I have made many choices throughout my life. I nor anyone else can claim to have made every decision correctly. Not every choice has a clear best option. Why is it then that so many decisions cause anxiety and stress?
I am as guilty of stress due to choices as I am guilty of bad choices; I believe everyone is. I used to be worried about the consequences of a bad choice. I would spend too much time pondering my options and getting stressed about them and their consequences. Then, if I made a wrong choice, I would be smothered in regret and resort to simply not choosing, letting others or time pick for me. My mindset was something along the lines of, “If I cannot make the right choice every time, why should I pick? I messed up, so I should let something else pick for me or wait until I am forced into one path.”
This was not healthy in any way. How can someone be happy or proud if they did not make their own decisions? Something had to change, and change it did.
I changed my mindset. It was the only thing I could change. This was not an easy task and it is not as easy as “just thinking in a different way.” However, if you force yourself to think in a certain way, eventually you won't have to force yourself anymore.
So what is this new outlook? Well, it's simple: just don’t worry about it. Yes, it's that simple. I told myself to make a timely, informed decision and to deal with the consequences later. Slowly, decisions that took days took only a few minutes. I immediately noticed no difference in the success rate between the two methods of making a decision. It was worthless to spend all of that time worrying about a decision I would get no new information on.
This is not to say that all decisions should be made on the spot. Choosing a college, a job or what to do for an important project, you should take some time to evaluate the options. This time should not include worrying, though. With this change there was something else I noticed. I started regretting things less.
When considering decisions in the past, the “what ifs” of both sides battled in my head, but when I made the decisions without fretting over every last possible “what if,” I stopped regretting decisions as much. I started accepting my choice without worrying about what could have been. How can you be consistently happy if you spend every night thinking about what you should have done? You can't. I know it is not as easy as simply saying, “Don't regret it,” and there are still choices I regret. However, there are not nearly as many as there once were.
In the end, mindset and perspective are important to one’s happiness and health. If you are not happy with your current outlook, then work towards changing it. It will not be easy but with consistent effort, it is possible.
I will leave you with this quote from novelist Oliver Goldsmith: “A great source of calamity lies in regret and anticipation; therefore a person is wise who thinks of the present alone, regardless of the past or future.”