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How To Stop Second-Guessing Your Decisions

A recent study in the journal Personality and Individual Differences reveals that second-guessing your decisions may lead to unhappiness. 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.

Photo by Pascal.

The research is based on a type of person that psychologists call “maximisers”. These are the people who tend to obsess over every decision through the day. Since maximisers research and weight every decision they make, they don’t ever fully commit to a decision even after they make it, and as a result 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 consequences of their decision. This causes grief and self-judgment. While it’s thought that real maximisers may not be able to curb their self-doubt, many people with this tendency can do so 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 offer a few solutions. 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. If the circumstances have changed and you’re afforded the opportunity to go back and re-evaluate a choice, it’s not a bad thing to do so. However, obsessing over unchanged circumstances is wasted effort.

Photo by William Murphy.

Does this decision affect my core values?

Stepcase Lifehack recommends weighing your decisions beforehand against your values. If you find yourself second-guessing decisions, you can refer back to your earlier process. The site recommensd asking a simple question before the decision is made: “Which one of these most honours 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. 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 spent time researching your best pricing options. If you’re more worried about quality, review aggregators like TestFreaks for gadgets 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, such as purchasing a house or choosing a university, 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 reassured by the work you’ve done.

Photo by Zelda Richardson.

I’ve made my choice about a big purchase; 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 we’ve 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 probably 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. Don’t question the decision when you’re vulnerable; 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.

Photo by Arlington County.

Do you second-guess a lot of your decisions? Share any tips you have for being more comfortable with the decisions you’ve made in the comments.