Every waking moment is filled with a multitude of choices.
Our brains are constantly analyzing our environments, sorting important information and stimuli from what is essentially background noise. What should we pay attention to? What should we pursue? Even what we consider routine is awash in decisions to be made. Often, the first thing we do upon waking is make a choice to either stay awake or hit the snooze button. From that point on, we make hundreds (if not thousands) of decisions throughout the day.
Those with ADHD can become paralyzed by the overwhelming number of choices that must be made. Everyday choices can grow so complex that it’s easy to become stuck. Take the relatively-simple decision of which shirt to buy. This internal conversation will likely sound familiar:
Should I buy the red one or the blue one? What if I buy the red one and then decide I’d would rather have the blue one? Look, there is a green one too. Now what do I do? I’ll buy the red one. After all, I like red. But I have that new green sweater and the red one would make me look like I’m ready for Christmas. Okay, I’ll get the blue one. That will solve the problem. Blue will go with most everything. Wait, I have that new taupe jacket that would look really good with red. Oh, what should I do? I think I’ll buy them all and bring back the ones I don’t wear.
Problem solved? Probably not.
The perceived solution may quickly become a problem when the budget is strained and the closet is too full. And how often do you actually get around to returning the clothes you don’t wear (especially within the retailer’s return policy)? The reality is that solutions to our problems can easily become problems themselves.
So, what’s a person to do?
- Realize that the presence of many options is a major reason for overwhelm.
- Accept that most of us like having options in spite of the problems they may create.
- Understand that a big reason for indecision is fear of making the wrong decision.
AGREEMENTS WITH YOURSELF
One of my favorite strategies in this type of situation is what I call agreements with yourself. Using this strategy, you would go into your situation with the awareness that there will be a lot of options. Therefore, you make up your mind ahead of time that you will only look at a certain number of options. When you have reached that number, you simply stop looking. This is an agreement with yourself.
Using the example above with the shirts, you could make an agreement with yourself that you will buy only one. If you are afraid of making the wrong decision, reassure yourself that the other shirts will most likely be there should you decide that you want (or, preferably, need) them at a later time. If they aren’t, there will be something else that you like just as well.
Another strategy is to be prepared. Know what you want before you start looking at your options. If I’m looking for a shirt to go with that taupe jacket, I would decide ahead of time what colors would look good with it, what style and type of fabric will look best, and what price I am willing to pay. Just doing this little bit of preparation ahead of time helps reduce the anxiety of too many options! After all, it’s easier to make a decision in advance than in the heat of the moment. The store may be having a sale, which would make it easier for you to compromise and buy several shirts. By planning your actions, you can be more efficient with your time and resources.
We have thousands of thoughts going through our brains each and every minute of each and every day. Some are conscious; some are subconscious. But our decisions are made based on our self-talk or thoughts. Action always follows thought. If you don’t like your actions, examine your thoughts and find what needs to change. I like for the changes to be short and easy to remember. Maybe something like, “There’s always another shirt,” which reminds me that I don’t have to wrestle with eternal regret if I don’t grab that shirt right now. How many shirts do you suppose there are in a department store? Thousands! So if not this shirt, another shirt will work.
Sometimes I say things like, “Stick to the list.” That reminds me that I have already prepared for this. If it’s not on the list and I start thinking I have to get it, then I’m back into what I call the tyranny of the endless. The tyranny of the endless is that horrific moment when choices become endless and I find myself in an uncomfortable loop of indecision. One deviation from the plan makes the next impulse even easier to follow.
Taking control of your choices is a decision that must be deliberately made. With these strategies in hand, perhaps you will begin to feel less overwhelmed and more in control of your ability to make decisions. You already have the ability. You just need to reach deep inside and find it!
If you find it extremely difficult to make decisions on a regular basis, please contact me using the link at the top of the page or the popout in the lower right corner. We can make an appointment to discuss your needs and you can begin the process of taking control of your life!