I have a tendency to move my decisions from nice, logical decision trees into an underground network of convoluted root balls. Aboveground, choices are determined based on simple, bifurcating factors. Underground, no such rules exist.
Sometimes my decision root balls are so confusing that they’re also wrapped up in other trees’ roots. Those aren’t even my trees! When this happens, it feels like there’s just so much to think about that I can’t consider all of it at once. I’m left with a horribly overwhelming feeling that makes me want to say “no” to everything. It’s like going a million miles an hour and coming to a sudden stop, somehow at the same time.
I’m a habitual overthinker. I feel compelled to organize all possible plans and outcomes before even considering making a choice. The anxiety stems from the powerful feeling that I have to make the “right” decision, or else. The “or else” is vague and in most cases, probably entirely fictional.
And yet, often, I don’t have a specific worst-case scenario in mind. It’s just a sudden feeling of doom. Once I get myself to slow down and think through the choice in actual words, the real overthinking happens. The pros and cons of each choice are easier to hold onto, but they go straight into the center of a decision root ball. Then they get tumbled around for a while before I get frustrated enough to make the decision.
Untangling a Decision Root Ball
I’m learning that, for slightly longer-term choices, I do better when I force myself to not try to make a decision right away, but to instead let it sit for a day or two so as to avoid my immediate reaction. Of course, I can’t always stop myself from thinking about it all the time and being anxious, but I can reduce the pressure a little.
When I succeed at this strategy for overthinking, I’m much better at choosing the option that’s scary but leads to more growth. The positives start to outweigh the anxiety. The decision root ball starts to become a little less constricted.
For shorter-term decisions, I’ve found that I have to do the opposite of the long-term strategy. If I let myself waffle too much, I become paralyzed and am overwhelmingly likely to pick whichever option involves the least uncertainty.
To illustrate this with a mundane example, imagine me considering the benefits and drawbacks of various food court establishments. If I’m overwhelmed by attempting to balance the benefits and drawbacks, I will pick the option with the least uncertainty and go home empty-handed. And by benefits and drawbacks, I mean things like the length of the line, how harried the employees look, the likelihood that I’ll have to shout to be heard, and how chaotic the space around the line is. I mean, seriously. Sometimes, I’m deterred by not knowing what sizing system they use for their cups. It’s a wonder I can function at all.
Maybe someday I’ll progress to making decisions on the spot with minimal anxiety, but that sounds like an expert-level endeavor. For now, I’ll stick to gradually pruning my decision root balls and trying to say “yes” to some things.
One thought on “Overthinking and Decision Root Balls”
First thought right thought!
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