Every now and again a decision comes along that feels particularly meaningful. Life assumes a kind of limbo until the decision is made because so much appears to depend upon the outcome.
Add children into the equation and a decision becomes even more of a burden to an overthinker like me because of course, the outcome doesn't only affect yourself and any other consenting adults involved. It affects the people who depend upon you the most, who depend upon you to make the right decision.
Their future, in your hands.
This really boils down to the belief that there is such a thing as the 'right' decision or, usually more pertinently, the 'wrong' decision. Not 'right' or 'wrong' in a moral way - clearly some decisions are morally wrong. I'm talking about an intellectual 'right' or 'wrong', the very common belief that the outcome of a decision is pre-ordained to shape your life in a positive or negative manner, and it's up to you to work out which is which.
When faced with decisions I have a notable and strong desire to think. I want to think it over, give it some thought, because that's what I've learned is the sensible way to make a decision. You think about it. So I do all my research, I read and read and read, and I store huge volumes of information in that super-retentive brain of mine.
Then I make myself a cup of tea or twenty, and I sit down and I have a good, hard, think.
Round and round I go. Thinking, and thinking, and thinking until I have damn near driven myself crazy. Considering all possible options and outcomes, wondering how I would feel if X or Y happened when the honest truth is I have absolutely no idea how I could feel because I cannot think a feeling.
I am exceptionally good at thinking. I very clearly remember my first conscious thought. I was watching cartoons and I thought to myself 'I'm not a cartoon. I'm real.'
Pretty existential stuff, from a three-year-old.
I have a great talent for thinking. It's got me far in life and I've swallowed hook, line and sinker the belief that to think is an asset, intelligence means thinking, think it through, think it over, the more thought the better, think about it, what do you think?
I'm so good at thinking I can think myself out of just about anything. I can think of endless reason not to do ANYTHING, and I can paralyse myself. Literally freeze, so overwhelmed with the entirely rational arguments against whatever it is I'm thinking about doing that I can barely get out of my seat let alone my own head.
And so I sit, and feel numb, and depressed, and really bloody annoyed with myself.
There's a fantastic antidote to this kind of toxic thinking I've discovered, and it's called doing. It's to start to live the decision even if the decision has not yet been made.
It's to act and behave as if one option, the option that involves the greatest change, had been chosen, and see how that option feels as you live it out.
It's like trying on a dress in a changing room as opposed to online shopping. I can guess, from looking at a small square on a computer screen, how a dress will fit me. But I don't know unless I step into it in a changing room and physically put it on.
Of course online shopping suits some purchase decisions, and thinking suits some life decisions. But the really big ones, the important ones, the wedding dresses of life decisions, they have to be tried on and inhabited, walked around in, posed in the mirror in a few hundred times, and really felt.
What I love about the decision-making process is even if the outcome is, stick with the status quo, you haven't really arrived at a place in which nothing has changed.
In trying on the other choice for size, living it out a bit, you will have changed. You will have learned something about yourself, you will probably have pushed yourself outside your comfort zone, and you will undoubtedly be carrying a perspective different to the one you had before, even if only slightly.
The truth is there are no right or wrong decisions, barring the very blindingly obvious. There are just different choices with different outcomes. Almost all decisions are infinitely richer, more complex and far, far less terrifying than THE RIGHT CHOICE and THE WRONG CHOICE.
The more I feel my way through decisions, as opposed to thinking through them, the more I am reminded to trust, trust, trust the process. I'm honestly considering (I almost wrote 'thinking' there!) getting that tattooed somewhere about my person because it's proved to be the most life-changing mantra I have ever come across.
I can't even remember where I first stumbled upon it, or if it came to me independently, but every time I forget to trust the process, I take a huge, huge step back. And every time I remember again, it's like a light going on in my head.
Trust the process. Always.