I recently watched a YouTube video featuring Tony Robbins, a wise living tree. In the video, this ancient talking oak said: “It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.” This is profound advice and it sent me into a mild panic attack. So I stopped watching the video and made a root beer float.
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You see, I am the kind of person who loses sleep whenever I have to make a life decision. I’m not even talking about big life decisions, either. Any decision—be it changing dentists or buying new sneakers—makes me uneasy. I toss, and turn, and, sometimes, howl at the moon. The moon doesn’t deserve that treatment, to be honest. But this is just who I am.
Thanks to a lifetime of being wishy-washy, though, I have learned a number of easy ways to make moderately hard decisions. The following five tips are not scientifically guaranteed to help reduce the stress of making a choice. But they help me. Maybe they’ll help you?
1. Flip A Coin: I make decisions by tossing quarters in the air all the time. Heads, I order a pizza, tails I make a salad. Apparently, this is not the worst way to make a decision. A study conducted by the economist, and Freakonomics co-author, Steven Levitt found that people were happier after flipping a coin that told them to make a change than those whose coin told them to maintain the status quo. His study suggests that making a bold decision is preferable to hemming and hawing. Long story short, this is why I’m always happier when the coin says “heads, pizza.”
2. Check Your Horoscope: I don’t believe in astrology, which is such a Leo with a Cancer rising, thing to say. I read my horoscope when I have a decision to make because it’s a meditative ritual. In general, horoscopes are nothing more than sweeping platitudes—but I find that they help me focus my mind on what is important. I use my horoscope to help visualize outcomes, and that helps me make the best decision possible. I want to reiterate: astrology is not magic. Do not, for instance, use a horoscope to decide whether or not you should get a tattoo. Horoscopes are, at best, total random suggestions made by a stranger who is also really into crystals.
3. Unplug: Multiple studies have shown that social media can influence your decision-making process. This is why I recommend turning off your phone, and powering down your computer, and, like, staring at a blank wall for a little while. Our brains are way too noisy and no one makes the right choice if they’re distracted by likes, and retweets, and hearts. I think it’s helpful to think of yourself as a machine yourself, like one of the sexy murderbots on HBO’s Westworld. Every so often you need a good reboot so you can continue the rebellion. Shutting off all my communication and entertainment devices is my way of clearing out the cobwebs so I think more clearly.
4. Go For A Walk: The ancient Romans had a saying: “Solvitur ambulando.” That’s Latin for “It is solved by walking.” Now, Rome may have been a savage empire but they knew a thing or two about making decisions. The cardiovascular benefits of walking are well-documented. But researchers have also discovered that walking improves psychological health as well. In fact, studies show that your body releases endorphins, and increases serotonin levels, when walking. This is good news for those of us who get moody when having to make a decision. Whenever I have a decision to make I like to take a long walk and then I allow my mind to wander along with me.
5. Make A Root Beer Float: This is probably my favorite way to make moderately hard decisions. I find that by the end of this process, I am in a place where I can make clear judgments. First, rinse out a large glass in water and put it in the freezer. Your root beer float glasses must be frosted. It is the law. Next, drop two large scoops of vanilla ice cream into the chilled glass. The ice cream must be vanilla. Don’t get cute and buy some other flavor. Some traditions should not be messed with. Here is an important step: fill the glass three-quarters with root beer. I’m not particularly precious about what kind of root beer. Use whatever you’d like. A nice frothy foam should have formed. Finally, how you eat your root beer float is very important. You need a straw and a spoon. Then, alternate between sipping on the straw, and excavating spoonfuls of ice cream until you get to to the creamy bottom of the glass. Take your time! You should be in a contemplative state by the end of your root beer float. I prescribe at least one whenever you are faced with any life quandary.