Thursday, June 7, 2012

Why I'm Going to Just Start Flipping Coins

It's astounding to me how many decisions a person is faced with in the course of every single day. When an individual's alarm goes off in the morning, he is forced to decide whether he's going to roll out of bed or hit the snooze button. Then he needs to decide whether it's a shower or Febreeze type of day. He makes decisions on what to eat for breakfast, which radio station to listen to on his way to work, what words to use as he greets his coworkers, and the list goes on and on. All of this happens even before lunch. Life is a series of choices, and we typically don't give much thought to most of them.

If, however, a person has an especially difficult time making decisions, the prospect of being faced with all of these choices can be a little overwhelming, particularly when it comes to "big" decisions. A person might agonize four hours, days, or even weeks trying to sort through a tough decision, worried that a wrong choice will have permanent negative consequences. Then, after that person eventually does come to a decision, he worries that he's made the wrong one, and he is constantly doubting himself and asking "What if?"

I'm not sure why I'm writing about this topic by using an imaginary person who is faced with a decision. The truth is that I'm exactly the type of person I described in the previous paragraph. When it comes to many decisions that I need to make, I stress out and worry myself into near insanity. Then, after I've made a decision, I keep beating myself up over it. I'm rarely happy with a decision I make. It's a very unhealthy way to be, really.

A few personal examples might suffice to show what I mean. In fact, I can give examples from just this week. Every once in a while, people use the term "buyer's remorse"--that sense of regret that a person has after making a purchase. I get buyer's remorse with almost everything I buy, with only a few exceptions. I've never regretted buying a Coke to drink, because 24 years of experience has taught me that I enjoy that. Chick-fil-A is also always a good choice for lunch. But when it comes to other purchases, I'm never really happy after I swipe my debit card through and walk out with a new possession.

My glasses broke a couple nights ago, so this morning I went to the optometrist for an eye exam and to pick out a new pair of glasses. It took me quite a while to consider each of the frames on display before I finally chose out a few to try on. Eventually I narrowed them down to the one I wanted, and I think they'll look sharp. This is a very important matter to me, because I need to have good-looking glasses to distract people from what's going on with the rest of my face. And even though I like the ones I picked out, I know that when I go back to pick them up next week, I'm going to hate them for a while. They'll feel uncomfortable, and they'll pinch my nose, and the new lenses will give me a headache, and I'll think I look like a dweeb. And I'll walk around mumbling to myself for a few days, debating with my psyche about whether another frame would have been better.

I also got a new phone this morning. I was due for an upgrade, and the screen on my old one had been going bezerk for some time. I picked out a nice phone that, by measure of evaluating phones, is much better than my old one. I can get all sorts of apps, and it's much faster online, and it looks sleeker, and it will probably make girls all want to date me. But still.....the buttons on it are so small, and it doesn't fit in my pocket as well, and well, maybe I should have gotten a different one that is more like what I'm used to.

I often feel the same way when it comes to make bigger life decisions. I make a decision and before long, I start to regret it and wonder if I should have done differently. For example, I dated a girl my senior year of high school. Shocking, I know. But as the time approached for me to leave home and go to college, I started to realize that it wasn't a relationship I wanted to keep going. She was a great girl and all, but I was ready to start a new stage of life, and I didn't feel like I could do that while dating a girl who still had a couple years of high school left. So near the end of the summer, I broke up with her--a decisive action. And I felt good with my decision at first. But then I discovered that ABC Family showed episodes of Boy Meets World each weeknight, and I started watching at a point when Cory and Topanga had broken up but still loved each other and couldn't very well get on in life without each other. Believe me when I say that it's a bad idea to watch late-night episodes of Boy Meets World right after a breakup. And before long, I started to regret the decision I had made, and I got back together with this girl, which only resulted in another breakup a couple months later that I didn't handle very well, and the whole thing probably hurt her worse than if I had just let things be in the first place.

I wonder what it feels like to be a person who is content to just live with the decisions he makes. To be someone who, even if he chose wrongly, doesn't second-guess himself with every step he takes afterward. Someone who accepts the consequences of his choice, whether they be good or bad. Is it more liberating to live like that? Does one's stress-level come down and one's sense of joy increase?

I suppose that there's no harm in living like that when it comes to decisions that you can't do anything about after you make them. If I eat Taco Bell for lunch and later think that Burger King would have been a better choice, there's no sense in agonizing over it, because what's done is done. One of the most difficult decisions I've ever had to make concerned where I would go to grad school. I had two different options, and after intense personal deliberations and conversations with people smarter than me, I decided that Cincinnati was the right choice. But after I moved her, I often wondered if I had done the right thing. Some aspects of my life would be so much simpler if I had gone to the other school. But there isn't much reason for me to think like this for too long, because I can't do anything about it now without forfeiting a scholarship, moving to a cornfield, and leaving Great American Ballpark behind.

But what about when you do have the ability change a decision? If you begin to regret what you've done, is it often wise to retrace your steps? Will this only result in further back-and-forth and arguments in your mind?

Is it better to just throw yourself headlong into a decision, come what may? Or should we be always willing to recant and choose differently?

I really would like to sort all this out with a tidy conclusion. But I know that whatever I do settle on, I'll probably change my mind later today. Such is life.

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