Making Decisions: 3 Tactics For Handling Choices

Making choices–Image from “Ted Talks”

Recently, the COVID-19 shutdown, combined with the steady stream of “incoming freshmen” sports and activity notices, has brought me some stress. Lying on the couch, anxiously scrolling through Pinterest to block out the repetitive thoughts that slam around inside my head.

I’ve never really been a decisive type—at least, not when it comes to new things. If there’s a new activity available to me, my family and teachers know how easily my mind gets swept away: ”Hey, cheer looks fun! I did that in second grade, and that uniform would look great on me!” Or “What about Pom? I went to a summer camp for it when I was 9, how different could it be?” “I could stick with swimming, but cross country might have potential…”

And when it’s not about sports, these same bouts of indecisiveness strike for clubs and academics: “Intro to welding? That sounds cool…there’s good money in welding!” Or a thought that has passed my mind at times, even though my sense of strategy is practically nonexistent—I bet I could get good at chess if I really tried. 

No matter what grade level I advance to, the same “overachiever” mentality manifests itself, getting stronger and increasingly out of control as hundreds of opportunities crop up. Even in the quarantine, Facebook buzzed with notifications from coaches about tryouts, different friend groups text me about a variety of sports, club advisors email about high school opportunities.

Some people would roll their eyes—and for good reason: “Wow, it’s such a shame that you have so many choices and opportunities to pursue.” Sarcastically, if you didn’t pick up on that. Or perhaps an optimist would view this trait of mine as less of a raging bull inside a china shop, crashing into life with an overloaded schedule, and more of a charming “Jack-of-all-trades” phase that I would inevitably grow out of.

But to me, this is a burden. My gut remains inactive, stalling at times or leading me to a choice I probably never wanted in the first place.

I choose track for a season, complain the whole time about missing swim, return to swim after, miss track. Love swimming with all my heart, yet still tangle with myself about giving my all at practice and not comparing myself to others.

No matter what, I can always rely on a war inside me over some choice or another…now, however, I’m finding that there are way more sides to fight on. 

Of course, my life is no doom-and-gloom decision-making cloud of dread, but inconsequential choices like the one above do stress me out more than most. 

I can attribute this to my lack of “gut-feeling,” or my simple desire to try out new things, test the waters, or be the best at any given thing…but no matter what decision I stress over, I find it easiest to step back. 

Breathe for a moment. And do one–or all–of these things.

Write it down as soon as possible

Now, I’d like to say that I’m some kind of “self-care guru” that journals day in and day out, recording all my wonderings and emotions. But truthfully, the only time you’ll ever see me with a journal in hand is at my most stressed. It helps to pour out all the pros and cons and emotions swirling in your mind… you’ll find there is more room to think!

Think about the little moments

In any decision that I make, I always make an effort to step back from the large, dominating thoughts and focus on tiny feelings. This is a hard concept to grasp at first, so I will give an example. 

Recently, as high school rolls around the corner, I’ve been debating between swimming and pom pon, two sports that run at the same time. I was relatively convinced in my decision to take a break from swimming to try out for a sport I had very little experience in. 

But then, I stepped back and took a look at the little things I loved about both. Swimming hit me like a freight train, immediately dousing me in a thousand tiny things I loved about it: the feeling of flying over the water on a butterfly stroke, the joy of looking up at the clock and seeing you cut time, the powerful push of my arm through the water on a stroke.

For pom pon, it was the happy faces of the crowd, the uniform motions like a whole unit, one body, a team aspect that you couldn’t find in an individually focused sport like swim. 

In the end, swim had more of these little things, so I decided that I will stick with swimming for the high school season, and then decide if I will try out for the winter season of pom pon. That is a very general idea of how I used little moments to make a decision that was big for me.

Talk to someone else

Most times, talking to someone else helps clear my mind. This is similar to the journal, but whereas the journal is good because it will accept all your thoughts non-judgmentally and in a private manner, a real person is good because they can give you their advice and support you. 

Find someone you know and trust, and explain to them your situation and your thoughts on the matter. Whether you take their advice or not, it’s good to have a second opinion that isn’t your own.

It’s important for my readers to know that these aren’t carefully researched techniques, backed by science or experts in the field (whatever field that would be considered as). These are just some things I do at my most tumultuous moments of thought or when pondering any decisions: big, small, stupid, important. Mostly stupid. (: 

This is my first informal post where I spill some personal experience with a topic I struggle with, and I thought maybe my readers would appreciate a little more about me and the choices I’ve faced and been facing lately. Follow your heart the best you can–when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Questions for the comments

  • How do you handle decisions?
  • Are there any tactics you use that I didn’t mention?
  • Do you feel as though the COVID-19 shutdown has brought to you more decisions to make, or cut back on them?