I do the same thing in my own life. I used to think I was a perfectionist, but now that I've read The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz, I understand myself a little better. I'm not a perfectionist--I'm a maximizer! Maximizers are driven to create the best possible experience. And, when a smorgasbord of choices is in front of a maximizer, she can become paralyzed. It's not that I freak out over dust on the baseboards. It's that I can't decide whether to clean the toilets or write my blog post or revise my novel or answer my email. They're all good choices, and in my case, they're usually all overdue.
This is the paradox of a prosperous society. You'd think that more choices and more freedom and more choices would create more happiness, but the opposite is sometimes true. We feel like we should take advantage of the best life has to offer, and the possibility of regretting a choice freezes us into inaction. It can even cause us to be depressed if we disappoint ourselves or someone else.
Personally, I create this problem with my free time, but this kind of overwhelmed feeling can extend to other aspects of parenting as well (and to your job and to church and to your school...). No matter your workload, chances are that as a parent, you have more to do than you have time for. If your income is limited, you might spend a lot of time shopping and coupon cutting in order to find the best value for your money. You're concerned for your children's welfare, so which activity will produce the best long-term results? You have lots of opportunities to volunteer, and you don't want to say no when people ask you to help. Pretty soon all these options can take over your life.
Schwartz offers a few tips to keep most of us on the sane side of decision-making.
Some of these include:
- Limiting your choices. Look closely at the option that match your goals and values the most, and don't worry about the attractive features of options that don't match.
- Limiting decision-making time. If you determine that you're only going to spend two hours shopping or visit two different stores, you'll waste far less time and won't be so easily overwhelmed.
- Set some criteria for what's good enough. When you find something that meets those criteria, your search is done.
- Make your decisions nonreversible. While it's nice to know that you can return something, adding commitment to your decisions simplifies the process.
- Decide what's important. Does this decision really matter in the long run? Is it worth the time you're putting into it? Think about how you'll feel several months after your decision.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. It might be discouraging to see that someone else got a better bargain, has a nicer house, or has a kid set for Olympic stardom, but that doesn't mean it's the best thing for you.
- Be grateful for what you have.
- Let go of excessively high expectations and forgive yourself for not foreseeing the outcome of your decisions (especially where parenting is concerned).
Do you agonize over decisions and worry about their outcomes? Does finding the best choice for yourself or your family take too much of your time?