Choice Overload

How to Keep Calm & Simplify Your Life

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Dr. Joyce Meyer

There’s no denying that we have more options than ever before in current culture. We have hundreds of television channels to choose from, coffee options galore (like grande, chai, venti, decaf, iced, frappe, spiced, just to name a few) and an incredible variety of handheld electronic devices that let us tweet, text, follow, favorite, snap, watch or listen. Every time we turn around, we’re bombarded with new things to try, new plans to sign up for and new choices to make.

Whether it’s how we spend our money, how we spend our energy or how we spend our time, if we allow ourselves to get distracted by the dizzying array of modern options, we can easily fall into the stress trap — what should be a good thing turns into an exasperating thing. People fall into this trap all the time. Buying a new house becomes a burden, picking a phone plan takes months, finding a church turns into a competition, and starting a new diet is something they seem to do every other week.

If you’ve ever felt stressed-out and overloaded in the face of multiple options, I have good news for you: You can be a person who makes wise, bold, confident decisions. You don’t have to go through life indecisive and unsure. And you don’t have to be intimidated any longer by the sheer number of choices before you. With God’s help, you can cut through the distractions and make strong decisions that will build your peace, not your stress.

Here are 5 steps to staying calm and making great choices when facing countless options:

Step #1: Ask God for Direction

Hebrews 13:6 (AMPC) says, “So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm [I will not fear or dread or be terrified].” The fact that God is a help to us should fill us with great calm and confidence. Anytime there is a decision to be made, we can go to God and ask for His guidance and direction. After all, the Word promises that He will help us!

I’ve noticed that so many people wait and go to God as a last resort. After they have tried everything they can think of, or after they have made a decision that didn’t work out, then they go to God in a panic and beg for help. But that is a backwards process. That’s like going out and buying a coat the last day of winter. You need a coat before the cold arrives, not after.

In the same way, we need God’s direction before we make a decision, not after.

Rather than going to God as a last resort (which is a very stressful way to live), make it a practice to go to Him first thing. I finally learned to do this on a regular basis and I encourage you to do it, too. No matter how big or how small the decision you are facing, ask God for His wisdom. Ask Him to show you what to do and when to do it . . . and then believe He is leading you as you go forward. If you’ll make a determination to always talk to God about the choices you are facing, you’ll notice a new level of contentment in your life.

Step #2: Simplify the Decision-Making Process

Henry David Thoreau said, “Our life is frittered away by detail . . . simplify, simplify.” Simplicity is so important to enjoying life. The fact is we contribute to a lot of the stress we face by making things very complicated and complex. Sometimes we view upcoming decisions like we’re playing a chess match. We’re thinking three steps ahead and making it a lot more complicated than it needs to be.

Step #3: Seek Good Advice

Independence is a good trait, but like anything else, if it is out of balance, it can be a disadvantage. I think it’s wonderful to be strong and not live your life dependent on what others say, but there are times when the opinions of others can be very beneficial. Don’t mistake pride for independence. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is humble yourself and ask a friend for help.

When dealing with choice overload, it may be wise to ask a trusted friend or counselor for advice. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where no wise guidance is, the people fall, but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” So it is often very helpful to get help from people you trust. Many times there are people around you who have already gone through what you’re facing, and their opinions can be invaluable.

However, it’s important that you don’t feel like you have to do what someone else says just to make them happy. Balance is important here. Let God lead you, not the opinion of others. Be wise enough to seek truly helpful counsel at strategic times and then bring that advice to God and ask Him to give you peace about the decision He wants you to make.

Step #4: Be Confident and Decisive

The problem with too many choices is that it saps us of our confidence. Even if we feel like we’ve made a good decision, we wonder if we’ve made the absolute best decision. It’s like ordering at a restaurant that has a 14-page menu. When there is an overabundance of options, it takes longer to order. Doubt creeps in, asking you, “Are you sure that’s what you really want?”

Indecision may not be a big deal at a restaurant, but it can be crippling in life. In order to simplify the decision-making process, it is important that we move forward with confidence and decisiveness. A person without confidence is like a car sitting in a driveway with no gas in the tank. The car has the ability to travel, but if it doesn’t have any gas, it’s not going anywhere. Confidence is our fuel. Confidence will carry you forward — past doubt, around indecision and over uncertainty.

Rather than thinking, What if I get this decision wrong? choose to have confidence that you will get it right. Remember, you’ve already asked God for His wisdom and guidance. He is with you, and He is going to help you. And you know what? If you make the wrong decision, God sees your heart and He knows you are trying to do what is right. He’s going to be there to get you going back in the right direction. So don’t make decisions out of fear any longer — move forward in confidence!

Step #5: Let Peace Make the Call

Even after asking God for help, simplifying the decision-making process, getting good advice, and moving forward with confidence, there are still times when we can’t help but wonder, Am I really making the right choice? And when the stakes are high and a lot is on the line, this can be a stressful question. If you’re considering a new job, whether or not to move across the country, which school to enroll your children in, getting married, etc. — you probably want to make sure you get it right the first time.

People ask me all the time, “Joyce, how do I really know which decision to make?”

When people ask me this (and maybe you’re asking it now), I always tell them what the apostle Paul said in Colossians 3:15. This is a great verse to remember when you are in the final stages of making an important decision. It says, “And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state] . . .” (AMPC). In other words . . . let peace make the call!

Which of your options do you have the most peace about? After you’ve prayed about it, sought wise counsel, discarded the bad options and confidently considered the best remaining options, what gives you the most peace? That feeling of peace is often a confirmation that it is God’s best. Trust that He is pointing you in that direction and let peace settle “with finality all questions that arise in your mind.”

I also recommend that with any important decision, even after you feel that you have peace, it is good to let your decision sit in your heart for a period of time. This helps me because if I feel the same way for two or three weeks, I am even more assured that I am making the right decision.

An overload of choices can be a very stressful thing if you were expected to make those choices on your own, but, thankfully, you’re not. It is so comforting to know that God has promised to be with you. No matter how big or small the decision you are facing, you can be at peace, knowing that you are not expected to make that decision on your own. Not only is God with you, He is going to give you the guidance you need to look past the numerous options and make a wise choice.

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Joyce Meyer is a New York Times bestselling author and founder of Joyce Meyer Ministries, Inc. She has authored nearly 100 books, including Battlefield of the Mind and The Mind Connection (Hachette). She hosts the Enjoying Everyday Life radio and TV programs, which air on hundreds of stations worldwide. For more information, visit www.joycemeyer.org.

This article has been adapted from Overload by Joyce Meyer. Copyright © by Joyce Meyer Ministries. Reprinted with permission of FaithWords, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc. All rights reserved.