I struggle with decisions.
If you knew me in high school, you know senior year was a stressful time as I tried to discern my next steps. If you’ve ever gone to a restaurant with me, you probably know I researched the menu beforehand because I need extra time to make a choice. Be it overthinking or decision fatigue, my brain is in a constant state of struggle when it comes to choices.
According to Psychology Today, the average person makes 35,000 decisions a day. The number may seem shocking, but most of these decisions are so minute it’s difficult to retain consciousness of them. Even now, you’re making a decision to read this sentence. You already decided to read the previous ones. These small choices seem far less significant than choosing a college or a job opportunity. But they still happen all the same.
Of course, many decisions do require some thought, and sometimes the mental effort becomes overwhelming. This can lead to analysis paralysis: an inability to make a decision due to overthinking and dwelling on the same thoughts. Rather than choosing A or B, choosing nothing becomes the path of least resistance.
This kind of paralysis has especially impacted my creative energy as of late. I’m hesitant to admit the amount of time it takes me to commit to a post calvin piece. When I find it challenging to come up with a topic, I’ll let the decision linger until the deadline looms a little too close. Once I finally decide on an idea, sometimes it only goes so far. The cursor blinks aimlessly on the screen as new thoughts come to a halt. To avoid wasting time, I’ll start over with a new topic on a new doc. Unfortunately, the same thing usually happens. Eventually I have to pick one and push forward.
The busyness of daily life doesn’t help. As a bride-to-be, I’m bombarded with decisions. While most of the “big” things for the wedding—date, venue, caterer, dress, etc.—are all in place, the smaller details now require my attention. Which centerpiece options will look the best? How should I phrase the wording on our invitations? What shoes should I buy? Which song should play as I walk down the aisle? While I’m grateful for this season, it comes with its challenges. I’m guilty of letting emails from vendors sit in my inbox for a few days simply because I don’t want to deal with another decision.
I think the problem is this: I’m afraid of regret. The idea of making the wrong choice is pretty much unbearable. And while regretting my entree choice at a restaurant isn’t as significant as regretting my college decision (which, mercifully, I don’t), the principle is still the same to me.
Perhaps, though, the real problem is this: I don’t give myself enough grace. Freedom of choice is just that—freedom. I know I’m capable of making the best decisions for myself. I know most of the 35,000 decisions my brain makes in a day won’t be life-altering. I know I can make the best of most situations, and that the significance of my wedding matters more than centerpieces and shoes.
Author and speechwriter Daniel H. Pink once said, “If we know what we truly regret, we know what we truly value. Regret—that maddening, perplexing, and undeniably real emotion—points the way to a life well lived.”
Here’s to holding space for that feeling, giving myself some grace, and finding peace in making that decision.
Kayleigh (Fongers) Van Wyk (’18) graduated with a degree in writing and resides in West Michigan. She works as a reporter for the Grand Rapids Business Journal and Grand Rapids Magazine while also making time for freelance writing. When she’s not behind a screen, she enjoys going for walks, eating ice cream, and buying more books than she’ll ever read.