Cheryl Strayed’s Simple Solution for Overcoming Decision Anxiety


You already have the answer.

Note books and a pen sitting atop a cupboard

There’s nothing quite as immobilising as not knowing what to do, especially when the consequence of your decision can have long-lasting effects on your life. You’ve asked your friends, family and mentor, hoping to delegate the responsibility to someone else. But they didn’t have the answer. You know who does? You do.

That’s what Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild and the woman behind the Dear Sugar advice column, believes.

“This is something that I really believe to be true and I have the privilege of seeing letters from so many people to Dear Sugar,” Cheryl revealed on the Tim Ferriss Show podcast.  “And almost always, in the letter of the person saying, ‘I don’t know what to do’, and ‘I have this problem’, and ‘I don’t know if I should break up with her ‘or ‘I don’t know if I should take this job in New York City or go to Paris’ – whatever it is, the person who writes the letter almost always knows.”

“I think that one of the scariest things in our lives is actually doing what we know we want to do. Most of us don’t give ourselves permission to do that.”

Cheryl’s deceptively simple solution for finding out that truth is to write lists.

“I’m the list queen,” she said. “Every problem I’ve ever had has been solved by a list.”

Take whatever situation you’re currently in. What are your reasons for and against taking action? Write it all down. But the List Queen herself doesn’t want you to stop there. Next, look at the against list, and ask yourself, what are you afraid of? If you need to, create another sub-list for that fear.

“It allows you to see instead of feel what your challenges are. There’s something about having it in front of you, that in some ways, it pins it in place rather than allowing it to float around in your head and be this big terrible monster thing.”

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Visit Lizza Gebilagin’s personal website.

Lizza is a Sydney-based journalist and boxer.


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