We are faced with making decisions each day. The choices we make reflect our goals and priorities. However, many factors affect our ability to make most congruent decisions. Whether your decision is a major life-changing one, or one that is of less significance, chances are that you would’ve probably found yourself second guessing.
Too much information, too many choices, and the fear of making a wrong decision often keep us mulling over most of our choices for long. While making choices, we often get too deep in our head thinking about things. We at times get stuck in never-ending spiral of what-if’s that come and go—What if selecting this option leads me to failure? How do I know that I am making the best decision? What if this choice makes things worse?
Some people are prone to investing lot of their time thinking about every little choice they have to make. Overthinking your choices often leads to stress, anxiety and at times to indecision. It not only keeps you from getting things done, but also puts you in a state of emotional and mental stress.
A decision clouded with doubt is never a good decision —Steven AitchisonTweet
So, When does your thinking becomes overthinking
Thinking in itself is a good thing and is very much required to make an effective decision. Constructive thinking leads to problem-solving, to visualise goals, to plan and devise new concepts, and to make life altering choices. However, we as humans also have a habit of compulsive thinking that is so pervasive and can make us feel that thinking is doing.
Overthinking can appear at times like we are problem-solving. But there is a difference between thinking the right amount and overthinking. When you ask questions with the intent of finding an answer or a solution, it becomes a helpful tool to make a decision. On the other hand, when you dwell on pros and cons when a problem may not even exist, it leads to overthinking.
Similarly, when you think of certain choices, it can sometimes feel like self-reflection. The difference being when you reflect, you are rooted in a higher purpose. For instance, to gain a new perspective, or to grow as a person. Whereas obsessing over something you have no intention of improving or you either can’t change becomes overthinking.
How does it affect your decision making
Most of our thinking is relatively harmless, but it can be distressing when you end up going round in circles without a solution. Because of this you begin to second-guess every little choice you’ve to make. Furthermore, rehashing what you should have done in the past, or replaying past mistakes, and fretting over the potential outcomes makes you more sceptical of choices you are making in present.
Careful analysis and thinking is important for making effective decisions. But if you get caught up in analysing every potential outcome, it delays your decisions, increases procrastination, and at times leads to inaction. Since sometimes, you only have a certain amount of time to make most of an opportunity, over analysing might come at a cost of your available resources.
When you are not convinced with the choice you are making, you tend to continuously look for one more other option, an other way, or an other alternative. And more the number of options, more it becomes difficult to make up your mind. Constantly mulling over every choice reduces the amount of available working memory making it harder to make faster and quality decisions.
Here is how slow decision making impacts your performance
Indecision. Sometimes, when you rely heavily on data and information, it feels risky making a decision without reviewing and weighing all the available options. This holds true for slow decision-makers who always rely on groupthink or consensus. Slow decision-makers risk making no decisions and they fear change and are often reluctant to let go of their status-quo.
Opportunity cost. Today’s fast-paced workplaces demands that leaders make decisions as quickly as possible. Though certain decisions still need to be based on research and knowledge, but those who cannot make decisions quickly risk growing both personally and professionally. Inability to make timely decisions at work can keep you from staying ahead of the competition. As a result, it leads to costly delays where you may not be able to capitalise on new opportunities quickly.
Decision fatigue. Overthinking every choice increases decision fatigue. Leaders who spend too much time making their decisions lack the ability to get more things done. Th is because they expend too much of their mental and emotional energy. Although spending a long time deciding may feel like you are making better choices, in reality, it decreases your overall ability to analyse your options effectively.
If you happen to be overthinking your choices, here are some ways to increase the pace of your decisions.
Analyse your choices
‘When the decision you are making is important, it’s easier to get caught up in the vicious cycle of fretting over possibilities and pitfalls. If you aren’t sure whether or not you are going to be happy with your decision, pause to consider how it is going to play out in a month/year’s time. Instead of seeing only problems, analyse your choices from point of how they are going to change your present situation. Pause and reframe your decision from solution-oriented thinking.
Trust your instincts
It is not necessary that only slow and deliberate ways lead to more accurate decisions. Being instinctive too allows you to leverage your thinking abilities. It is totally okay to trust your instincts if you feel like one option is better than the others. Check for facts and evidence for you thoughts, but don’t be afraid to go with the option that you are leaning towards or keep going back to.
Drop your fear of going wrong
“A decision made from fear is always the wrong decision.”—Tony Robbins
It’s harder to make a decision if you are afraid of the outcome. Negative emotions like fear and doubt only make you more anxious. Instead of constantly worrying about what might go wrong, embrace the idea that it’s okay to fail forward. It is important to remind yourself that there’s not a single right or wrong decision. Instead of second-guessing, think in terms of what would happen if you did nothing.
Commit to one choice
Too much choice can sometimes be overwhelming and result in dissatisfaction over the decision made. Consider weighing all of your options and identify ones that are important. Then compare that option with each of your other choices. This way, you can go with best option and eliminate the rest. Asking yourself, whether this option takes you away or closer to your goals might further point you to the right direction.
Figure out the importance of your decision. Spending less time on small decisions leaves you with more time for your priority decisions. The potential impact of a decision is important when evaluating if a decision is of high or low priority. For instance, you may not need to spend as much time making the choice when it comes to—making decisions you are familiar with, or those decisions that can be easily reversed or modified. Instead you may focus your time and energy on decisions with more consequences.
Manage your emotions
Sometimes we tend to spend longer making a decision because of the way it is going to affect people around us—friends, subordinates or others in professional relationships. However, it is best to focus on objective facts rather than emotions when making business related choices. Collaborating and communicating with those affected by the decision helps you figure out what matters most to them. Considering a neutral perspective gives you a more objective view of the situation.
Limit your research
By gathering more information, you might get overwhelmed or feel unsure about what to do. eads you to over-analyse all of your options and become fatigued. Instead decide ahead of time how much time you plan to devote to your research, or how many sources you plan to review. Limit yourself to few credible sources when doing research online, or consulting few experts in the field.
Overthinking can actually be difficult to recognise until you start paying more attention to when you are doing it. Schedule time to think about a decision that is taking most of your headspace. During that time, give yourself freedom to speculate on the various options. When you practice mindfulness, you can pay more attention to things that are within your control and you can avoid going back and forth doubting yourself.
Set a deadline
The more time you allow yourself to think through a decision, the more likelier that you are to overanalyse it. To avoid this, create a self-imposed deadline for when you must make the decision. Make a habit of doing instead of thinking. Rather than dwelling over doing something later, plan your actions steps with deadlines. Staying in the planning stage for long and not acting probably is the reason that you are overthinking.
“A real decision is measured by the fact that you’ve taken a new action. If there’s no action, you haven’t truly decided.”Anthony Robbins
Try asking yourself the following questions to reflect on the above perspectives.
How is overthinking slowing you down in making decisions?
Do you weigh pros and cons of every choice you make?
How often do you second-guess decisions you made?
Do you often fear going wrong with the choices you make?
In what ways can you benefit by making faster decisions?
What are some of your strategies to make faster decisions?
Overthinking about a decision slows down the mental process that underpins decision making. The bottom line is that every decision involves a trade off. No matter how much you try to maximise, choosing one thing will always require that you give up something else. If you are someone who overthinks everything, accept the fact that you can’t control everything while making a choice.
And despite the effort you sometimes could go with a choice that may not be so perfect. But however, taking a chance opens up possibilities to harness new experiences and ideas that spark new outcomes. Instead of mulling over what could go wrong, focusing on the outcome and trusting your judgment can lead to making faster decisions.
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