Updated: Oct 5, 2021
It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you get off on sometimes. What matters most is getting off. You cannot make progress without making decisions. Jim Rohn
How do you choose whether to leave a marriage or not? Whether or not to have a child? How do you decide to quit your job and go back to school? How do you decide whether the freedom of entrepreneurship is worth the risk of the uncertainty?
All of us are facing those big decisions in life. They are not easy and sometimes not making any decision at all seems like the best option. However, indecision is a form of self-abuse. Not deciding means giving your power away.
But why is it so hard to decide when it comes to life changing choices? Why do we get stuck and overwhelmed?
Why are you feeling stuck?
You don’t really know what you want
There are many ways in which you could establish what you want. One way is brainstorming. Sit down with a piece of paper and a timer. Take 5 minutes to write down everything that comes to your mind, when it comes to the area of your decision.
Once 5 minutes are up, rate each item from 1 to 3, 1 being the least important and 3 being the most important. Look at you 3’s – does that give you a direction of what your heart is leaning towards?
You are a perfectionist looking for the perfect right decision
In the real world, however, there is no such things as a perfectly right decision. Sometimes you need to take a step, any step, and correct the course as you go. Just like with the GPS, it might be unclear what is the right direction, until you start walking.
Even if you take a few steps in the wrong direction, you can turn around and take the right one. It certainly will get you further than just remaining on the spot waiting for the answer. Same with decisions – if you take a move, any move, it becomes easier to assess if you are going in the right direction.
You have a few options and can’t decide which one to choose
This could sound like a luxury problem to have. Having too many options could feel paralysing and might lead to you not making any choices at all. How about trying each option, one by one? This is what I do with testing my portfolio careers.
I have a few careers I am interested in. Instead of staying paralysed not knowing what to choose, I am exploring each one. So far, I learnt I love being a yoga teacher, I tried out my artist career and I am in the process of launching my life purpose coaching business.
As I do that, I am learning what I like and don’t like, what works and what doesn’t. Could you do the same for your decision? If trying things out is too much, could you imagine, visualise each option instead and see what feels most right for you?
You feel uncertain and unsure how your decision will turn out
If that’s the case, you can test the waters with each option, before going all in. For example, if you are contemplating on whether having a child is right for you, maybe you could spend a week staying with a friend who has children?
This is what I did in the beginning of my Life Start-up journey. I spent a week in the village in Portugal helping a friend take care of her 2 children. Living her life for a week gave me a lot of insights into how I feel about having children, without having to go all the way.
It’s not enough to know what you want to do. You have to do it to be what you want to be. Paulo Coelho
Two stages of making a hard life decision
In addition to the above strategies for getting unstuck, you will have to go through 2 stages of making an important decision.
Those stages are honesty and acceptance:
You must be honest with yourself about what you will lose and what you will gain as the result of each choice. If you are confronted with 2 choices, you can do an exercise to evaluate what would be the best option for you.
First, imagine you chose Option #1 and left Option #2 behind. For example, if you are deciding on whether to leave a marriage or not. Your Option #1 is to stay, and Option #2 is to get divorced. Now that you’ve imagined going for Option #1, write down:
All positive meaningful outcomes you would experience if you chose Option #1
All negative meaningful losses you will experience if you do not choose Option #2
Now swap your Options around. This time imagine you are going for Option #2 (e.g. to get a divorce) and leaving Option #1 behind. Do the same exercise all over again and write down:
All positive meaningful outcomes you would experience if you chose Option #2
All negative meaningful losses you will experience if you do not choose Option #1
Repeat more times if you must evaluate more than 2 options.
Now that you’ve written it all down, sit down and bring your body and mind into a comfortable and relaxed state.
Now ask yourself: ‘When I am 85 years old, which one do I regret not doing most?’
Regardless of the option you chose, there will always be a life you will not live. You cannot choose all options and you cannot live all lives. Ending up with a ghost ship of lives you have not chosen, is inevitable. It is important to recognise this fact of existence.
Once you have made your chose, you must accept the fact that your other options will be left behind on your ghost ship and say goodbye to them.