Struggling with decision making?

Starbucks is a real disaster of choice, you can have three different sizes of cup, then there is drink in or take away. You can choose from 6 different types of coffee and then another 4 different sorts of additional shot. You can select one of three different types of milk, or just forget the milk altogether. Then you could go extra hot or freezing cold and by the time you have decided all that there are still 40 different cakes and snacks you could choose to go with your drink! Exhausted yet? I thoughts so!

Emotional health problems can have quite a pronounced impact upon a person’s confidence. This reduction in confidence can lead to increasing uncertainty and anxiety in the way a person thinks. Choices can become a painstaking and time intensive, “How do I know that this is right for me? How do I know if that is even what I really want right now? How can I be sure that something better won’t come along later?”

When in a place of heightened anxiety and uncertainty it is unlikely that any choice is not going to ‘feel right’ and ironically the harder we try to be sure the more likely it is that we will doubt it. This cycle can become very entrenched and painful, sometime moving into what we might describe as obsessive thought spirals.

There is great wisdom responding to this problem in Ecclesiastes Chapter 11. The writer identifies the conditions in which it may seem sensible to plant a crop. In verse 4 he says, “Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap”. The farmer can be totally frozen by the vast choices that are available to him, just like your coffee purchase. He may be thinking, “Will it rain tomorrow? Maybe it will be warmer next week? I’m not sure the ground won’t be better if I leave it a month?”

In verse 5 the writer says, “As you don’t know the path of the wind…you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” Effectively the writer is pointing out that life is filled with uncertainties and many things will always be a mystery to you. If you wait for certainty, you will end up waiting forever and therefore will never plant your crop.
In verse 6 he instructs us, “Sow your seed in the morning and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you know not which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.”

At Mind and Soul we often reiterate the need to make changes (decisions) on the basis of the best evidence available to you at the time. This is not the same as making the best decisions for you, since many things are uncertain and you may never know in reality how one decision may have worked out versus another. You can only live life forward! However, we also trust in a God who is good and has good things for you. Your job is to accept the uncertainty of life and do the best with what you actually know, rather than trying to predict the future or work out ‘the perfect’ decision.

At the end of the chapter the writer says, “So banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigour are meaningless.” This may sound like a slightly fatalistic approach to life but actually it is a very helpful outlook. To paraphrase the writer, “do get weighed down by anxiety or frustrated by the aches of your body; it is pointless fearing the future or regretting missed opportunities from your past. Youth and vigour don’t do anything to mitigate the real challenge of living live in the present!”

When you doubt yourself or when you become disabled by the variety of choices you face, try the following steps:

1) Qualify the decisions importance 1-5. 1 being which coffee shall I choose today? 5 being shall I change my job? Allocate proportionate energy to deciding based on the rating.

2) Identify who is impacted by the decision. Just you or lots of people?

3) Ask yourself what you want (instinctual)? What do you think is best for you (rational)? What you can afford (fiscal)? (If it is a more serious decision) what your family want (relational)? What God wants (spiritual)?

4) What present time information supports your decision?

5) What time present information opposes your decision?

6) On the balance of the weight of your thinking make your choice.
Will Van Der Hart, 01/02/2012
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