“If life is just a series of decisions, then making smart ones is paramount, especially now.” So begins a piece from this month’s Elle magazine, entitled “Analyze This: Should you go with your head or your heart?” In it, writer Louisa Kamps goes on to explore the ways in which fear — which, she implies, is in abundant supply these days, especially on the work front — mucks up the decision-making circuitry in our brains. She writes:
Fear has a way of leading us to dubious decisions, sloppy mistakes, and serious brain fog when it comes to figuring out a master plan for your career and all the major things it’s connected with, from finances to relationships.
So, in addition to the sleep, skin, overall health and relationship havoc stress hormones can wreak, apparently they screw up our decisions as well. Swell. And if that’s the case, then what does this mean for those of us who find the very prospect of making a decision stressful? Other than that we’re screwed.
Kamps cites some science, saying that, when we relax, our prefrontal cortexes tend to follow suit, leaving us better able to see the big picture. But even still. The big picture can be even more confusing. More factors to consider. More stress. So, then, when facing a huge decision, how do we decide? Kamps goes on:
Experts say people tend to make major life decisions either out of ‘a crystallization of discontent,’ when a situation becomes unbearable, or out of ‘a crystallization of desire,’ when they feel a surge of enthusiasm for a new idea. ‘People are much more satisfied when they’ve made decisions not only out of fear but out of desire,’ says Jack Bauer, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Dayton.
So, that’s something to shoot for. But might this all have something to do with why sitting around, idling in neutral is so self-perpetuating? We sit around, analyzing every little thing, which stresses us out, which limits our ability to make any decision at all, which leads to more sitting around… Oy. But, for those of us interested in kicking it into gear, I wonder: maybe the fear, the stress we feel in the face of making a decision is something to simply take note of–and rather than focusing on which way we’re going to go, maybe we’d do better if we shifted our perspective, and took it as an opportunity to get to know ourselves better, to discern what it is we really value. What is it that’s pulling us to it, and what it is that’s pushing us away? And maybe, when we look at it like that, is becomes easier to decide which direction to go.