chances are you stumbled upon this article because you feel lost. Maybe you’re worried about how the pandemic will affect your future. Maybe you’ve just gotten out of a long relationship and the dating world seems weird and scary. Maybe you’re faced with a new experience that will challenge your comfort zone, like leaving high school or starting a new job.
It doesn’t matter what kind of emotional turmoil landed you on this page. What matters is you’re here.
And I’m glad you are, because I know exactly what you’re going through. You spend most of your days replaying the same scenarios in your mind, trying to figure out how to make the right decision. Even worse, you worry about avoiding making the wrong decision. From there, it only gets worse: How do I know if something is the right or the wrong choice? What if I choose wrong? Will my life be ruined?
At times like these, we tend to make a lot of stupid decisions. The future is uncertain and you go through intense periods of anxiety trying to figure out how to deal with this uncertainty. So you ask people for advice, browse the web forums for opinions, but you always end up back in the same place: uncertain and unsure what to do.
Luckily, this article will help you figure out how to move forward despite your crippling anxiety. And it starts with a very straightforward, yet effective method:
Shut the fuck up.
I know what you’re thinking. Instead of telling me how awesome and amazing I am, this random Internet blog guy is telling me to shut the fuck up. He sounds like a jerk. I should probably close this tab. I don’t need more negative energy in my life.
BUT, BUT, BUT… before you do that, let me clarify what I meant. I didn’t mean “shut the fuck up” as in “your problems don’t matter and I don’t want to hear about them”. What I meant was “You’re thinking too much about this. You’re trying to solve an impossible equation. Until you stop your anxious thoughts in their tracks and think about things from a different perspective, things will only continue to get worse.”
Right now, your mind is overloaded with information, worry, and anxiety. Until this gets fixed, nothing you do or say will make any difference. You can come up with the best solution in the history of the universe, but your anxious mind will whisper things in your ear like: “Are you sure? What if you’re wrong? Can you really do it? Maybe everything will turn out even worse!” And then you’re right back at square one, pulling the skin off your head trying to make a decision.
No matter how bad or impossible to solve your problems seems, you won’t be able to make a good decision until you — the Real You — takes back the control of your mind from the Anxious You.
Think about all the time the Anxious You was in charge. Was he a good decision maker? Did she make your life better? Did the Anxious You ever get you out of a jam or did it simply create even more anxiety, depression, and worry?
You don’t have to tell me. I already know the answer, and so do you. Anxious You is not a good leader. It’s not someone who is going to take you into the bright future, where you’re happy and successful. No, your Anxious You is going to drag you to the parallel universe where Hitler is president, dogs aren’t cute, and the Snyder Cut will never be released.
So take back the control. Shut the fuck up, literally. Do not give in to your thoughts. Close your eyes and calm your mind. Reset your problem-solving to zero and start with a blank slate. Forget everything you know and everything you’ve researched, analyzed, or concluded so far.
Once you’ve done that, embrace the following harsh truths.
- You don’t know what the right choice is and you never will. In life, there are no guarantees. Any given choice can be the most amazing or the most awful decision you’ve ever made in your life. You may feel like you’re stuck in the middle of the desert and every direction looks exactly the same. Trying to figure out the “best” direction in a desert is pointless. Pick one and just go. Only time will tell whether you could’ve made a better choice.
- There is no right choice, but there are plenty of wrong choices. Sometimes, the line is as clear as day and you know it. Other times, there is no line. When in doubt, choose something outside of your comfort zone. Even if that choice turns out to be wrong, you will still grow from it, learn valuable lessons, and strengthen your resolve. The same will never be true for choosing something familiar or comfortable.
- Focus on decisions that help you grow as a person. New isn’t always better. Going outside of your comfort zone doesn’t necessarily mean a new job, relationship, or drastic personality change. It can, but it doesn’t have to. Standing up to your boss is a much better choice than finding another job where you’re treated the same. Leaving one toxic person for another toxic person is much worse than staying single and focusing on improving yourself.
- It’s okay to feel lost or confused. Life is messy, unpredictable, and unfair. Yet it is only once you accept this that you truly start living a happy life. Soon, you realize that it’s okay to not have all the answers. Nobody does. I don’t. What all of us do is make a bunch of decisions and hope for the best. Sometimes things work out in our favor, other times they don’t. All you can do is learn from the experience and make a slightly less awful decision next time. It is only by embracing the possibility of not making perfect decisions that you will start making the right ones.
- You’re okay. I know it feels like nobody can understand what you’re going through, but trust me, everybody in the world is going through the exact same thing on a regular basis. They are just afraid to show it openly.
If after all this, you’re still unable to calm your mind and stop worrying about making the right decision, here’s a trick that can help you. Get a coin and flip it; heads for one choice, tails for the other. In those precious few seconds, while the coin is rotating through the air and reflecting the light as it’s falling down, your priorities will suddenly become clear. It will become painfully obvious what you should do. You don’t know on which side you want it to land, but you know on which side you hope it doesn’t.
Welcome to the rest of your life. There’s always a coin. There’s always a flip. There’s always a decision. It’s no reason to stress about it. Embrace the flip and move on to the next one. Over time, you will realize that choosing something, anything, is better than being stuck in this limbo of anxiety, paranoia, and paralysis.
To learn how to build a strong mindset and worry less in general, check out my book Mind of Steel Handbook: The Essential Rules of Mental Strength.