How to Make Hard Decisions
9 min read
On my last day of working for someone else, I was a complete mess. It’s not like I didn’t know it was coming because I had chosen it for myself! As I drove home, I couldn’t help but start bawling my eyes out, wondering if I’d made a huge mistake, but I was also mourning the loss of the life that I had built there with my team and coworkers. I wouldn’t know if it was a mistake for a long time…and maybe never will, as I still don’t know! And I’m okay with that.
The problem wasn’t that I was fired or that I walked out…it was that I really loved the people I worked with and the job itself, but I needed to stretch my own wings. I was purposefully letting it go…I was the one who quit! I really truly did love my job, but I knew that I had to pursue my own adventures to see what the world was like on my own.
So what was the problem?
The problem was that I was really afraid.
How do you even make hard decisions in life? Or even more so… How do you know if you’re making the right decision if you’re paralyzed with fear?
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Decisions are hard
I once watched a TedTalk by Ruth Chang on why choices are so difficult.
You can view it at the bottom of the post.
Sometimes big life decisions are so hard, and sometimes there isn’t a right answer to the question you’re asking. Even if the stakes are high on that big decision you’re contemplating, it doesn’t mean that you’ll know 100% if that was the right decision for a long time, if ever.
Decisions are difficult because you can weigh your pros and cons and still not know which way you should go. You can even weigh it against your heart and still not know whether or not you should go one way or the other.
Here’s the secret: There’s NO right answer. All of your options are valid options, and you will never know which way was the “right” way, bcause there IS no “right” way.
Think of it like that, and you can take the pressure off of yourself by simply being okay with not knowing the right answer.
Fear and the fight to stay alive during difficult decision-making
The decisions we make are neither right, nor wrong. The unfortunate thing is that you will never know unless you take that leap. For most decisions, you have to take the leap to find out the answer.
Of course, it’s scary – it’s the unknown and your mind doesn’t know how to handle it. It thinks the big scary thing you’re thinking of is going to kill you, or that you won’t survive. To compensate, your mind will enter fight or flight.
Your mind takes all of the information that it knows regarding that decision and it will try to piece together the possible options of terrible things that might occur if you take the leap (by the way, have you ever noticed that it rarely offers you the “best” things that might occur if you take the leap?).
But don’t listen to it – because your mind is lying to you!
What? My mind is lying to me?
Your mind can only take the information that it has gathered from the past and from learning information, and it uses that information to paint a picture or what could happen if you do it. The results are rarely as bad as your mind will tell you they will be. Your minds job is to find the worst possible scenario and feed it to you in order for you to survive – caveman style.
This is the reason why everything new seems terrifying and scary! Your mind (or your ego) will purposefully go into a state of fight or flight as it contemplates this new decision.
It has no choice but to do so, because that’s how we’ve survived forever. What today’s scary monsters are made of are things like:
- But what if I lose all of the money and have to live in a cardboard box?
- What about all the people that will yell at me/hate me/bash me/judge me?
- How will I ever move forward if I fail?
Luckily, we no longer have bears chase us – at least not as often as back in the day when Stonehenge Bob had to go all “THIS IS SPARTA” to feed his family on a daily basis.
Instead, we get modern day fight or flight thoughts that influence our decisions. Realize that your thoughts that pop up are ONLY normal, and not to take them too seriously, because again – it’s your minds job to think of the worst possible scenario to help you make survival decisions. Don’t take every thought that pops into your head so seriously.
The key to making hard decisions
The key is to realize that although your brain is very good at performing awesome functional things and overall keeping us alive, it doesn’t always know what’s best for us.
It creates the feeling of fear because it’s a strong emotion that can keep us alive. So if you can take that feeling out of the equation, or simply become okay with feeling the fear, it helps make the decision making process a lot easier.
If you let fear affect you, you’ll never:
- Know what it’s like on the other side of the fence
- Probably regret not taking the chance
- Never let chance influence your life (you never know, you could meet the person of your dreams this way)
- Be able to tell your grandkids that you almost got eaten by a bear
How to make hard decisions
My tips for making those hard decisions are to:
- Stop yourself from letting the fear consume you
- Realize that they are just thoughts, and they likely won’t happen. In fact, if you play into the idea of those fears, you’re ASSUMING you know what is going to happen – but you don’t.
- Contemplate logically the pros and cons for yourself and your life. Stay as logical as possible and maked educated moves, not emotional ones.
- Take your time with your decision – rushing can increase your stress and could possibly cause you to lose the opportunity (whatever it might be)
- Follow what you truly feel is best for you and your family
Writers note: I’ve done a lot of things not knowing the outcome, and regardless of failing, I still consider it success because of the knowledge I’ve consumed. I am always “winning” and never “failing” because I don’t think of “failing” as a horrendous thing.
Successful people don’t think of failing as a bad thing – in fact, they tell you to fail often and as quickly as possible, because that’s how you learn. Try to let that sink in – and realize that it’s not going to be the end of the world if you fail – you’re better off to fail, in fact!
So as I sat in my car, emotional and sad, mourning that version of myself, I realized that the fear went away, and I survived what my brain thought was dangerous. I also realized that it’s not the end of anything, really. The best part, is that I took the chance, I took that leap, and I am a better version of myself because of that – and I don’t regret that at all.
The thing is, my fear blocked me from seeing the good in my decision, because my mind was so worried and fixated on whether I might fail or not.
If I hadn’t, I’d still be wondering, questioning, hoping, and not anywhere near the person that I am now, and I certainly am glad that I took the leap.
You should, too! Whatever it is you’re making a decision on, don’t let your fears make the decision for you. Don’t be blinded by your own fears – whichever decision you make will be the right one, because there is no right answer. And even if you do fail at whatever it is you’re contemplating: you’ll learn so much more and be better off anyways.
Since you’re reading this post, I’m guessing you are contemplating a tough decision. What’s your biggest fear? Or, flipping that, what’s the best thing that can happen if you make that decision? Comment below with your answers, I would absolutely love to help if I can!
Or if you have questions, please write in a comment and I’m happy to answer them or help you any way I can!
Ruth Chang’s How to Make Hard Decisions TedTalk
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