Whether big and life-altering or small and seemingly trivial, decisions can be stressful. Here are eight ways to remove the stress and add the happy to your decision-making process.

By Katie Mills Giorgio

Decisions, decisions. We make hundreds, if not thousands, of them every day. What to wear to work, what to eat for breakfast, what vehicle to purchase, where to go on vacation.

According to psychologists, people fall into one of two decision-making categories. You can be a maximizer and spend as much time and effort as possible to make the “best” decision. Logic, advice from others, and expert information all play a role in helping you get there. On the other hand, you may be a satisficer (combining “satisfy” and “suffice”) who doesn’t put much time and effort into your decisions. You simply make a decision and that is that.

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No matter what type of decision maker you are, it seems at times that we are being offered more choices than we’ve ever had before. And more choices can lead to more difficult decision-making and ultimately to unhappiness. Making decisions is not only time consuming, but also emotion consuming. But not all decisions have to zap you of your positivity. Here are eight easy-to-implement tips to help you stop the overanalyzing and begin making decisions in a happy state of mind.

1. Start Easy and Work Your Way to Tough

You can teach yourself to make happier decisions. Simply start small and work your way up. Begin with making little decisions—chocolate or vanilla ice cream, heels or flats—to help establish your decision-making track record. Once you become more comfortable with that, move on to decisions of medium difficulty—what to get mom for her birthday, lob or bob haircut—and then finally the bigger things—should you get a pet? You’ll be a decision-making machine in no time.

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2. Give Yourself a Time Limit

If only we had unlimited time on our schedule every day. But, alas, we can't stop the clock from ticking, and when you drag out a decision you leave less time to enjoy the results. If you need to select a birthday card for a friend or a place to meet for dinner after work, give yourself a five-minute time limit. If the decision is a bigger one, give yourself more time while still setting up a deadline. That way you won’t drag your feet.

3. Don’t Overthink It

Research shows that when we have too many choices, our ability to make any choice at all is paralyzed. So try to narrow down your options when you have to make a decision. You can also follow the advice of motivational speaker Mel Robbins who teaches others to follow the “Five Second Rule.” She says, “If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within five seconds or your brain will kill the idea.” Simply say “5-4-3-2-1” to yourself and make your decision. Always trust your gut instinct and take action.

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4. Delegate and Choose Less Often

It can be as simple as asking your waitress what her favorite item on the menu is. Or if you are remodeling your home and having trouble deciding which paint color to put on the walls, hire an expert like an interior designer who will narrow things down to two choices for you. When making decisions just isn’t making you happy, rely on others to make them or, at the very least, narrow down your options. In fact, some decisions aren’t even yours to make, once you stop to think about it. Pick up on when a decision can be made by someone else and enjoy letting yourself go along with it.

5. Focus on Your Priorities and Values

Gretchen Rubin, author and self-help expert, encourages thinking about your personal value system when making a decision, especially those that will take your energy, time, and money. Make sure you consider your temperament, interests, values, and goals—especially as you consider bigger decisions. Ask yourself if the decision you are making aligns with your priorities and values. It will help you stay true to yourself and ultimately help you make decisions that lead to more happiness.

6. Be Practical

Sometimes, having to decide one thing or another comes down to just needing to make a practical choice. Make a list of pros and cons (perhaps one of the oldest tricks in the decision-making book.) And while you are at it, get some sleep. When you are exhausted it’s more difficult to keep up your happiness level (not to mention the ability to concentrate and remain patient) while having to make even the simplest decision.

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7. Stop Comparing, but Think of Others

While it’s easier said than done, it doesn’t help to compare your world, and the decisions you have to make in it, to those around you. This can be especially tough to do when plugged into social media. When it’s time to make a big decision, unplug for a bit to make sure you are considering your own reality. It can also help to shift your mind-set from a more self-centered decision-making approach to one that considers others. This is about how your decision might affect others and seeing your decision in the light of a whole ecosystem and not just your ego-system.

8. Stop Doubting Yourself

After your decision has been made, take some time to reflect on it. That doesn’t mean spending time questioning whether you’ve made the right decision though. For instance, if you’ve purchased a product online, stop reading reviews about it or similar products. Shift your mind-set to appreciate the choice you’ve made. You considered all your options and did your research.

Now that you’ve made a decision, feel confident it is a good one and move on. The time and energy you'll save by doing so can be put to use elsewhere. Besides, there’s likely another decision to be made before long.



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