In the first decision post, I talked about the role of intuition, or gut instincts, when it comes to making decisions. I stand by it - intuition is a powerful tool not many of us feel comfortable accessing as a primary method of making choices. It's the most primal, yet the least logical approach (although there have been moments in my life when intuition felt way more logical than anything I was advised to do). Is it foolproof? I don't know of any method of decision making that is.
Here's the thing: we may make a decision in our organizing adventures based upon all of the data we gather, the advice we solicit, the opinions of experts, the instinct we have at the time - and still not have the outcome we intended. It happens all the time.
We might decide, with all the wisdom we can draw upon, to let go of a particular object. And then six months later end up having a need to buy that same object again. Internal Dialogue: "What a colossal mistake that was! I should never get rid of anything."
Conversely, we may assign a particular meaning to an object and decide it needs to be kept. We just know it's going to serve us. Only to realize weeks or months later that it really isn't helpful - that we're never going to use it the way we thought we would. Internal Dialogue, Part II: "I'm so stupid for hanging onto that thing. What was I thinking?"
We might further explain either outcome away as "I knew I shouldn't have listened to _________," or "I always make the wrong choice," or even, "I can't trust myself to do anything right." But does either scenario imply that all of our decisions and choices are destined to be dumpster fires? Sure, there will be decisions we regret, but how else do we learn? Who on earth makes the correct decision all the time?
Just because one decision went south, does that mean ALL of our choices are destined to go the same direction? Did you decide to get up this morning? Did you choose to make your coffee, feed the dog, get ready for work, make the kids' breakfasts? Those are decisions too, you know. Small ones, maybe, but harkening back to those 35,000 decisions we make each day, you could have decided not to do any of those things.
Sometimes I'm asked if I have ever regretted letting something go. Sure, I have, although not very often because I don't identify super-closely with things. Plus, I've never been through a forced letting-go situation like a natural disaster or a fire or such (which can result in understandable extremes of stuff-identification one way or another - a different scenario and probably a different post). Does my regret take over my life and lock up my next decision? I try to set it aside because my past regret doesn't have to be relevant in my present.
For example: I can recall one of my favorite things as a kid was a small microscope my brother had given me for Christmas. I messed with it a lot, especially in the summers. I had lots of slides, both pre-made ones that came with the set and some I created with things I collected. At some point after I flew the nest, my mother took it to donate at her favorite charity. She checked with me first, and being away from home with the distraction of a first job, I agreed. But then...I kept thinking about that silly microscope. I had regret, a little sadness, and wished I had thought it through more. I realized that hoped that one of my children would enjoy it the way I had someday (sound familiar?).
When our son was old enough, one Christmas I confidently bought him as similar a model of the microscope as I remembered…and what do you know? He rarely touched it. It totally gathered dust in his room. So even if I had made a different decision all those years ago, it wouldn't have resulted in what I predicted. Even if he had loved the microscope, letting the original go honestly didn't matter one way or the other. Again, regret does not always equal relevance in making decisions. Note: I do think parents should invite children into as many age-appropriate decisions as possible. They need practice with choices.
"Bad" decisions can have silver linings too, of course. The job turned down, then a better one coming along. The new couch that doesn't fit in the living room, but turns out to be perfect for the office. And in many situations we can mitigate a regretted decision and learn from it - repurchase what we released, or give away whatever the offending object might have been.
So while there are plenty of methods and ways to approach a decision, none are necessarily better than any other, and none are guaranteed to always work. We'll still miss the mark sometimes, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't practice weighing options, checking in with our gut, and choosing. Especially now, I think most of us are doing the best we can with our decisions. And that's all we can ask of ourselves.
Today SBTS features a guest post by friend and colleague, Terry Huff, LCSW. Terry is the author of Living Well With ADHD, and in keeping with our theme of decision-making, he shares his take on the challenges of making clear choices. Read on for insight and inspiration...
How often have you said something like this to yourself: I just need to make a decision and move on, but I feel stuck. I should know what I want, but I don't. I've been asked to make a choice…what if I make the wrong choice? I've made bad decisions before; I must research this until I am certain not to regret my choice. I get buyer's remorse; I need someone to assure me.
Adults with ADHD often have trouble making decisions, even simple ones over insignificant matters, like this: Should I start cooking breakfast now, or take out the trash first? If I take out the trash first, I will have to wash my hands before I can even start cooking, and then I will be putting eggshells into a fresh trash bag. But if I don't get the trash out early, I might miss the garbage pickup…what day is this?
I recently heard a man with ADHD say that his goal for getting things done had little to do with making a decision. His goal was not to get stuck. For him, getting stuck had been a bigger problem than making "bad decisions."
Do you ever research a subject exhaustively in an effort to avoid making the wrong decision? On the other hand, do you sometimes make an impulsive decision to avoid wrestling with brain-numbing details? Between these polar opposites is good enough, having sufficient information to choose and move on. Good enough requires a flexible mind. But an inflexible mind tries to (1) eliminate the possibility of a mistake, or (2) avoid ambiguity and mental fatigue. The obsessive mind becomes immobilized trying to get settled instead of acting, while the impulsive mind decides on the run and then pays a price for overlooking essential details.
Another hurdle in making decisions involves preference. Are you attuned to your preferences? Do you avoid expressing them because they may be disregarded or challenged? When your partner asks you to decide and then criticizes your decision, do you give up? There are ways to convey preferences assertively, despite how you feel.
If there is a movie you want to watch with your mate, consider expressing your preference as a request: "I would love to have a movie date with you tonight; will you consider watching Marriage Story with me?" If you only want a date with your partner and don't care what movie you watch, you might defer your preference: "I prefer that you choose the movie tonight."
Then there is this phenomenon we call confidence. You may believe you need confidence to assert your preference. That seems backwards to me. Simple action looks confident, but it is nothing more than just being, instead of trying to be. The more you idealize confidence and strive for it, or envy someone who appears to have it, the further you will be from it. When you stop concerning yourself with lacking confidence and simply act, you will start to feel confident. As psychologist and author Steven Hays puts it, "Get out of your mind and into your life."
Willingness to act can override self-doubt. When an acting student at the Julliard School of Performing Arts asked Julia Roberts where she got her confidence, Roberts replied, "I wasn't always confident…just fake it til you make it." Reminding the students that they were actors, she said, "Act confident, and you will start to feel confident."
*Footnote: These thoughts are not original. They were inspired by members of ADDNashville, a support group that has been helping adults live well with ADHD since 2005. - TH
Many thanks to Terry for contributing today - I especially like his description of the polar opposites, and the concept of willingness to act. If you are curious to learn more, check out his website .
And where might these barriers to decision-making be showing up in your organizing adventures? Share your thoughts with us below...
Sara Skillen - Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Organizer Coach®, wife, mom, dog-lover, author. Learning to trust my intuition more every day. Shall we work together?