Mental Clutter

If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother
May 11, 2017
Negativity Bias
August 22, 2017

As much as it would be convenient, I have come to determine that I am not the center of the universe.  Stressful circumstances come and go through our lives every day and it is tempting to mindlessly get caught up in the ebb and flow. There are inconveniences created by nature, circumstance, and other people that have no consideration at all for my to-do list.

Life Stress

The stress created daily in our lives is unavoidable; however, this daily stress is not yours to own.  Don’t take it personally.  It’s not about you.  All those things that come into your life that get in the way of your plans are just people or events that are butting up against your personal world.  It is only you who decides to consider those people or events as a personal attack on your existence.

Periodically it is healthy to question how much of your mental effort is expended on circumstances and people that are getting in the way of your ideal.  How much of your time do you spend fretting over situations that are out of your control?  Changing your mindset about external factors can help.

Stress is created through a ton of mental energy.  Focusing on the apparent attack by the universe on your plans is a choice.  The more you focus on what you cannot control, the more helpless and stressed you will feel.  Other things to do when you are feeling the world is against you: write down 10 things you are grateful for on paper, notice that in this moment you are safe and secure, scan your body and notice everything that feels pretty good (no toothache today), or get up and get moving.

Too Many Choices

Studies have shown that the more choices we have, the less likely we are to choose.  I remember talking about the paradox of choice while in grad-school.  The example was that if there is an entire aisle dedicated to mustard then a shopper was less likely to buy any mustard as compared to a store that has only a handful of options.  The belief behind this type of research is the overwhelm created by many options leaves us with a fear of making the wrong decision.

The more choices you have, the more likely you are to make the less than optimal decision.  Our brains will go into overdrive and many times will simply shut-down and give up.  When I was in college, there was a nearby Polish deli that had two options for lunch.  The options were different every day, but on any given day there were only two.  There were no menus and there was only one decision to make. Since they barely spoke English that decision was made by pointing.  I ordered food that I would have never considered if I had a full menu and quite honestly I rarely knew exactly what I was eating.  That Polish deli became my restaurant of choice. It was a remarkably refreshing experience and always crowded.

When faced with an overwhelming number of options it is best to pick one and don’t look back.  The fear of regret of making the wrong choice paralyzes our ability to pick one and move on.  There are no mistakes in life, only different paths.  After all, in the scheme of life, does it matter if the mustard you choose lacks a little flavor?

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