintain control when we feel overwhelmed by tough decisions. First, I recommend setting aside time to slow down, pause, and reflect on what information you know. On one hand, it’s important to seek the wisdom of others – especially when professionals or those who have been in our shoes before are sharing best practices with us – but on the other hand, we should take this information and consider how it resonates with us before jumping to action. Setting aside time to intentionally reflect on how we feel about the information we are given is helpful because it gives us an opportunity to think through all of our options. Some questions that may be helpful to ask yourself after receiving advice from others include:
- What are the facts? Have any assumptions been made? Can we rule out anything?
- Where am I getting my information? Is this a reliable source? Do I need to do more research?
- What are the pros and cons of every option? It can be helpful to write these down.
- Are there any risks involved? How do the risks compare with the benefits?
- How might these options positively impact me? How might they negatively impact me?
- What emotions arise for me when I think about these options?
- Which of these options most accurately align with my values and beliefs?
Another strategy for coping with difficult decisions is to use your support system wisely. Sometimes the only thing more overwhelming than needing to make tough decisions is having to make those decisions alone. When we feel alone, we are more likely to experience self-doubt, frustration, confusion, and increased pressure of having to deal with something by ourselves. To safeguard against these added challenges, I recommend seeking support from people who will be the most non-judgmental, empathetic, and compassionate to you. Connect with those who serve as your best active listeners. This might include a family member, best friend, teacher, mentor, or it could be a therapist. Talking with our trusted supporters not only helps us feel less alone, but it also can lead greater insight because they may point out things we didn’t realize. Don’t be afraid to share your honest feelings with others. Allow trusted people to listen and relate to you. At the same time, it’s critical to maintain boundaries with those who try to steer you in a biased direction because those interactions may lead to decreased feelings of control.
I also recommend letting go of social judgment. We live in a highly complex world. It’s impossible for everyone to fully understand what we are going through. The world is beautifully comprised of people with various backgrounds, identities, realities, lived experiences, preferences, and opinions. The nature of our widely diverse planet brings celebration of many unique differences, but it also brings challenges when we feel misunderstood or judged by others who would not think or behave in the way that we do. What may be comforting to one person may be offensive to someone else. While one person may rave about a particular idea, another may find that option to be upsetting. It’s important to let go of any social judgments that you may feel from others who might not understand your needs. Remember this is your life and your decisions are valid. You don’t need to explain or justify your choices to others who disagree. Give yourself permission to let go of social comparisons, practice maintaining your individuality, and remember that you know yourself best.
Finally, remember the importance of trusting yourself. To me, trusting ourselves means that we can take risks and step out of our comfort zones – accepting the unknowns that follow – while also taking care of our needs and safety. Sometimes we lose trust in ourselves after we make a mistake or receive criticism from others, making it more difficult to trust the decisions we make. This can lead to patterns of self-criticisms and insecurities – two roadblocks to positive mental health. Trusting ourselves starts with remembering that we are human. We are allowed to have imperfections. This does not mean that we are small nor insignificant. We must recognize the power that we may sometimes give to others – those we envy, those who judge us negatively, those who make us feel inadequate – and reclaim this power by recognizing that we do not have to prove ourselves to anyone.
Decision-making can be tough at times, but you can maximize your life fulfillment by maintaining control and keeping yourself centered. Above all, I hope you will be kind to yourself, ask for help when needed, honor your values, and believe in your self-worth as you navigate whatever comes your way, whether it is a major life decision or simply a tough choice about where and how to spend your free time.