I Learned About The Power Of Decision-Making When A Man Held A Loaded Gun To My Head And Threatened To Pull The Trigger.
Michelle Obama may say, “You can’t make decisions based on fear and the possibility of what might happen” and nine times out of ten, she’s probably right.
However, our ‘chelle also hasn’t found herself in the wrong part of New York at 4am whilst on a stag weekend.
There is always that anomaly, that misstep, that wrong-place-at-the-wrong time misfortune which means we have to make decisions whilst paralysed by fear and overwhelmed by what might happen.
But endeavour to decide, we must.
Tossing And Turning
I can say with some authority that decision-making is hard. Bloody hard.
I know this because it’s currently 07:12 on a Sunday morning and I’m on the receiving end of four hours’ sleep. I’d love to say I was burning the candle at both ends for more hedonistic, or shall we say ‘exotic’ reasons….but let’s face it, I don’t drink, the pubs are shut and I’m 39 with children.
TVs haven’t been thrown out the window and chandeliers haven’t been swung from for quite some time.
During the night, at least.
And I wish I could tell you this nocturnal nonchalance, this superhuman tolerance to sleepy-dust was a one-off, but it’s been a nightly occurrence for a long time now.
I soon quit navigating the land of nod, already knowing the reason for this detestation for dozing.
Dilemmas and decisions need to be determined without delay.
So whilst the moon shines, I must make hay.
Easy Path, Hard Decision
It would be too easy – and grandiose – to pretend that analysis paralysis only happens with those big, scary, life-changing decisions.
Back in the days of lore (overwise known as pre-2020) when doing things, going to places, and meeting people was de rigueur, we were kept awake by countless decisions.
Should I really spend a mortgage payment on those shoes? Is it a good idea to book that trip to Ibiza with those lads lads lads who follow a mainly cocaine-based diet? Could I really switch gyms just because of the PT with the burly arms which would keep me safe forever?
That sort of thing.
Seems a bit pointless now, doesn’t it? How many hours were spent tossing and turning (when you could have been tossing then sleeping) over decisions similar to those above?
Then coronavirus hit and the shoes don’t matter because the only person who sees your feet is the cat, most of the lads lads lads got Covid because they didn’t bloody social distance distance distance and the PT doesn’t give a shit about you since his home workouts when viral on TikTok.
And the end result? No decisions made, no tangible outcomes, no long-lasting life changes.
Just a load of energy spent, time wasted and sheep left so uncounted they’re starting to wonder if they’ve somehow slipped through New Zealand’s tight border controls.
One of the advantages of Covid (and I’m really scraping the barrel here) is that it’s helped us to not sweat the small stuff. We’ve learned what’s really important in life, we’ve focused on what matters and we’ve held what’s precious close to our hearts and stopped worrying about inconsequential things.
That is, until the next time we start fighting over toilet paper in the supermarket aisles and yelling “STAY BACK” at 94-year old Doris from up the road like she’s a suicide bomber approaching a checkpoint in Kabul.
But if you stop to think about it, there is a hideous beauty in the perils of decision making: it is a great leveler.
It doesn’t matter what race you are, nor gender, sexuality, religion, social class, or income bracket…we all know that feeling of indecision wrigging into our beds and keeping us awake like a 6-year-old who really regrets thinking he was old enough to watch Jaws.
Sure, the people in the groups I mentioned above will have different kinds of decisions to make: One man’s “Do I need to get a bigger stable for all my horses?” is another’s “Shall I eat food or heat my house this week?”
One couple’s “Can we afford to have this baby?” is another’s “Shall we walk away from one of the world’s most respected monarchies because Netflix is giving us the wink and showing a bit of ankle?”
But no matter the person, timing, background, or circumstance, the phantom of a decision waiting to be made can haunt us all.
So, how do we overcome it?
Where Your Should Be… Or Where You Want To Be?
There are two ways to make a decision: the patronizing way and the successful way.
However, most people tend to opt for the former.
The patronization paradox – I’d better copyright that before a fake life coach steals it and turns it into a self-help(less) course – can be explained very simply:
When you have an important decision to make and it literally feels like it’s eating you up inside…and some know-it-all reels off a quote from Google such as, “Feel…don’t think”. Or, better yet, they throw in the chocolate-teapot bombshell that is: “Write a list a list with all the positives on one side and all the negatives on the other”.
And then they stand back with eyebrows raised and that wide-open smile, waiting for you to shower them with gratitude as if they’ve just told you the fucking secret to homeschooling without tears or threats of physical violence.
This is why the approach is so bloody patronizing. If decision-making was as easy as chucking a few more pence in Google’s bank account or writing some words down on a piece of paper, then we would have done it already.
I say this as someone who has spent way too many precious hours of my life doing the googling, writing the lists, then re-writing, then finally making a decision…only to don my jimmy jams, slip between the sheets and ask myself:
“But have I really considered all the options here?”
Then the realization hits me that – once again – I’m about to get less sleep than an MDMA connoisseur parting the flaps of the dance tent at Glastonbury.
So what’s the successful way of making a decision?
You’ll be pleased to know this doesn’t involve a ‘tried and tested approach’, formula, method, or 30-day programme.
It’s a simple change in mindset.
Because all the hours of stress, worry, and sleepless nights we inflict upon ourselves aren’t caused by the decision itself.
It’s about the outcomes of those decisions.
The sad truth is thus: Centuries of storytelling, reinforced by phrases in our lexicon such as “at a crossroads”, “no way back” or “a turning point” have made us believe that decision-making is black or white, right or wrong, win or lose.
It’s called a decision, not a quiz, for fuck’s sake. It’s not like we make the right choice and the ticker-tape falls from the ceiling, but get it wrong and some celebrity who was once a person of interest in Operation Yewtree gives us the sadtimes face and says, “…but we’ve loved having you on the show!”
A decision is like a child: You’ve decided to have one and it’s too late to worry about it now, so you need to damn well find a way through this. Otherwise, you’ll never get a proper nights’ sleep again.
There is no right or wrong decision. Whatever you decide to do, one path will not guarantee success nor will the other end in miserable failure.
This is up to YOU. That’s the beauty of it. That’s what being alive is all about. Just be bloody thankful you live in a country and in a time in human history when you have the power to make a decision at all.
People have died to give us this freedom of choice.
Yet we lie awake in our warm homes, in our comfy beds, pretending we don’t know whether to pursue that life we’ve wanted more than anything because we’re worried that some dickhead we don’t really like will laugh at us.
Don’t waste another second of this wonderful opportunity we have. I can’t tell you whether that decision will be right or wrong, and anyone who pretends otherwise is just selling snake-oil.
Maybe it will be the best decision you ever made, maybe it will blow up in your face and end in dismal failure.
But surely that is preferable to yet another night wondering, deliberating, flip-flopping, and waiting for ‘a sign’…or even worse, letting someone else tell you what the hell to do with your life?
Do it. Make it happen. Anything is better than a life-sentence of insomnia, repeatedly asking yourself, “but what if…..?”
And with that, my friends, I have made a big life decision.
And you will discover exactly what I have decided…