Feeling overwhelmed? Make a decision.

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

Does uncertainty have you feeling so overwhelmed that all you want to do is crawl in bed? It does me. Especially, because it’s been rainy here.

I’ve been trying to make the best use of my time. I’m making a slipcover. I’ve learned new things from watching marketing and leadership webinars. I’m taking a free course on Coursera about happiness. And I’m working on my writing.

I sound happy and productive don’t I? That’s my goal, but sometimes I get stuck.

Uncertainty is a barrier

In one of the webinars I watched, speaker, Jonah Berger talked about factors that keep us from changing. (I’m writing this from memory, this is my takeaway. I’m sure he tells it better in his book, The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind.)

He told of a study they did with college students who took a big exam before a break. They were told:

  • Group A: They passed the exam and were offered an awesome deal on a vacation, but they had to decide before the next day.
  • Group B: They failed the exam. They were offered the same great vacation deal and had to decide before the next day.
  • Group C: They would have to wait until the next day to find out if they passed or failed. They too were given the same offer with the stipulation they had to decide before the next day.

Both groups A and B took the deal. Passing or failing didn’t matter. So, it would stand to reason that group C would also take the deal. But because of uncertainty, they put off making a decision.

Make a decision

Hearing the way Berger described the results was inspiring. To think that uncertainty can affect our ability to make decisions, even if the uncertainty doesn’t apply to that decision, is mind-blowing.

My life, as well as pretty much everyone else’s, right now, is one big ball of uncertainty. I’m very thankful to be as blessed as I am. I’ve been able to work from home through most of this. However, over the next 10 weeks, I’ll be taking one day off every pay period. Which I’ve decided to use towards working on a novel.

Sounds good, but I had to decide what story idea to work on.

Recently, in an effort to be more productive, I deleted the Facebook and Pinterest buttons from my phone’s homepage. Since then, I’ve noticed myself unconsciously picking up the phone. It’s not until I notice that I have to take an extra step that I realize what I’m doing. This has helped clear up extra time and keeps me from going into a downward spiral of random media consumption.

However, I still have a weird feeling driving me to pick up the phone, I’m just more conscious of it now and can make myself not do it. But because of that feeling, and all of the covid craziness, and all of my story ideas, and all of the things needing to be done around the house, when I sat down to plan my novel, I got stuck, overwhelmed by all of the possibilities and uncertainty. I couldn’t decide which writing project to pursue.

This doesn’t sound like a big problem, but something as small as this, led to me feeling old, fat, wrinkled, dumb, gray-haired, no talent, and so on. That little voice in my head said I was never going to amount to anything. That I should just give up. All I wanted to curl up in bed and stay there until this is over.

Amazing how negativity can spring up like that.

I stewed for a couple of hours. And then I went for a walk. And then, even though I wasn’t sure about it, I didn’t know if it was the right thing to do, the right project/story idea… I made a decision. I decided to work on what I’m calling Twelve Blue Stones. And all of a sudden the cloud lifted. I felt hope again.

Making a decision gave me control over something. I now have something I can plan action items around. I have a goal and a dream. And I have forward momentum.

Now, I know there is a lot out of your control right now. And this won’t fix everything. I can’t promise miracles. But when you feel overwhelmed or uncertain, try making small decisions and then larger ones as appropriate.

I hope by sharing this, it’ll help you find clarity and create a plan to get you moving in a positive direction too.

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