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4 steps to take before your next decision

decision-making high-functioning anxiety overthinking Oct 16, 2022

You want to make the best decision possible. Unfortunately, when you struggle with high-functioning anxiety, it feels even more paralyzing as you want to think things through, making the most thorough decision to prevent bad outcomes. So what can you do when you struggle with making decisions because you overthink everything? This blog will explore the steps to take to make decision-making manageable.

This topic of struggling with making decisions and overthinking every single scenario or situation when making even the most minor decisions, like what you're going to wear today or have for lunch or some purchase, might hit close to home. You'll make any decisions that might come up in your day-to-day, in addition to big decisions complicated by overthinking. And it's expected when you have high-functioning anxiety to struggle with overthinking decisions and making decisions because of the fear and perfectionism that can come up. If you aren't sure if you have high-functioning anxiety or not, then you can grab my High-Functioning Anxiety Checklist. That will let you know whether or not you have high-functioning anxiety and recommendations so you can take the following steps towards feeling calmer and more fulfilled. I'm going to share first why you struggle with making decisions, and then we'll talk about steps for how you can deal with it and cope with it when you are in a place of struggling with overthinking and having trouble making decisions.

So first, let's talk about the why, which can be because of fear. You struggle with wondering, what if I make the wrong decision or what if I regret my decision, or what if something terrible happens? And so one example I can provide is when it came to me deciding which blog post or article I wanted to write. Hence, I have a list of like 30 ideas for upcoming blog posts because sometimes the ideas seem never-ending. They come from just thoughts that come to me. They come from your suggestions, which I highly appreciate, and I always consider your feedback and opinions. And also come from the work I do with coaching clients. So I take all this data and then compile it into a list once ideas come up. I'll add to it when planning my next few posts because I like to write a few at once. It can become this paralysis by analysis deciding which topic you'll find helpful you're going to find educational and inspiring. So that can seem like a lot of pressure, and then that pressure and that fear if I choose a topic that people aren't interested in or don't resonate with them. I'm putting this time and energy into creating this, and what if it's a flop? Or what if I choose something that doesn't do well, so these fears come up, making it harder to decide because then I feel this pressure like I need to make the best possible decision, which can feel paralyzing. This can make it harder to fix and result in me overthinking. I've worked through this, so this scenario no longer plays out for me. But it's a great example of how overthinking quickly complicates an everyday decision. 

Another reason you might struggle with overthinking things is because that fear can become perfectionism. The fear of "what if" something doesn't turn out right? Because of that decision that I've made or what if I regret my decision or if I make the wrong choice, it can turn into the perfectionism of I need to make the best choice, or I need to make the right choice, or I need to make a perfect choice. Perfectionism can hold you back from wanting to research or to put more thought into it or feeling all of this again, the pressure you need to make the perfect decision, which we all know is impossible. However, our minds still put these expectations upon us for some reason. I believe that it comes from how we were growing up, expected perfection in how we did in school because there was an excellent grade or perfect score. So this may translate into adulthood, how to make decisions when you overthink everything. You might research things, make a list, or endlessly think of all the possible outcomes of all the possible choices you can make. It can become exhausting because it's impossible to predict the future and to identify precisely what will happen if you make one decision. We can only make decisions based on the information that we have in the present moment.

So now that you know some of the reasons why you might struggle with making decisions and overthinking those decisions let's talk about the steps you can take to get out of this place if you're stuck with overthinking a decision. Maybe it's a big decision, or perhaps it's just those tiny daily decisions because when we waste and expend energy making decisions throughout the day, that will deplete our energy and willpower. There's a reason confident entrepreneurs and CEOs will wear the same outfit daily. Steve Jobs, for example, is a way of reducing the cognitive load resulting from making daily decisions. Because anytime we're making a decision, especially when we're overthinking a decision, it will require more of our energy and willpower. And so we only have a finite capacity unless we can recharge it. And suppose you're constantly making big decisions throughout the day. In that case, it will leave you less room and energy to do things that might be important, like being present at work, doing focus work, being present with your family, and any other items that might require willpower. 

Here are the four steps I suggest you take when you struggle with making decisions:

Step one is to identify your fear. So what is it that you're afraid of that's getting you in this place of overthinking your decision? So I wrote down the fear that I was struggling with when it came to wanting to pick a topic that genuinely mattered to me. So it was I'm afraid that people won't like what I'm creating, and I'm missing my once-weekly opportunity to connect, educate and inspire people. So sometimes just identifying this fear can be eye-opening because maybe you hadn't thought of, okay, what is it that I'm avoiding? So what is it that I'm afraid of? So bringing that to awareness? So writing that down and identifying it somehow is a significant first step.

Step two is to put this fear into perspective. Some examples might be when it comes to choosing a blog post topic. Not everybody will resonate with 100% of what I'm saying. And that's perfectly okay. I'm doing my best to provide content that I think will be helpful and inspiring. And that's all I can do. And this is one thing that might help that I suggest you write down or keep in the back of your mind. It's impossible to make a perfect decision, and I trust that I'm making the best decision now, given the information I have.

Step three is to give yourself a time limit. So this can be helpful because making these decisions can permeate all areas of our lives. You might find yourself obsessively thinking about a big decision when you're in the shower or when you're done with your run, when you're doing other things that you might be doing throughout your day, maybe when you're trying to spend time with your family. And so this can then make it more stressful when this decision is constantly looming in the back of your mind. So if you're able to schedule an intentional time to focus on making this decision, and even if it's a small decision and saying, I'm only going to give myself five minutes to think about this. I'm committing to something; let's say you get a menu at a restaurant or something. Still, suppose it's a more significant decision. You might want to give yourself more giant blocks of time in that case. Give yourself an hour to research and make this decision so that you don't get stuck in the place of over-researching and overthinking things, and then dig deeper into fear and worry and wonder if you're making the right decision. Usually, once we have a certain amount of information, we can make decisions, but if you go overboard and obsess over that information or overanalyze it. You can get into a place where it's not helping you to make a decision anymore, but it's only stressing you out and making you feel more anxious. So I highly recommend letting go of the urges to Google obsessively or to tell yourself let me have a little more time to think about this and set realistic time limits for making certain decisions.

Step four is to commit to the decision because, the thing is, doubt might creep in, and fear might creep in, and that's just going to happen because, especially if this is a big decision, you might still be struggling with, oh well. I'm not sure if this is the best. What if I made the wrong decision? So it's essential to recognize that this can be part of the process. So this doubt and these negative thoughts and worries may come up, and that's okay. It doesn't necessarily mean you've made the wrong decision. This may be fear coming up and trying to protect you. So that's when it can help to commit to it. Remind yourself that you've made this decision and stick to it. And another kind of bonus tip, I guess, is that depending on the decision, it can help get an outside perspective, especially if it's a big decision. However, when you're relying on somebody else to decide for you because you are too afraid to make the decision or when you're reaching out to others. To seek reassurance for a decision can get to where you're ignoring your signals and your self-trust and then focusing on others to give that for you. And that can result in you being in a place where you don't fully trust yourself and your ability to make decisions, thus making it harder to make decisions in the future and flexing this decision-making muscle. Practicing making decisions is just like learning any other skill. It's something that you'll get better with and more comfortable with over time, cultivating that skill of self-trust.


So the critical underlying component is the practice of self-trust. So trusting that you are doing the best you can in any given moment and cannot prevent bad things from happening or predict what may or may not occur in the future, focus on making the best decision you can. So your action tip is to use these four steps next time a decision confronts you and you find yourself overthinking; I'd love to continue the conversation on this topic, so head over to Instagram or Tiktok and follow me or send me a DM.  

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