“Trust your gut,” my friend advises when confronted with a monumental decision.
My gut is more concerned with lunching at Panera — than, let’s say, the career trajectory of civil service administrators. But trite jokes aside, this advice represents conventional wisdom when facing an excruciating decision.
And on its surface, the advice seems sensible. Instinctively, we have a feeling — even an intuition — about a proper decision. And, slowly, we learn to trust our decision-making calculus — even if the process is more multiplication tables than, say, business calculus.
Trusting your gut is our de facto cheatsheet.
But what happens when your gut spits out mischievous falsehoods and persuasive untruths? And then for dessert, it sprinkles disparaging self-assessments. My gut hurts — and it is from more than just a disagreeable lunch.
As an OCD sufferer, decisions can, at times, feel catastrophic. I analyze, ruminate, and then analyze again. Soon, I am more twisted than a pretzel — and more bitter than that beer to wash it down.
And, not surprisingly, indecision seems like the most prudent option. I will delay until I cannot delay — and then delay some more. With this paradoxical logic, my decision-making process and, I suspect, those of my fellow OCD sufferers veers into masochistic. We analyze — and then overanalyze — our decisions, torturing ourselves in the process. Family and friends are alternately mystified and alarmed at our seeming paralysis. “Just make a decision; it isn’t that tough,” they urge — mounting frustration in their voices.
But when faced with uncertainty versus uncertainty, a seemingly inconsequential decision can induce mind-numbing paralysis. In my case, career decisions have been particularly challenging. From attending law school to relocating to Seattle for a new job, the decisions have been fraught with uncertainty. But most of that uncertainty has been self-imposed and self-inflicted; the “what ifs” pummeling my psyche like a Vegas prizefighter.
As I have aged and matured, I recognize that uncertainty is life’s only certitude. There is no amount of research I can do to uncover the “right” decision. With this truism in mind, I have developed a helpful decision-making heuristic. And, yes, it comes back to food (another Matt truism: I am always thinking about my next meal).
When at a restaurant, I listen to my “gut” — both for the murmuring hunger pangs and (for) my meal choices. Within a couple minutes, I have narrowed my decisions, zeroing in on a caesar salad if I am feeling healthy and a carbtastic entree if I am not. The decision-making process takes a couple of minutes and, thankfully, does not involve Microsoft spreadsheets, frantic familial phone calls, or a cost benefit analysis. I order what I like — and most of the time enjoy my carbtastic meal (less so my caesar salad). And if I don’t like my meal, well, there is always Molly Moon’s ice cream.
Sampling Miss Moon’s swirling deliciousness, I notice an unmistakable parallel and life metaphor. The diet and life lessons: trust your gut, order what you like (within reason), and learn to manage the consequences. And that queasy feeling? It stems from that disagreeable lunch. Only.