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How to Make Decisions Without Anxiety

By Debbie Mandel

When it comes to making a decision, many of us procrastinate, then second guess ourselves ultimately experiencing stomach-churning anxiety. It reminds me of those multiple choice tests I used to take in school. Is it choice A or B? I chose B. Then I thought, no itís A or perhaps C. I ended up using my eraser so many times, that it finally tore a hole in the test paper! What is so hard about making a decision? It is our fear of failure as reflected by the disapproving gaze and comments of judges who are often veritable strangers! This has all been recorded time and time again in the annals of our personal history. While we were growing up, all the authority figures in our lives caused us to build up scar tissue through their censorious comments.

This fear of failure becomes a great impediment to happiness. We begin to judge ourselves by our accomplishment or lack of accomplishment. Making a decision therefore entails a big ego risk. We might make a fool of ourselves. As a result the decision-making process can paralyze us with procrastination.

Our lives are a series of decisions and so, a series of failures and triumphs. When structured routines are changed and we are thrust into a different or an unstable medium, we feel a vague sense of terror. Ironically by avoiding difficult decisions, we deprive ourselves of joyous experiences leading to long range happiness.

We need not fear failure if we believe that our mistakes will lead to future successes Ė if we face those failures and do not deny them. The ability to adjust and change when we are wrong is crucial in the decision-making process that inevitably leads to great success.

Making decisions compels us to have a clear objective, as opposed to going through life with a vague sense of what our goals are and why we need to fulfill them. By making a commitment to what we imagine we can then see how to further implement our plan or regroup.

A mistake is an opportunity to learn and come back with a better alternative. We all experience rejection many times during the course of our lives, but when we really want something badly enough, we will keep knocking at the door to try and get it. If we canít get in the front door, we can try the back door. And then let us not forget that there are windows and skylights!

Therefore, donít limit the possibilities of your life. Donít take failure personally. You didnít fail; rather something outside of you didnít work out. Take apart what didnít work and figure it out. Consider the analogy to competitive sports. If a team loses a game, the coach together with the team will analyze what went wrong to achieve a future success. The coach doesnít say, ďOh, we are doomed. We have failed. We can never come back or fix this.Ē Be a realistic optimist.

To facilitate a stress-free decision:
  • Let go of perfectionism Ė nothing on earth is perfect! We can only hope to improve. The way to improve is to keep making choices and learning from them.
  • Seek advice, get guidance and make an educated decision. Then commit to what you are doing.
  • Practice saying no. Many of us are afraid of making a decision which will disappoint someone. We are people pleasers and so we bring down anxiety on our own heads because we choose to hurt ourselves rather than make a decision. Well, we canít please everyone.
  • Keep your thoughts positive. Optimists are enthusiastic about change and have the energy to transform a mistake by seeking a solution.

Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: