We can't make a life that matters without making decisions, but some decisions are harder than others. How can you make difficult decisions a little easier?
How do you make difficult decisions?
In the past few months, I've received a lot of questions in emails and in the TPW community about decisions, especially difficult ones. These questions really resonate with me. I have struggled with making certain big decisions myself.
The thing is, unmade decisions are stressful. They leave us feeling unsettled, uncertain, distracted, and torn between the options.
You cannot make a life that matters without making decisions. If we can make those decisions--even difficult decisions--with less anxiety and stress, then we can be more productive, both in the sense of getting things done and in the sense of making a life that matters.
What makes a decision difficult?
* Cost - time, money, effort
* Perceived impact on ourselves and others
* Anticipated reactions of other people - Disappointment? Anger? sadness?
* Choosing among good options - The difficulty isn’t choosing one thing, but giving up all the others
What kinds of decisions are difficult?
* Changing jobs
* Starting or ending a relationship
* Moving to a new town or a new house
* How best to care for a sick child or an aging parent
What difficult decisions do you struggle with?
There are steps we can take to help when we face a difficult decision.
* Schedule time to think quietly
* You can’t think well when you’re going at 100 mph
* When you feel like you can’t take the time to think is when you most need to
* Consider getting away for a day or two to get some rest as you process the decision at hand
* Talk to someone, but choose your advisors wisely. It's not helpful to delay decision-making by seeking advice from everyone you know.
* Trust your instincts
“When the answers aren’t clear, what we want more than anything is peace, clarity, and a nudge in the right direction. The problem is we are often looking for direction in all the wrong places. Often the clues to our next decision remain within us, unheard and undiscovered.”
That’s why scheduling time to think is so important. We cannot hear our heart, our own wisdom, if we never give ourselves the time, space, and quiet to listen. Get wise counsel, but trust your instincts.
* Be honest with yourself about the decision's true significance. Is it worth the amount of time you’re spending thinking about it? How much will it matter a year from now?
* Know your values, and let them guide you. Know and admit to yourself what you want most.
“If you don’t take the time to admit what you most long for, decisions will still need to be made. But instead of stepping forward in self-awareness, you’ll base your decisions on other outward things like expectations, habit, or some other kind of external pressure.”