June 29, 2022
Rivalia Naidoo (she/her/hers), Low Entropy Volunteer Writer
If you ask any of my family or friends, they’ll tell you I overthink just about everything. I like to get all the information, organize it (often colour-coded with my favorite Muji pens), and then make a carefully crafted decision after I’ve mulled over all the possibilities. While this can be a good thing sometimes (for instance, as a scientist, analyzing information is a great skill to have), it can sometimes be a hindrance, rather than a help. Do I need to consider all the possibilities when I try to decide what shirt to buy? Probably not.
When we’re young, and the stakes are relatively low, overthinking is not so much a problem as it is a quirk. However, as we get older and have to start making big life decisions, like where to live, what work to pursue and the kind of partner we want, overthinking can start to feel like a hurdle that needs to be overcome every time you need to make a decision. It becomes a clutch that can hold you back if you’re not careful.
I felt myself veering into that lane as the pandemic started to slow down and things started to open up. It suddenly felt like I had a lot of life decisions to make all at once, and I didn’t have the time or space to carefully inspect each choice. I had to start relying more on my gut to lead my decisions than my brain, and let me tell you, it was not easy. Science would call this listening to your intuition. I call it listening to that weird feeling that tells me things but has no pro/con list included.
But what is the “right” way to make a decision? Should you be listening to your head, gut, or that friend who pops up with advice even if you don’t ask for it? While there is no best way to make a decision, there are some tips that could help if you’re stuck in overthinking mode (and want to make decisions that feel good for you):
- Don’t Fear the Consequences So Much: We as humans have a tendency to overestimate the good and bad of potential decisions. We think winning the lotto will bring us unimaginable joy, and losing our job will cripple us forever. But the tip here is that we imagine things to be shinier than they actually are, and underestimate how resilient we are with coping with the harder things. In short, don’t sweat the outcome too much when making a decision, you’ll likely be okay either way.
- Trust Your Instinct: Admittedly, this is one I’m still working on. Trusting yourself can be tricky, but there’s lots of evidence that shows that listening to your intuition is actually a good tactic. For instance, do your shoulders and neck feel hunched or tight when you consider a potential opportunity, or does your body feel light and energized? If it’s the former, then your body might be warning you of something. The caveat here is to consider where your emotions are coming from. For instance, make sure your fear isn’t holding you back from something you feel really excited about.
- Stop Thinking About the Problem: I know, this sounds like a weird one, but hear me out. Stepping away from a problem, especially when you’ve been thinking about it for a while, can actually help you gain some clarity and fresh perspective. Thinking about something “non-consciously,” like when you’re sleeping or doing another activity, can sometimes make the answers crystal clear. So next time you’re stuck in making a decision, take some advice from John Steinbeck and let the “committee of sleep” work on it for you.
- Talk to Yourself Like a Trusted Friend: This is one that’s helped me out when I particularly need to be kinder to myself. I always find it’s easier to give out advice to a friend than solve my own problems (and be way nicer to them than myself in the process). Talking to yourself like a friend gives you some distance and takes out some of the emotions from the problem, and being kinder to yourself always helps make navigating things a little easier.
Well, my fellow overthinkers-in-arms, I hope this advice has been useful to you and helps you in your decision-making process. Making decisions, especially tough ones, are rarely fun or straightforward, but life will continue to dole them out nonetheless. The best we can do is be kind and true to ourselves and our values, and know that ultimately things will work out in the long run, because we’re strong enough to cope with bad and deserving of all the good.
If you’re interested in learning more about decision-making advice and tips, check out these links below:
9 Little Habits that Make You a Better Decision Maker: https://www.verywellmind.com/habits-for-better-decision-making-4153045
A Therapist Explains Exactly What it Feels Like to Listen to Your Gut: https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/how-to-listen-to-your-gut.html
Top 10 Ways to Make Better Decisions: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19426021-100-top-10-ways-to-make-better-decisions/
Hi, I’m Rivalia! I’m a scientist, amateur yogi and book fanatic. I’ve always loved how words have the ability to comfort and connect us, no matter how we feel or where we are. I hope my words here can bring a little bit of inspiration and compassion into your day.
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