“The future depends on what we do in the present” – Mahatma Gandhi

Decisions are important and valuable; they are a chance to mould our own future. Theodore Roosavelt summed this up by saying that “In a moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing”. If we do nothing, then we forfeit our golden chance to be the driver and inevitably let the decision be made by someone or something else.

Looking back it is always easy to see the points in life that made the biggest impact. Sometimes it was small actions with large meaning and sometimes it was a big stressful decision that that kept you up at night and sent you into a spiral of fear, doubt and despair.

Acknowledging the importance of pivotal moments is important, but can add additional stress to future decisions because you never know if this is one of those times. Naturally wanting to be a success and to make the most of your situation, you want to make sure that whatever you choose is the ‘right ‘choice.

Maybe therefore a change in perspective could improve these situations next time they occur. What if there was no ‘right’ choice? After all, making a choice is objective while only we put the meaning to that choice.  Every choice we come across presents another potential number of branches in a sprawling vine. Any choice is still a choice and we can never know where the others would have lead.

Maybe it is also worth considering that it is not only these large decisions that move us onto new paths. Every small choice that we make, thousands of times a day, also has an impact on our direction. In fact, some of these may seem small and meaningless, but only because the decision happened to work in our favour e.g. “should I quickly cross the road in front of that car?” is a small decision if you decided against it at the last moment, but could be the biggest decision you ever make if you misjudge the situation and the car hits you.

 

What makes decisions hard?

An easy decision is when one option is clearly better than the other. Where as a hard decision is one where both options may have great plus sides or great negative sides yet they still hold their own as a viable option; there is no clear winner or ‘right’ choice.

The perceived size of the decision doesn’t always dictate the difficulty in choosing. Choosing one job over another may be obvious but ordering your meal at a nice restaurant may be hard. Though choosing that meal may be hard, it is far from important, so just ‘man up’ and make the call! What we are interested in is those hard decisions that are also of high importance e.g.

  • What to study at university
  • Leaving a high paid job for something more creative but with half the salary
  • Leaving a relationship or choosing who to start a new one with
  • Taking an opportunity in a new location or country

You can often weed out the easy decisions by simply flipping a coin and waiting for your gut instinct to kick in:

  • If the result is what you wanted you will feel a sigh of relief
  • If the result is actually not what you wanted your gut will scream out and you will probably decide to make it ‘best out of three’
  • Either way, ignore the coin and trust your gut

Sometimes though, this doesn’t work and you’re gut instinct just isn’t enough. This is a difficult decision and you need to dig a little deeper to find out what you really want.

In a true ‘hard decision’ situation, where there is no clear winner, theoretically any decision is a viable one. This should be a soothing thought, but this is rarely the case as it is usually not the desire to gain that drives these decisions, instead, it is the fear of loss; the fear that you may miss out on something great or that you were not smart enough to see the right path.

 

So what is the solution?

Step 1: Admit that this is one of those ‘genuinely hard choices’ that everyone has to face, and the fact that you are finding it hard, does not mean that you are stupid.

Step 2: Stop viewing it from the perspective of, ‘what should I do’ or ‘what would other people think’ or even ‘which is the safer option’.

Step 3: Consider the choice as a blessing. Feel grateful that you now have the power to mould your life in whatever way you like (even if only in a small way).

Step 4: Hold each choice up to scrutiny against your personal values (these should be written somewhere safe and constantly reviewed, improved and concentrated). This should give a new angle and should make the solution a lot clearer. Whichever is more in line with your values will then move one choice above the rest… therefore, making it an ‘easy’ decision.

  • Who are you as a person?
  • What do you believe?
  • What kind of person do you want to be?
  • Who do you want to become?
  • What sort of life do you hope to look back on with pride? 

Step 5: Make the decision!  As anyone who has quit a job they hate will know, just making the decision and taking action will be a huge weight off your shoulders, no matter how uncertain your situation then become.

As a final thought to reduce the chance of regret, my dad always said that, “all you can do is make the best decision based on the information that was available at that time”. If you can look back and confidently say that, then there is nothing more you could have done and therefore nothing to regret.

“I made the best decision, based on the information that was available to me at that time”

If you have any other methods or suggestions that have worked well for you, comment below!

 

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