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Life is full of decisions, and you can’t sleepwalk your way through them. As we’ve already noted, not deciding is deciding. But making those decisions can be nerve wracking. I’m often plagued by the what if monster. I ask myself, “what if this happens?” or, “what if that happens?” Typically about incredibly unlikely scenarios.
But like many people, I think one of my biggest concerns is always what if I make the wrong decisions. What if I choose poorly? Ah, and there’s the old what if monster again.
There’s something we can do about that. I came across a great piece of advice that I’ve adopted and try to implement. One of the best ways to defeat the what if monster, analysis paralysis, and indecision is to to choose bigger.
That is, as Gretchen Rubin says, “Choose the bigger life.”
What does choose bigger mean?
To choose bigger is to make the choice that’s going to make your life bigger. And by that, I mean greater, better, more fulfilling.
Of course, choosing “bigger” is a pretty subjective decision to make. What’s challenging is that what will make your life bigger isn’t necessarily going to be the same thing that makes my life bigger. In fact, what makes your life bigger today may not be the same thing that would make your life bigger a year down the road. What makes your life bigger may be taking on something new. Or taking on less. You still have to make the decision, but choose bigger gives you a direction — a metaphorical compass heading guiding the way.
How I use choose bigger
For me in my life now it tends to unfold like this — whenever something comes across my email, desk, phone, or life, and I have to decide whether I’m going to get involved or not, there’s a lot of thoughts bouncing around my head. “Should I try this thing? Should I become involved in this project? I’ve got all these things going on. I got a newborn. My dogs are assholes. I should spend more time with Clarissa. Am I getting enough sleep?”
And all of these are perfectly valid questions to consider. But there’s a lot of them. So before chasing all of that down, I stop and ask myself, “Does this make my life bigger?” And for me, a bigger life includes my interaction with my wife, my son, my dogs, my team. If the answer is yes, it makes my life bigger then my answer to the decision is also yes, I will take on whatever this is. If it doesn’t make my life bigger, I say no. And I say no, unapologetically. I feel no guilt about not doing so — okay, at least I try to not ever feel guilty about it.
Sometimes less is more
It’s easy to think that taking on more activities, more projects, or more responsibilities will always lead to a bigger life, but that just isn’t always true. You’ve got to weigh and measure, because we can’t have it all. So sometimes that bigger choice, so to speak, isn’t about something grand. Sometimes it’s about sleep, or rest, or just being around the right person.
Choosing bigger helps to eliminate regret, because it gives you a compass point for making decisions. Just as importantly, it leads you to selectively take action — not only are you no longer leaving your life to the fates in any given situation, but you’re actively steering the course. It may not seem very significant, but it is. Researchers who surveyed people to find out what they regret found that it wasn’t actions they had taken or things that they had done that they regretted, but rather things that they hadn’t done.
Let me reiterate — far more often we regret the things that we didn’t do, as opposed to the things that we did. I know when I look back at regrets that I have, sure there are some things I did that make me cringe, but the majority of regrets are in fact opportunities that I didn’t take advantage of, largely because I was afraid.
Don’t let fear make the decisions for you, and don’t fall to simply not deciding. Use this rule as a heading, and choose bigger.