I’ve been chronically indecisive in the past. I’d overthink every choice, umm-ing and ahh-ing, making detailed lists of pros and cons. And that was just about what to watch on Netflix that night.
Big decisions would fill me with panic. Should I have a baby? Should I leave my job and go freelance? Should I emigrate to California? And I’d agonise over them, sometimes for years.
I’d even Google: “How to make a decision”. It wasn’t helpful. People would say: “Go with your gut”, but mine never told me anything useful, other than that it was time for another snack.
When I eventually made the decision to leave my marriage two years ago, I realised that there is no such thing as a “right” call. There is no perfect outcome, just choices you make that move things in a different direction.
I realised that sticking with the status quo is also a decision, just a passive one. Both have consequences – good and bad. I think our 30s, especially for women, can feel fraught with panic, because it seems like we have to make all these huge life-changing decisions, in an ever-narrowing window of time.
Lockdown has been the catalyst for a lot of people to make big changes in their lives, and I’m not just talking about the fact that every third person on my Instagram seems to have bought a dog.
Apparently, the ancient Persians made big decisions by discussing them twice – once while drunk and then again while sober.
Plans we’ve been mulling over for ages have finally been actioned, no doubt in part because the global pandemic has made us realise what’s really important to us. I have a friend who’s decided to move out of London, another who has begun the process to adopt.
Of course, there’s also the predicted baby boom and divorce spike when this is all over – two monumental life changes, with completely different results.
Last week, a study was published that found that people who were randomly told to make a big change were happier than those who stuck with the way things were.
Behavioural economist Steven Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics, flipped a virtual coin for 22,000 people who were in a quandary. Questions included: “Should I get a tattoo?”, “Should I propose?” and “Should I start my own business?”
Six months later, the respondents who’d been told to make the change – and had actually done it – reported being significantly more satisfied with life than those who’d followed the “if in doubt, do nowt” approach.
It might sound trivial to flip the coin or roll the dice in order to make an important choice, but is it any worse than our other decision-making techniques? Apparently, the ancient Persians made big decisions by discussing them twice – once while drunk and then again while sober. I know a few break-ups that have definitely been fuelled by the choices made over wine.
Since my own core-shakingly big life change, I find it much easier to make decisions (thank god, because indecision is exhausting). The pandemic has helped me to realise that we don’t actually need to sweat decision-making, because the really impactful things in life – ill health, bereavement, redundancy – we have no choice in at all.
The big decisions make themselves. There is no such thing as a wrong move and you’re never truly stuck or without options. So if lockdown has made you rethink your priorities, perhaps now’s the time to try to change something, anything.
To toss a coin and not look back. But remember – a puppy’s for life, not just for lockdown.
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