How To Make Big Choices With Less Stress

Today I want to talk to you about choices.

Whether it’s in life or in business, we are constantly being bombarded by choices from every angle.

Choose where you want your next travel adventure to be.

Choose the best name for your brand.

Choose what website platform you want.

Choose what to have for lunch.

Choose. Choose. Choose.

Never has this been more evident than in the past few days as Jason and I have navigated the process of choosing a new place to live!

As some of you know, we moved out here to California from Florida last year and were lucky enough to find an ah-mazing house outside of San Diego to rent with our two friends, Clay and Julia. 

The year has been incredible, and I honestly think this house had a lot to do with it — the natural light pouring in from every window; a dedicated space just for my art; the beauty of two acres of nature surrounding us at all times.

But now it’s time to move on. Our lease is up next month (March 31) and so for the past few months we’ve been on the hunt for our next adventure, the next place to call home.

We’ve looked in several cities: San Diego, Encinitas, San Clemente, and San Luis Obispo. We’ve thought about a house or a condo or an apartment. We’ve endlessly debated whether it’s more important to have a view or have an updated kitchen or big windows with natural light or about a dozen other variables. We’ve scoured hundreds of listings which has led us to tour about 10 different places for rent.

This whole process became substantially accelerated on Friday when after one particular showing of a beachy, modern, loft-like condo in the town of Oceanside, CA, we finally felt like we had a viable option on our hands -- a place we could really see ourselves in.

But on Saturday we already had about five showings lined up in San Clemente, so we decided to go ahead and see those places to get a well-rounded view of what was available to us. As the weekend went on, it became clear that this might be the big moment when we had to choose where we’d spend the next year of our California adventure.

Now, before I get into how that story ends, I want you to think about the last time you had to make a big decision (or perhaps a whole slew of tinier decisions at once.) Did you find the process exhausting? Stressful? Scary?

My guess is YES to all of the above.

Why? Because we’re all terrified of being wrong.

Over the past few years, I’ve recognized one particular archetype over and over again when it comes to decision-making, one type of person that takes this fear of being wrong to the next level. I’ve seen it in my friends and family, and from time to time, I’ve even seen it in myself.

This archetype is a person that I like to call “the Optimizer.”

The Optimizer is someone who is always interested in arriving at the BEST possible decision, the optimal solution to any problem, the greatest reward for the least amount of waste possible.

The Optimizer’s greatest fear is missing out on an opportunity — whether that’s an opportunity to have a better experience, to save more money, to convert more sales, etc. The Optimizer doesn’t just have FOMO, they have FOMOO 🐮(Fear Of Missing Out on Opportunities).

Now, some of you may be thinking — well what’s wrong with being an Optimizer? What’s wrong with wanting to make the best possible decision? Isn’t that what we all want?

Well, the danger with being an Optimizer is this: more often than not, this type of maximum pay-off decision making results in either massive amounts of anxiety OR, what’s worse, complete paralysis which leads to choosing nothing at all.

By the way, as the girl who waited a YEAR to start my first personal blog because I couldn’t decide on the optimal name, I’m speaking with a little bit of experience in Optimizer Induced Paralysis (man I really wish that acronym worked out to be OINK instead of OIP to continue the theme of animal-related clever acronyms. 🐷)

As blogger James Clear writes, our first choice is hardly ever the optimal choice. The first person we date is rarely the one that we marry, just like the first job we have is rarely our life-long career. We need to recognize this, become okay with it, and realize that the important part is simply that we make a decision and we move forward.

So, all that said, here are my three simple steps for less-stress decision-making and avoiding Optimizer Induced Paralysis:

1. Recognize the trade-offs associated with optimizing.

The first step is to recognize when you’re overly concerned with picking the optimal option. Bring awareness to what you’re actually losing in the present by trying to optimize your future. This could be your sanity, your sleep, your presence with your family or friends, etc. More often than any of those things, what you’re actually losing is TIME. The more you put off a decision because you’re looking for an optimal solution, the more time goes by that you could be testing, learning and living. Looking back, I kick myself for waiting an entire year to start my blog. That could have been an entire year of writing and learning under my belt and it was wasted because of my decision paralysis.

2. Choose hard.

This advice comes courtesy of my new friend and art-affirmation-ally, Steph Halligan. (Steph creates a daily cartoon with a positive message at and even has a book with all her amazing cartoons. Definitely check it out!) Steph said this to me during a call we had last week and I think it could be one of those little phrases that sticks with me forever. Once you do move forward and decide to choose, it’s not necessarily about making the right choice as much as it’s about choosing HARD. It’s about committing to that choice. Going all in. (I shared more on this little bit of wisdom in Saturday's piece here.)

3. Close the door on outcomes not chosen.

Remember that FOMOO I talked about? Well making peace with your decision means not second guessing yourself. Don’t keep the mental door open on those other choices because if you do, you’ll find yourself wondering “What if I had chosen that.” Not only will this cause you inner turmoil, but it will also subconsciously have you pulling back from the reality you did choose. In other words, once you order from the menu, keep your eyes on your own food. Don’t waste time wishing you had ordered what the person next to you did. Savor the deliciousness of the choice you made.

And finally, remember:

The win is not in making the optimal choice, it’s that we simply MAKE a choice (often & with confidence.).

My challenge to you this week is to take one choice in your life right now that you’ve been dragging your feet on and see if you can use the three steps above to get you to a decision you’re happy with.

To wrap our story up, Jason and I found ourselves momentarily conflicted between a few properties from our house hunt, but ultimately we decided to take Steph's advice and choose hard. We submitted an application and we haven't looked back since. Hopefully next week I'll be able to reveal which place we chose and I'll be able to tell you more about our the next chapter of our lives here.

Choices surround us day in and day out. Don't let the fear of choosing "wrong" keep you motionless. Keep choosing hard and keep moving forward my friends.

Ultimately, an optimal life is the one in which you're not constantly stressed out from the notion of choosing.

Until next time!