I’m one of the world’s greatest over-thinkers. I put off making decisions forever because in my opinion, I haven’t thought about it enough. I’m not talking about earth-shattering, world-peace impacting decisions, I’m talking about “Should I take a walk or should I follow an exercise DVD?” “Do I clean out the fridge or empty the dishwasher first?” Don’t even get me started if I have to choose between uploading photos or downloading video. It’s a wonder I make it out of my bed every morning.
Don’t get me wrong; there is a time and place for thinking things through, weighing options, looking at a choice from all different angles. That time and place is not when a decision has to be made between an egg and cheese bagel and a breakfast burrito.
The difficultly is when we spend all of our time agonizing over decisions that are fairly interchangeable. “Should I print my business cards first or should I design my letterhead?” Both have to get done; neither is completely dependent on the other occurring first.
There is a scene in the movie Bull Durham when Crash (Kevin Costner) talks to Nuke (Tim Robbins) who is pitching a terrible game and over-thinking the whole process. As he’s leaving the mound to go back behind home plate, Crash tells Nuke “Don’t think. It can only hurt the ball club.” Nuke then tells himself “Don’t think. Just throw. Don’t think. Just throw.” He takes a breath, pitches the ball and throws a perfect strike.
To anyone not burdened with the tendency to over-think, the answer is obvious – make a decision, pick one and move on. For those of us who consider the post office or the library first akin to Sophie’s Choice, it’s not that simple. For some people, ever choice feels like a life or death decision. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t, our blood pressure rises, the panic sets in and most of the time, no decision gets made at all.
So how do we over-thinkers move forward? By making lots and lots of tiny decisions and noticing when we do it. The truth is, we all make hundreds of decisions every day, but they go by so effortlessly, we may not see it. Becoming aware of them is a good first step. Creating moments of low-stakes decisions consciously is another. Finally, recognizing and celebrating making decisions is a great way to reinforce the process. Little by little, we are able to see small decisions for what they are, not choices that have ramifications for now and the rest of eternity, but simply as one more stepping stone in a whole path of stones that move us forward, closer to where we want to go. As long as the stone is in front of us, we’re heading in the right direction. “Don’t think, just throw. Don’t think. Just throw.”