Remember when you were a kid and the biggest decision in your life involved which color jelly bracelet would look best with your light-up Sketchers? Man, those were the days. As adults, the decisions we make are a bit more complicated. We’ve got to decide which jobs to take, which relationships to pursue, which city to move to, how to take care of our money – it’s exhausting.
If you are on the cusp of making one of these big, huge, monstrously scary decisions, know that you are not alone. While it’s never easy, there are definitely ways to ensure that you make the choice that is right for you. Here’s how to tackle your next wildly scary decision:
First, get some perspective.
While our choices certainly matter, we can easily put way too much emphasis on them. After all, the things of life that really dictate the course of our future are often random, unplanned occurrences: a person we meet while waiting in line at the grocery store, a phone call we receive on an unexpected Tuesday afternoon, a blog post that surprisingly goes viral. We tend to think of the big decisions of our lives as make-it-or-break-it moments, but life is largely a collection of arbitrary incidences. Sometimes the decisions we make really are life changing, and sometimes they aren’t.
Analyze your motivations.
Oftentimes when we feel stuck in a decision, it’s because we have a profound sense of anxiety associated with it. While anxiety can carry a sense of immediacy and randomness, it always comes from a deeper source below the surface. It’s like a weed that grows in the pit of your stomach, and it’s important to treat it at a root level. Give yourself time to reflect on what the source of that anxiety is. What exactly is it about this decision that scares you? Are you afraid that you’re going to fail? Do you fear not being liked? Are you worried that this decision will change the course of your future? The last thing you want is to make your choice based on an unhealthy motivation, so it’s vital to sort out your feelings first.
Related: What Do You Worry About?
Form a decision committee.
You know those people in your life who know you, love you, and want good things for you? When you are in the midst of a tough decision, this group should be your lifeline. Meet with them and ask for their honest assessment on your situation. Warning: don’t approach someone about a decision if you are simply expecting them to tell you what you want to hear. One of my dear friends refers to this practice as “getting someone to cosign your bullshit” and sure, it’s tempting, but it’s honestly fruitless. Instead, seek out people who you know will tell it to you straight.
Visualize the potential impact.
It’s time to put your imagination to work. Take every side of the decision you have to make and visualize its future. If it’s a job, imagine the best possible outcome (you succeed beyond your wildest dreams, you become famous, you write a book about how awesome you are, and everyone throws a parade in your honor). But more importantly, think about the worst possible outcome. Think about what your life will look like if this decision fails. While this sounds like a grim mind game, you might actually find that the worst possible outcome isn’t actually as bad as you had feared. If you can live with it, then that’s definitely something to consider.
Evaluate your ability.
This one is critical. In order to truly determine whether a choice is right for you, there are three questions that you must first ask yourself:
- Am I capable? – Do I have the proper talents? The required training? The necessary skills?
- Will I enjoy it? – Will this decision be a source of joy or frustration?
- Is it in step with my morals? – Can I live with myself if I go through with this? How will this choice affect the people I love most?
If the answer to all of the above questions is yes, if you’ve visualized all potential outcomes, consulted with your committee, made the decision to get real about your motivations, and still you have no clear-cut answer, then friend, it’s time to take a leap. Make a choice, commit to it, and don’t look back. You’ve done the work of assessing the situation, and without involving psychics or invoking the science of time machines, you have no ability to know what the future will hold. It’s scary, sure, but it’s also comforting. Rest in the fact that all you have to do is the next right thing, and right now, the next right thing is finally making a damn decision. You’re going to be okay.