I dislike making decisions. It’s never been my strong point. I often find it hard to choose one thing over another. This could be as simple as which dress size to order online, which restaurant to order dinner from, which food in that said restaurant you would prefer, how much time to give yourself to get to an appointment on time, where to go on vacation, how much money to spend on a friend’s wedding gift, and whether to start writing an article or procrastinate and go to the gym instead.

This might sound daunting, or some of these choices might even seem silly, but having to make a decision sends many people into a tizzy.

Sometimes I don’t have the patience to spend an hour making a decision about a relatively unimportant thing. Other times I am proud of myself for allowing myself only 5 minutes to choose one thing or another. Choosing something and doing it independently as opposed to calling your five best friends to get their opinion, can make you feel empowered. I find it feels good to be decisive. But it is not always that easy.

One skill you can use to help make an informed decision is making a list of pros and cons. It doesn’t have to be lengthy. You can even use a timer, so your list doesn’t get out of control, and end up making the exercise more difficult than the original decision.

As a point of interest, I read online that the phrase pros and cons comes from the Latin words “pro,” which means for and indicates favor towards something, and “contra,” which means against, indicating opposition.

Using pros and cons can help you gain perspective, make your decision clearer, and give you a more comprehensive understanding of the decision you are making.

A recent example I encountered was whether to order an evening gown online or go to the store and try things on. This might seem like an unimportant decision but if you do pros and cons, you might see that one choice is far better for you than the other. If you shop online, you can order many dresses, and if unsure of your size, you can order a few different sizes. The pros here are that you can spend less than half an hour in the comfort of your own home ordering several different dresses of varying sizes, colors, and designs. You can also read the online reviews of how people felt about this dress and to size up or down. The disadvantages (cons) are that the dresses might not come in time, you might not like any with no time to buy something to wear, and the huge hassle (my experience!) of returning the dresses, which I find takes up an exorbitant amount of time and energy. The pros of actually going shopping are that you can try on as many dresses as you want, try on different sizes, and although it might take a bit longer than ordering online, you might see what looks great on you and leave the store with exactly what you hoped for. Deed done! The cons of shopping in stores are that it is very time consuming and many people do not have the time to spend hours in dress stores, many people (surprising perhaps to some) don’t enjoy crowded stores, and if you still don’t find what you’re looking for you will then have to go online to shop, possibly not giving yourself enough time to get the dresses when you need them.

There is something called the middle road, or the middle path, which I’m using liberally in this case. Instead of relying on only online shopping, or only going to the stores, perhaps do both. Order online, and if you have a free hour or two, go to the stores. This will give you a better chance of finding what you want. Don’t stress about returns. Take your time. Keep your eye on the goal, that is, to find a dress that you feel beautiful in and is suitable to the occasion you are going to.

A quick and easy example of pros and cons is using the idea of social media. It gives you the ability to connect with other people without leaving your home. Yet, social media has a negative impact on mental health and often prevents you from meeting people face to face.

Writing out a pros and cons list forces your brain to slow down and think about your decision in logical and practical terms. Every person’s situation and life circumstances are different. Some people might work a six-day work week and not have time to go dress shopping. They might also not have enough time to see their friends in person often for a catch up, while connecting on social media might help keep people feel connected without that in-person contact. Or, to see the middle of the road/path, possibly use social media 60–70% of the time, and plan to meet once a month with friends at a set time, which might combine both aspects of maintaining healthy relationships.

Some examples of pros and cons are whether to read a physical handheld book or listen to an audiobook, whether you feel your child is old and mature enough for sleepaway camp, whether to send an email/text to someone about an important matter or call that person instead, which activity to do, whether or not you “need” those three extra side dishes for the company you’ve invited over or whether two is more than enough, and whether to get in touch with your boss on a weekend when you feel it is important and can’t wait till Monday.

These are just a few of the hundreds of decisions we make every day, and not all need a pros and cons list. But sometimes, in order to make the best decision for you, it is helpful to see the pros and cons written out. One idea is to buy a small spiral notebook so, if need be, you can make lists in an Uber, while waiting on line, or even sitting in your car in a parking lot while feeling indecisive about a decision that needs to be made.

If you don’t have time for pros and cons or you still can’t make a decision after your list is written out, maybe it’s time for that middle path approach. Instead of sending your child to a sleepaway camp for six or seven weeks, start with two and see how it goes. Instead of only reading books you can hold or only listening to audio books, do both. And instead of deciding whether to text or call someone, again, do both. A text can be similar to a heads up that you would like to have a conversation.

Obviously, some decisions are quite complicated and pros and cons might not be enough. But for most everyday decisions that you need to make, and most of us make so many of them each day, pros and cons can be very helpful.

I made a decision when I arrived home today that instead of having a snack and binging my reality TV show (oops, the secret’s out!), I would continue writing this article and boy am I glad I did. I didn’t need a pros and cons list for this decision, but I used the middle path to some degree by deciding that I could still have my snack (fro-yo!) and watch my show, but only after finishing my writing. Today this was a good decision. Not every decision you make will be the perfect one but embrace that. Life isn’t perfect but by using skills like pros and cons lists and thinking in the middle-of-the-path way, you are on a journey to living a more satisfying and less chaotic life.

I wish you much luck with your lists and hope to hear that it has helped. Much luck to all of my readers and if you are debating reaching out to me with your feedback, no need for a list. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share. n

 

Michele Herenstein can be reached at msh61670@gmail.com. Read more of Michele Herenstein’s articles at 5TJT.com.

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