Everything is Arbitrary

I’m a Questioner, which means that (among other things), I struggle to make decisions without weighing all the available information first. It’s why I rely on trusted resources to make purchases (is everyone sick of hearing me harp on about The Wirecutter yet?), rely on little mantras like “Choose the bigger life”, and latch on to the wise words of others to help guide my decision-making process.

Everything is Arbitrary >> Life In Limbo

The problem is, if I don’t have a very solid case backing up my decisions, I very often make no decision at all – a phenomenon that’s called Analysis Paralysis. I always feel like I need to have A Good Reason for doing something – anything! – and if I don’t have that reason, I don’t act.

Obviously, this is incredibly annoying. Something as simple as choosing what day of the week to do my laundry sends me into a tailspin of weighing each day, trying to predict the future, wondering what makes “the most sense” for my life, and so on. The result is that my laundry only gets done when I have a very good reason to do it – when I run out of underwear. Now of course this is not the most life-changing decision I’ll ever make, but it shows my point: how do I choose, when it all seems so arbitrary?

A few months back, I created a new mantra for myself that I absolutely love:

Everything is Arbitrary.

This won’t resonate with everyone, nor is it, strictly speaking, even true: there are a ton of situations in my everyday life when there is a great reason baked in for when I should do something (returning library books, buying groceries, paying bills).

But for other questions: Which night of the week should I meal-prep?* When exactly should I take a vacation? Where should I go for a walk? Should I clean my bathroom now, or on the weekend?, this helps me remember that I can tune into what feels right in the present moment. I tell myself that it’s all arbitrary, and there’s no one “right” way or day or time to do something, so I can choose for myself what works and feels best for me. Especially since I set my own schedule, I’ll take anything I can get to help me structure my life in a simpler way. Everything is arbitrary, so I get to decide.

As small as this sounds, it really does help. (*Except with the meal-prep, I still don’t do that on a regular basis. Oops.) How do you make decisions? What helps you decide?

  • Laura Em

    Hi! As a questioner myself, and an analytic overthinker, I struggle with this as well. I’ll remember this mantra, I’m sure it’ll help. For the small things, I usually simply ask myself if one option or another will really make a difference or if I’ll even just remember it in a couple weeks time. For the big decisions, I go to the exact same Ted Talk you mentioned and I also think of “Which is the bigger life?”, which must mean they’re great tools, I guess. :)
    I was thinking just now, while typing, that maybe there is no difference between small and big decisions, since to me the “bigger life” is not dwelling on unimportant stuff and the Ruth Chang point of view could be reframed in a similar way: do I wanna be so questions this not meaningful situation or not?

    Have a nice day/evening! :)

    • Ooh great perspective here Laura. I agree – probably small and big decisions are pretty similar when you get down to it, or as my friend Sonja says, ‘everything reflects everything.’ I like having mantras that help me with this stuff, even the “unimportant things”.

      • Laura Em

        Everything reflects everything – that’s another good one! So true!