How to overcome anxiety making choices: three steps to moving forward with confidence

How do I know if he’s the one? What if I don’t like it when I get there? What if I’m wasting my time?

Trust in our selves. In others. It’s not always easy. And when the anxiety levels rise, choosing the right path only seems to get harder.

I’m no stranger to decision stress either; we’re all caught by it at some time. But there are ways to work through it and move forward with greater confidence. You are particularly likely to face anxiety over making decisions when:

  • you’re no stranger to what Oprah describes the ‘disease to please’
  • you’re a perfectionist
  • there’s something from the past that’s triggering your emotional response to your present bout of indecision.

Letting these three go

1. The disease to please

If the ‘disease to please’ rings a whole tower full of church bells for you, working on faith in yourself will serve you very well. It’s easy to blame others for what happens to us when we’re only ‘trying to please’, it’s much harder to accept that the one to blame is us because if trying to please is our primary focus, we are giving away our power. Pleasers get taken advantage of and being a victim is no way to live when you can choose. And frequently you do have choice, you just can’t see it yet.

I know; that’s a bitter pill to swallow. But that’s truth for you.

I was a ‘pleaser’. Useful for getting an education, not so useful in other situations. I speak from sobering experience here. Pleasers can be taken advantage of and that will not serve you. You will not be always be treated with respect. You may be patronised and you may be seen as easy meat for the wolves. Do you want to be someone’s metaphoric lunch? No? Then learn how to say ‘No’.

2. Perfectionism

Wanting to get anything right is human nature and it’s no bad thing to want the best, but perfectionism can paralyse you and any project you’re involved in. In a way, it’s a form of procrastination because, if you’re waiting for the right time, version, colour, hair length, waist size, day, week, month, year… you’re not taking action. And taking action is what moves you forward.

‘Decision is the ultimate power,’

Tony Robbins

Waiting for the perfect day is not powerful. And that song by Lou Reed… it’s about heroin. Let ‘perfect’ go. Taking massive action is powerful. Be powerful; it’s the Way.

3. Emotional triggering
If you’re faced with a scenario and you find yourself feeling disproportionately angry, teary, replying in a mean-girl tone you know is not your default; you’re being triggered by your past. If you’re stepping towards the cocktail cabinet, the carbiest thing you can find in the pantry or the thought of smoking suddenly seems appealing and you gave up years ago, you’re being triggered. It’s easy right now to tell you, you are not your past, but when emotion has the reins the thinking, mind isn’t in charge. Take a breathe, go outside, move and breathe. Phone a friend. Hug your partner, cat, hamster… go for a run… change your state. You are in charge of you, no one gets to dictate to you how you feel. Recognise that and shake them off… Which leads me to…

Instinct and intuition: can you trust them?

Big questions. Our instinctual reactions are designed to save us from danger, fine if we’re facing a very real and vivid threat but what if we’re highly stressed and flooded with fight, flight or freeze hormones?

Instinct is often accompanied by high emotion. So if you’ve had a ‘how dare he/she?!’ Moment and you suddenly find yourself staring into the fridge, craving sugar… you’re acting on emotional instincts from the past.

Our intuition is something more subtle, almost a superpower. Vasilisa the Beautiful is a fine example of a children’s story inspired by the power of intuition, but for many of us our connection to our intuitive self is vaguer.

What about intuition over logic?

‘My head says ‘no’ but my heart says ‘yes’.

What about blending the two? Intuition is a gut knowing; it’s a different way of thinking, for sure. But the two are not mutually exclusive. What if you use them both? 

Whether you have the confidence in this statement or not; you know yourself better than anyone. You can have faith in what’s right for you. You are brilliant, in all your uniqueness. You can have confidence in your inner knowing to guide you.

In October I’m running a day retreat for the first which aims to help women get into contact with the power of intuitive knowing to shine a light on future potential. Creating that, and blending it with a yoga practice, was an intuitive ‘yes’ when it the idea struck me. Had it been done before? I couldn’t find anything, but I’m sure someone has; original ideas a far and few between. But developing the idea into a full-blown retreat proposal involved much more than intuition and searching the internet to see what else is out there.

I mapped out potential practices. I blended the best matches – using both intuition and logic. And then I trialled the practices on a completely non-yogic, hypnosis doubting guinea-pig. (She’s a woman, not a small Peruvian cave-dwelling mammal). I did costings. I thought about how I could work collaboratively to create weekend retreats, full week retreats…

Blending intuition and logic is my preferred decision method but I also use this, ‘what if’ tool…

What if the worst happened?

This is a Stoicism practice designed to help you in two ways;
 

  1. there’s always a solution, no matter how bleak you can imagine the repercussions
  2. if you can find a solution to the worst possible outcome, no matter how unlikely, then why not try?
  • Write down everything that could go wrong with your situation or choice, no matter how outlandish or extreme; 
  • Give it 10 minutes, but really go for it. As fast as you can. All of it. Homelessness. Losing all your money. Being shunned by society. Laughed at by your friends… after 10 minutes stop. You’ll have quite a list of worst case scenario badness, hopefully (or unhopeful);
  • And then… find solutions. If you were broke, who could help you? What could you sell? If you were homeless, who would give you couch room? If your friends laughed at you, who could you go to for help? (And frankly, if your friends do laugh at you, get new friends. Those friends aren’t friends. At best they’re frenemies).

Getting the ‘what if…?’ Catastrophising out of your head and on to paper will help you in several ways. You’re ready for the Worst Case Scenario so your anxiety levels should drop, because your mind knows you’re ready for disaster. It doesn’t need to keep reminding you. You’ve got a plan.

How likely is WCS? And if you can deal with that you can handle anything else. Right? So what if you took action?

There’s risk involved in any decision but the truth is, if you can deal with complete failure you’ll be able to handle anything that goes wrong.

How do you define success?

Decide what your KPIs are going to be. Not everything is about financial profit. Will be you learning? How? How will you benefit if you make this choice? Will you grow? Will you explore, develop, become stronger mentally, emotionally or physically? 

This is your life. You get to decide what success looks like to you and for you. Be ready for it, because when you take action good happens.

Define what’s a win for you and celebrate when you achieve that win. You’ll be building grit and resilience for the next challenge. And that is success, as far as I can see.

Photo by Ian Wagg on Unsplash

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