When I was in high school, my nerdy friends and I played Dungeons and Dragons. We would gather the group together, assemble our dice, and consume far more soda than was likely healthy.
Somewhere along the way, whenever crawling through dungeons we reached a conclusion. If you come to a crossroads, when in doubt, go left.
Little did anyone know, this was actually a really useful life lesson. Why? Because it is far too easy to become indecisive and doubtful when you reach a crossroads in life.
Everyone encounters choices in their lives, and has to make decisions. Some are relatively small, like what should I wear today? and do I want yogurt for breakfast? and such. Others are larger, like should I visit Sedona on my vacation? or which car should I buy? and similar.
Then, of course, some have a far broader impact, like what should I choose to major in? and do I propose to him/her/them? or do I relocate to Timbuktu for that job? and the like.
Great or small, choices can be intimidating, in particular if you attach any significance to them.
You can debate endlessly. You can weigh your options, create detailed lists of pros and cons, ask for advice…
…or take a deep breath, and make a choice. When in doubt, go left.
Decisions are only as overwhelming as you allow them to be
Straight to the point, doubt is often a reaction to feeling overwhelmed. If you feel a choice is particularly weighty, or there are too many options before you, or you worry about the consequences of choosing poorly, it’s easy to become overwhelmed.
The word consequence can be chilling. If you have depression or anxiety, this is even more problematic. Lao Tzu said,
“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
One of the biggest issues you likely face with the past is reliving poor choices. Or second-guessing choices made. Did you learn the lessons from your past errors, or will you keep repeating them? Legitimate concern or unreasonable doubt, analyzing choices and decisions of the past can be a primary cause of depression.
On the other side of the same coin, if you worry that your choices and decisions will have negative consequences, this is major contributor to anxiety. Will people shun you for a bad choice? Might a poor decision hurt the people you love? What if you get it totally wrong, and irreparably f*@k up your life? Unreasonable doubt or legitimate concern, analyzing the future impact of choices and decisions can be a primary cause of anxiety.
It is for this reason that having a pre-set backup plan might serve you well. It needn’t be complicated, it just needs to be. When in doubt, go left.
Make peace with decision making
In order to combat fear and regret about past decisions, and concerns and dread about the consequences of decisions in the future, you need to be mindful of the here-and-now. Instead of getting bummed out over mistakes or perceived screw-ups of the past, or worrying about errors and repercussions in the future, be present now.
Take this moment and recognize the following:
· Most decisions are not permanent: With very few exceptions, choices and decisions made now can be altered. Further, there are ALWAYS new choices and decisions to be made.
· You cannot avoid the Five Truths of the Self: You will screw up. You will fail. You will be wrong. You will get hurt. You will hurt others.
· There are ALWAYS choices: Life is made of choices. You are always going to have options for decisions, and no matter the size, if you get it wrong you will have an opportunity to change it.
· Change is inevitable: Life is change. It is a constant, and you can either just let it happen, or choose and decide for it.
· The past is passed: We can’t undo what we have done. All we can do is learn from the past, and go forward.
· The future is not as scary as you might fear: I want to quote Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist here, because it covers this so well:
“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.”
· You cannot control the reactions of anyone else: Plain and simple, no matter what choices and decisions you might make, you cannot control how anyone else will react to them.
Acknowledging all of this, and keeping these seven factors in mind, you can decide to decide. When in doubt, go left.
Mindfulness of the now combats doubt
You are not alone in worrying about the impact of a decision. Everyone experiences this. Nobody wants to be a f*@k up, nor to cause hurt in our friends and loved ones. When you are faced with a choice, and need to make a decision, you always have options. You can even decide not to decide — but that is a great way to disempower yourself.
When you are standing at a crossroads, whether you are facing monsters in a dungeon, or real-life demons, or life-changing decisions, the power to choose is a wonderful thing. It can seem intimidating and scary, but having choices can also be viewed as wondrous and exciting.
Don’t let the “what if?” questions turn your thoughts negative; instead, let the “what if?” questions lean to the positive. These choices and decisions before you could turn your life into a much more incredible experience than it’s been up until now.
Life is only upsetting and terrifying if you let it be. Because you have the power to be mindful of your thoughts, feelings, and actions, you can create an ever improving reality. You have the power to choose.
Doubt is only as strong as you let it be. Sucker-punch it, recognize that you are worthy and deserving of the good your choices can lead you to, and decide to decide.
Take it from a long-time gamer and his friends: When in doubt, go left.