When I chat with friends and family about our journeys in life, one of the things that we can all agree on is how nail bitingly, stomach knottingly, fuzzy brain inducingly hard it can be to make decisions.
(Ok, so I made up a few words there! The grammar nerd in me is cringing, but that’s just how my brain gets when it comes to the chat about life’s decisions. It was appropriate for the context, okay?)
Transitioning from teens to adults there were some mega big ones like study, career and travelling the world. Oh and moving out of home and realising what a drag it is to be the one having to decide what’s for dinner (I actually want to call my mum right now and apologise for all the times I whined ‘what’s for dinner?’ when I was living at home).
Or leaving the comfort of a uniformed school and standing in front of the open wardrobe in some kind of time warp, the world rushing by as I, in a haze of sleep, try to piece together a semi-decent outfit for work. Every. Damn. Day.
But when we check our perspective, those are the little things and we generally do alright at that – sometimes we get takeout, and sometimes I wear a shirt that hasn’t been washed, but it’s no biggie.
For some reason when I was around 17 I thought that if I got those initial big decisions right then everything afterwards would just fall into place. Like if I did my research, booked my ticket and packed my bag, so long as I found the gate and got onto the right plane, then it’d all be smooth sailing (*or flying) after that. Ha!
In reality, not only does life keep throwing these big decisions at us, but they only seem to get bigger and harder the further we go… Is this career right for me? Should I save up to buy a house or travel the world? Has this relationship run its course? Is it time to commit? Am I ready to start a family?
When you’ve got a big decision like this to make it can feel like life stands still and you can’t move forward until you’ve taken the plunge. Other times it feels like life is rushing by you too fast for you to be able to stop and work out what’s going to be best for you.
As someone who’s packed up and moved continent (*twice), I’ve made a fair few whopping big decisions in my early adult life. So today I’d like to share with you 5 little pearls to help you approach your next big decision calmly, go through the process peacefully, and come out of it strong and committed to your goal.
1. Establish your needs
Sometimes when we’re faced with a choice that we know will have a big impact on our lives, our first reaction tends towards panic: How on earth am I going to make this decision? How will I know if it’s the right thing for me? What will other people think if I do this or that?
It’s totally natural to have these questions popping into your head (*or racing around, or stomping or whatever it is that your big, scary thoughts do!), but first – BREATHE. We can use these thoughts and questions to inform the decision making process later, but they’re not going to do us any good racing around and making a mess in our heads.
Write your thoughts, questions and concerns down in a journal or make a note on your phone. Notice that when you do so, you’re freeing up space for your mind to more calmly explore the possibilities before you.
You also need to understand why you are considering this change. In what ways are your needs not currently being met? Explore the paths that are in front of you to determine how your needs would be better met in each of the potential scenarios. Try to pinpoint the moments in your life when you feel the most satisfied or the closest to the best version of yourself. What are you doing and who are you with? The greater our understanding of our own needs, the more we able are to steer our lives in a fulfilling direction.
2. Create Empty Space
If you’re finding it difficult to follow through with the first step, the most important thing you can do is to create empty space. Do you really think that you can make such a momentous decision while rushing through life at the usual breakneck speed? I’m sorry if I’ve burst your bubble, but when you’re faced with something big, giving yourself time and space needs to be a priority.
It’s important not to brush over the word empty either; if you’re blocking out ‘decision making time’ into your day it’s not going to be very motivating and actually sounds quite daunting! Don’t feel guilty about giving yourself time to do the relaxing things that allow your mind to wander like taking a bath, going for a walk or locking yourself in the toilet (*that one’s for the mamas out there!)
3. Practice Visualisations
For me, the absolute key to becoming a confident decision maker has been using visualisation techniques. Now I’ve never studied meditation (let me know in the comments if you have and would like to share some tips!), so don’t be discouraged if this sounds a bit foreign! All that is essential is a calm place and a little bit of time (see No. 2 above^^).
Imagine that you have made your decision and chosen to do X. Focus on what your daily life will be like; where you are, what you’re doing and the way you interact with people. How do you feel in this situation?
Next time, imagine that you have made your decision and chosen to do Y. Follow the same steps. Reflect on which situation made you feel the most empowered. Remember: even after you’ve made this decision you’re still in control of your life.
4. Seek Advice (from the right people)
The last thing you should do when making a decision is to lock yourself away and let it all boil up inside. Even if you don’t agree with what they recommend, talking your dilemma over with someone else can help to put things into perspective.
But don’t take advice from just anyone – even those closest to you may not always have the wisest words (and certainly not the most objective). If you’re unsure about a career change your bestie might not have the greatest insights, and if you’re considering a big move Mum’s advice might be a little biased!
Try to seek out people who are living out one of your options or have been in a similar situation before. You may have to look a little outside your regular group, but who knows, by reaching out you may even make a lifelong friend! If you’re nervous about getting in touch with someone, think about what a lovely compliment it would be to have someone ask for your advice!
5. Trust your gut
If you’ve followed the first 4 steps you should be in a pretty good position to make a decision that will be right for you. You’ve established your needs, explored your options and got some expert insights – All that’s left is to take the plunge! When it comes to crunch time you need to trust your gut instincts.
You know that little voice that you always push to the back of your head? The one that often says crazy things you don’t think you can do? Yeah, that’s probably your gut instinct talking!
If something doesn’t feel right, even if you can’t put your finger on the reason why, it probably won’t work out for the best. Conversely, if one option keeps tugging at your heartstrings it might be something that you just have to pursue!
Well, that’s it my friends! These steps have definitely helped me navigate some tough decisions and I hope they can help you too!
Let me know in the comments what you do when you’re faced with a big decision. I’d love to hear from you!