How to Keep Yourself from Second-Guessing Your Decisions
A recent study in the journal Personality and Individual Differences reveals that second-guessing your decisions may lead to unhappiness, and for people who seek to always find the “right-choice,” life can be made more difficult. Fighting against second-guessing isn’t impossible, so we’ll highlight a few tricks to curb your regret.
The research is based on a type of person psychologist’s term “maximizers.” These are the people who tend to obsess over their every decision through the day. Since maximizers tend to research and weight every decision they make, they don’t ever fully commit to one, even after they make it, so they don’t get the psychological benefits of making a good choice. Basically, they’re never happy or content that they’ve made the right choice, regardless of how much they’re enjoying the decision. This causes a bit of grief and self-judgment. While it’s thought that real maximizers may not be able to curb their self-doubt, many people can by asking a few questions.
Have the circumstances changed since I made the decision?
Psychology Today doesn’t knock the idea of second-guessing, but it does have a few solutions when curtailing the significance of your choices. The most logical question you can ask yourself is whether or not the circumstances have changed since you made the decision. If they haven’t, your decision is still valid and there’s no reason to second-guess it. That said, if the circumstances have changed and you’re afforded the opportunity to go back and reevaluate a choice, it’s not a bad thing to do so.
Does this decision affect my core values?
Stepcase Lifehack recommends weighing your decisions beforehand against your values, and if you find yourself second-guessing decisions, you can refer back to your earlier process. They recommend asking a simple question before the decision is made: “Which one of these most honors the things that mean the most to me?” Of course, you can’t really use this logic if you’re second-guessing a retail purchase, but in the case of big life decisions like moving or a new job, it’s a good idea to look at it through a larger lens both beforehand and in hindsight.
Have I done enough research about how this decision will affect me?
A well-researched decision can help you feel more comfortable in your decisions, which can prevent the eventual second-guessing. We’vealready outlined a few steps for making good decisions using a variety of methods, including pro/con lists, calculating outcomes, and more. If you did your research beforehand, you have nothing to worry about, and it can help you feel settled in your decision.
If it’s a purchasing decision you’re upset about, hopefully you’ve already gone through the list ofthe best times to buy anything and you know how to get the best deal. Both of these will help ensure you’re getting the absolute best deal imaginable. If you’re more worried about quality, review aggregators like TestFreaks for gadgets or Car Buzz for cars can help put a lot of different reviews for one product in one place. This gives you a wide variety of opinions to look through and make a good decision based on. If it’s bigger than that, say, a house or a college education, make sure you get a point where you can answer questions about the topic without consulting a piece of paper, and always engage with experts for help before making the decision.
If you’ve done all of these things, when you ask the question, “Have I done enough research about how did this decision affect me?” you should be comforted by the work you’ve done.
I’ve made my choice about a big purchase but can I still get some protection?
There are a lot of ways to prevent buyer’s remorse and keep yourself from second guessing your purchasing decisions, and highlighted a number of them before. The best tips to keep you in the clear are simple: review the return policy before you purchase, keep your stuff in good condition so you can sell it later, and when you’ve made your purchase, stop looking at prices. Whatever you bought will drop in price, there’s no use in continuing to look at it.
The other little things you can do to help
We’ve seen before that the simple act of washing your hand can help derail second-guessing because it offers the psychological effect of “washing your hands of a decision.”
If you find you’re the type to second-guess no matter what you do, The Harvard Business Review recommends scheduling time for doing it. They make a note to not question the decision when you’re vulnerable, but instead plan on doing it after you’ve already had time to get used to the idea.
You can also consider trolling yourself and giving yourself ridiculous, harsh criticism to put the whole thing into prospective. If you can acknowledge the fact you did your best in your decision making, it might help you move forward.