I suck at small decisions, but as a therapist and a therapee, I’ve learned some tricks.
The big ones I can make. Going to college, where to go to college, leaving home.
Marrying the first guy I had sex with who also happened to be wildly charismatic — and as big a personality as my larger-than-life mom. He helped me escape my home and tiny, Texas town. Let’s not talk frying pan to fire just yet.
My parents knew they couldn’t afford the college I wanted, but in Carol World every obstacle is there to be laughed at and overcome. Over, under, around or through.
I make big decisions, but without a lot — if any — foresight. Every college semester had me haunting the Financial Aid department — sitting there and refusing to leave until someone found every possible grant, scholarship, and federal loan available.
I got married the end of my freshman year of college, but I did finish! We were basically college roommates but with the cherry-on-top that was regular sex.
This was after carefully avoiding relationships with hometown boys so I wouldn’t wind up pregnant and stuck in the stultifying tiny town. Another major decision made.
I just realized that many of my decisions are based on doing what others tell me I can’t or shouldn’t. Or they are a zig-zag move from the person I am being at the moment. That would have been good to know earlier in life.
Not that I would have stopped doing that. It’s gotten me where I am, and I’m in a good place.
As my OB/GYN told me when I got pregnant after fibroid surgery at age 40, “Carol, you’re full of surprises.” I was also going through a divorce and finishing graduate school. And I planned the pregnancy with my son, knowing I would be a single mother. See what I mean? Big decisions, no problem.
. . .
On the other hand, I act like the fate of the world depends on whether I go to the gym, to the pool, or to a bar.
Yesterday I tried on four swimsuits, when all I wanted all day was to “throw on” a suit and head to the pool.
As I pulled, yanked, tugged and adjusted each suit, I gazed longingly at the loose, cotton dress that slips on like a whisper, and flatters while it conceals.
I could’ve tossed the suits, slipped on the dress, and been taking the first sip of a hand-crafted margarita in the time it was taking to yank, pull, and try to maneuver into each bathing suit.
Then the part of me that wants to get in shape comes out to argue with the part that now REALLY just wants to go to happy hour instead. The decision feels fateful. I chose the pool. And I decided within 30 minutes, instead of the hours it would have taken in my past. Happy hour times did influence the time spent to make a decision. Deadlines help.
Some of you know, all that is “normal neurotic” stuff. You’ve done it or do it.
How did I learn to shorten the decision torment? With these tools:
Deadlines, as in happy hours.
Mindfulness gets me back in the moment, where it’s easier to know what I truly want. If I want two things at once, being mindful determines which of the two things I want the most at that moment.
Cognitive challenging and reframing, a cognitive tool which challenges the thoughts creating the feeling that each decision is earth-shattering. It isn’t. Most decisions aren’t. Try asking, “What if I do go to happy hour instead of the pool? Then what? Then what?” Until you boil the decision down to its essence. This also works for worriers and worst case scenarios.
Nike and its motto. It sounds trite, but often I tell myself “Just do it.” I still have to make a choice, but I make it faster.
My mother said, “Do something even if it’s wrong.” The best advice? Maybe not, but it has a certain Zen quality. It also got us moving and deciding.
I do the 5 second countdown. The concept is taken from the countdown before launching a rocket into space. If the decision is between sitting on my ass and getting up and getting something done, I’ll countdown from 5 to zero, then do whatever it is. No stopping to think, no excuses.
Sometimes, if the choice is a bigger one, I pretend there’s an alternate universe where that version of me is making the other choice. So I pick one and am reassured believing that somewhere I’m happily doing the other.
Feel the fear and do it anyway, if it’s not a choice between things, but rather a decision to do something that you want to do but scares you.
If all else fails, toss a coin. For those smaller decisions, heads or tails is better than sitting on your ass. Even if it means squeezing that ass into a bathing suit.
This post was previously published on New Choices.
You may also like these posts on The Good Men Project:
|White Fragility: Talking to White People About Racism||Escape the “Act Like a Man” Box||Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race||What We Talk About When We Talk About Men|
Join The Good Men Project as a Premium Member today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
A $50 annual membership gives you an all access pass. You can be a part of every call, group, class and community.
A $25 annual membership gives you access to one class, one Social Interest group and our online communities.
A $12 annual membership gives you access to our Friday calls with the publisher, our online community.
Register New Account
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo credit: iStock