Taking the Stress Out of Making Decisions
We are delighted to have author and all around inspiration Deb Dunlevy share some of her wisdom on taking the stress out of making decisions on the blog today, enjoy!
Can I confess something? I hate making decisions. Maybe its my personality. (Proud ENTP here, with an E that doesn’t want to miss out on anything and a P that thinks everything has potential.) Maybe it’s the way I was raised. (“What do you want to do?” “I don’t know. What do you want to do?”) Or maybe it’s just that modern America is so full of choices that it overwhelms me. (I went to buy a mousetrap online a few weeks ago and there were 2500 kinds. Literally.)
I know I’m not alone in this. Many of my conversations with friends center around trying to make the right decision, whether it’s about a new job or just what to cook for dinner, and then wondering if the ones we’ve made were for the best. There are dozens of books out there claiming they can help us make smart decisions, but how can you even pick one?
A few weeks ago, I spent some time with a couple of really familiar verses from the Bible, and I found myself relaxing. They’re a part of a whole book that’s telling us how to be happy, and they get right to the heart of my problem.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Philippians 4:8-9 ESV
There are three really simple principles in these two sentences that are so useful in taking the stress out of our choices.
1. Deal with the Real:
“…whatever is true”
The word “true” in this case means “not imaginary.” Stop on that for a minute.
Here’s what you are supposed to think about: stuff that is real. You want to know what’s not real? The way you think things are supposed to be. You want to know what else isn’t real? Anything that hasn’t happened yet (i.e. the future). Also not real? What you think other people are thinking. What is real is what is actually happening in your life right now. The way things are. That is what you need to consider. The rest of it is all imaginary.
That means I don’t decide which job to take based on the person I think I’m supposed to be. I decide based on the person I am. I don’t decide what to say to my friends based on what reaction I think I can get from them. I just say what is true. I don’t decide whether or not to marry that boy based on what I think he could someday become. I decide based on who he is right now. When my decisions are grounded in reality, things become so much clearer.
2. Embrace your freedom
I love the repetition. Whatever is honorable. Whatever is just. Whatever is pure. Whatever is lovely. Any excellence. Anything worthy of praise. Those aren’t restrictive words. Within the realm of right and beauty, anything is okay. You are free. There isn’t just one right choice. There are millions!
Is it excellent? Is it adding beauty (truth) to the world? Then you are free to pursue it! Any job you do well is one you can be proud of. Any home you will use to add life to the world is one you can live in happily. Any book or movie or music that is excellent and sheds light on our world is one you can consume if that’s what you want. You can be happy with any of those things you choose. You are free.
And just in case all that choice still makes you break out in hives, I’m happy to say there are a whole list of things you can reject without even having to consider them. Anything that’s a lie. Anything that’s unjust. Anything degrading or ugly. Don’t give them a second thought. Talk about simplifying your life!
3. You don’t have to be original
“…what you’ve…seen in me, practice these things...”
I know this is going to sting, but you aren’t unique. The things you think and feel, the dreams you have for your life and the struggles you face, others have experienced those things before you. Use that! Being original is undeniably cool, but it doesn’t come with a speck of inherent happiness. So blaze trails if you must, but look around at the other people who have tamed the wilderness before you. They probably have a lot to offer.
And here’s a hint: if all your friends are recommending a certain movie, you should go see it. I know you don’t like to be trendy, but for the sake of your own happiness, listen to the people around you. They’re your friends for a reason. They share your values. They can help you sort through the flood of possibilities the world has to offer. Don’t be too cool for school.
That’s it. Deal with the real, embrace your freedom, and imitate all you like. It won’t take all the stress out of decisions, but it will enable you to be happy with what you do choose.