Without the possibility of choice and the exercise of choice a man is not a man but a member, an instrument, a thing.
Archibald MacLeish (American poet and writer)
The focus of this area is on the process of making decisions and on our faculties that are involved in that process. Before going further though, it may be useful to pick a decision you need to make (e.g. ‘shall I go out tonight or stay in and do some work?’) and test how each of the following points can be applied in your case.
The paradox of choice
There is a paradox between choice and its realisation: we are free to choose, but making a choice inevitably leads to renouncing choice – for every yes there must be a no, each decision eliminating other options. For example, let’s say you have £50 to buy a pair of shoes. You have a choice of probably thousands of shoes to buy for this money. However, once you make your decision and buy a pair, effectively you have said ‘no’ to all the others. Not surprisingly, the possibility of making a wrong choice can become a burden and raise anxiety. This can affect the capacity to tolerate a ‘pre-decision’ state, which may lead to either impulsiveness or procrastination; let’s see how we can address these two.
How to avoid rushing into decisions
Rushing into decisions may quickly reduce anxiety, but it may also lead to regrets later on, so it is important to be able to tolerate uncertainty for a while. To achieve this, it is useful to put the fear of ‘wrong’ decisions in perspective: regardless of circumstances, each possibility gives us an opportunity to gain and lose something. Learning from a ‘wrong’ decision can sometimes be more valuable than the gains from a ‘right’ decision. So, although some choices may be better than others, the decisions are usually not black and white, and regardless of whatever choice you have made, there will be some challenges and opportunities ahead.