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The Science Behind Our Struggle to Accept Decisions and How to Overcome It

By Rob

January 5, 2024

choice overload, decision-making, regret, self-compassion, values

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Have you ever found yourself constantly questioning your decisions, seeking an elusive ideal that may not even exist? You’re not alone. Many of us find it challenging to fully accept a decision once it’s been made. The good news is that there is scientific research that sheds light on why we struggle with this and offers steps to help us make decisions and follow through with them day after day.

The Paradox of Choice

One of the main reasons why we find it difficult to accept decisions is the paradox of choice. In today’s world, we are bombarded with an overwhelming number of options in every aspect of our lives. Whether it’s choosing a career path, a restaurant to dine at, or even a movie to watch, the abundance of choices can lead to decision paralysis.

Research conducted by psychologists Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper found that when faced with too many options, people tend to feel overwhelmed and less satisfied with their decisions. This phenomenon, known as choice overload, can make us constantly question our choices, fearing that we may have missed out on a better alternative.

The Fear of Regret

Another factor that contributes to our struggle with accepting decisions is the fear of regret. We are wired to avoid making decisions that we may later regret. This fear of making the wrong choice can lead us to constantly second-guess ourselves and seek an unattainable ideal.

Research by neuroscientist Colin Camerer suggests that the fear of regret activates the same brain regions associated with pain. Our brains are wired to avoid discomfort, and the fear of making the wrong decision can create a sense of unease and dissatisfaction with the choices we’ve made.

Steps to Making Decisions and Following Through

While it may be challenging, there are steps we can take to make decisions and follow through with them more effectively:

1. Clarify your values and priorities

Before making a decision, take the time to clarify your values and priorities. Understanding what truly matters to you will help you make choices that align with your long-term goals and values.

2. Set realistic expectations

Acknowledge that there is no perfect decision or ideal outcome. Setting realistic expectations will help you accept that every choice comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

3. Limit your options

When faced with too many choices, narrow down your options to a manageable number. This will reduce decision paralysis and make it easier to make a confident choice.

4. Trust your intuition

While it’s important to gather information and weigh the pros and cons, don’t underestimate the power of your intuition. Trust your gut instincts and listen to your inner voice when making decisions.

5. Embrace the concept of “good enough”

Instead of constantly seeking perfection, embrace the concept of “good enough.” Understand that making a decision that meets your needs and aligns with your values is often more important than striving for an unattainable ideal.

6. Practice self-compassion

Be kind to yourself and practice self-compassion. Understand that making decisions is a learning process, and it’s okay to make mistakes along the way. Treat yourself with understanding and forgiveness.

7. Take small steps towards your decision

Once you’ve made a decision, break it down into smaller, manageable steps. Taking small actions towards your decision will help you build momentum and stay committed to following through.

Remember, making decisions and accepting them is a skill that can be developed with practice. By understanding the science behind our struggle to accept decisions and implementing these steps, we can become more confident decision-makers and lead more fulfilling lives.

So, the next time you find yourself questioning a decision or seeking an unattainable ideal, remind yourself that you have the power to make choices that align with your values and goals. Embrace the process and trust in your ability to make decisions that will lead you towards a brighter future.

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About the author

Hi, I’m Robert Louis Sims …A.K.A. Rob
I’ve been studying the psychology of achievement since 1989, when I picked up a copy of How to Sell Anything to Anybody by Joe Girard. Since then, I’ve been obsessed with learning the difference between people I have now come to call Intentional Achievers and everyone else.
If you’re looking to take your career, relationships, health, energy, productivity, influence, and life to the next level, then I invite you to join me on Achievement Made Simple.
My mission is to find the principles of achievement and share them with you in a simple way that makes them easy to understand and use in our everyday lives.

Robert Louis Sims

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