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The other day, I was at the grocery store getting the basics to have on hand at the house. I was looking for the peanut butter aisle, and I was in a bit of a hurry too. 

I finally found the aisle, and there was a lady standing in front of the peanut butter area. I stood there for a few moments thinking she would pick out her peanut butter soon…but, a few moments turned into several minutes and she was still standing there staring at the peanut butter. So, I said “hey, I just need to grab my Jif!” and she smiled at me as she quickly moved out of the way.

The funny thing was, I noticed she was still standing there after I picked up a few more items and was ready to check out. Truly, my heart sunk as I watched her. This decision of picking out peanut butter was paralyzing for her. 

I know it sounds silly to think it’d take more than a moment to pick out a product as simple as peanut butter, but for some people…small decisions take so much mental energy because they’re likely overwhelmed by the bigger decisions they need to make in their life and quite frankly what other people might think if they make a “wrong” decision. 

I know that as a working mom, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve questioned if I’m a good mom by the decisions I’ve made in my life. Everything from deciding to work late on a project at the office to just this past weekend at Central Market…my kids desperately wanted to make a gingerbread house with all the candy trimmings. Seriously, ya’ll…I stood there thinking, “Oh geez…I don’t want a huge mess to clean right now.” At the same time, there were two other moms ooo-ing and aahh-ing over what candy to pick out for their kids’ gingerbread houses. Quite honestly, I really didn’t care. Just being honest here.

Many times, I’ve been way too concerned about what other people will think if I did “X” when everyone else was doing “Y.” I mean, really…why should I care if the moms at Central Market thought I was a bad mom for not ogling over the gingerbread?

Rachel Hollis is one of my favorite podcasters, and she has often said, “If you’re experiencing anxiety, my question to you is – who are you trying to please?” So true. Sometimes, our decision making process is interrupted by anxiety and the endless need to people please, right?

I was reading research published in the Journal of Neuroscience about how anxiety works to disengage the part of your brain responsible for rational decision making. Essentially, anxiety steamrolls any ability we may have to make sound, good decisions.

So, what do you need to do to get your anxiety (and people pleasing) under control in order to make decisions? I’ve got three thoughts to share.

  1. Be mindful. Really stop to think about what’s making you feel the way you feel. Are you making decisions based on what your friends think or what is best for you? Focus on the things that matter…and that requires a lot of thought work. This is also the time to think about your purpose in life…what lights your heart on fire and are you doing the things that accomplish that? If not, that adds to the clutter in your life making it really hard to handle the decision-making process.

  2. Be self-aware. It is crazy hard looking at yourself in a mirror and digging deep about your own issues and what needs work. I know that for me, I have to slow down, self-assess and make myself aware of what’s going on around me. When I stop “doing” or in other words the proverbial hamster-running-on-the-wheel-act and start “thinking,” I’m giving myself power over my feelings and reactions.

  3. Make a choice. Just because you’ve made one choice doesn’t mean you can’t course correct if it ends up being the wrong one. Don’t let the hundreds of simple decisions we all have to make on a daily basis hamstring your ability to make the bigger decisions later. Our brains only have so much capacity. But here’s the deal…NOT making a decision actually IS making a decision too. So, clear the clutter with the small stuff so you’ve got the clarity for the big stuff. 

And by all means, if you’re seriously struggling…go talk to a professional. There’s nothing wrong with needing help. We all should be doing a little more of that in the first place.

Life is crazy. So many decisions to make. But, those decisions don’t need to be tied to what everybody else thinks. It’s your life. You’re the only one who is in the ring fighting the good fight on a daily basis. 

Get clear on your purpose and the things that matter to you… I’ve found that really helps me to quickly make decisions at work and home.