“How do I know which choice is the right one?”
A question we’ve all asked ourselves, and one I get quite often. Making a decision can be tough, especially when we feel like something important is at stake.
What insane decision-making looks like
A few years ago, I had two job opportunities at the same time. It coincided with a trip I was taking with some friends. I spent most of that weekend thinking and worrying about what to do. Making pro and con lists and grading different options.
I got lost in the mechanics of the decision-making.
Feeling like I had no control over the process, struggling to find reference points to base my decision on. “What if B is better than A?” “What if I choose A and it turns out B would have been a better job?”
My friends patiently listened to my rambling, before kindly reminding me of something that stuck… “You’re choosing between these like they are the only two options in the entire world. What else is out there?”
That was exactly what I needed to hear. It gave me a moment to reflect on my own insane thinking process.
How we get decision-making all wrong
Let’s say we have two branches on a tree – A and B – and we want to pick one of them. It’s tempting to look at these options as final and irreversible. If we pick one branch, the other is gone forever. Or worse, if we ‘fail’ on branch A, we’ll have to crawl down to the bottom again and choose the different branch. How embarrassing.
This is not how it works though. The decision tree is not static this way.
Quite the opposite.
When we pick a branch, more branches start growing. Branches we could even have guessed existed. Opportunities we couldn’t see further down on the tree now become visible.
And those branches are filled with new opportunities and likely bigger and better than the branches we were previously choosing from.
Why? Because we made a decision. We acted.
And the more we act, the better decision we make.
We cannot regret choices, because we cannot predict the future
Whenever we act, the map changes. The map re-arranges itself constantly. And the more we adapt to it and understand that this is the case, the easier making decisions becomes.
Even better, the more we play the game. I.e. make decisions and act on them, the better we get to know ourselves.
In my own decision-making process, it was the fear of missing out which was the biggest problem.
I had nothing to base my criteria on.
And this is what kept me stuck.
The real reason for potential regret
A beautiful article by a nurse describes the 5 most common regrets people experiences on their death beds.
The most common regret?
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
The first time I read this, I was surprised. Why are so many people living lives according to what other people want? I wondered.
A second later, I circled the question back to myself… Well, was I living life regardless of other people’s expectations? (Clue: I wasn’t.)
So… how do we live a life that is true to ourselves?
When I was knee-deep in my decision-making for those jobs, the only thing I didn’t do was to listen to myself.
I rationalized every fact based on what seemed good, paid well, could take me someplace else.
Not once did I look inward and see what was true to me.
When we give ourselves permission to slow down, listen inwardly, and quiet the noise. That is when we start to hear what is actually important.
I have come to learn something important here… but it took a while to get here.
It’s a life that is lived according to your core values.
The guiding lights in your life. Your navigational tool. Your inner knowing.
When you know them and practice living by them – making decisions becomes easier.
It also gets harder, because you sometimes have to make a choice that means being more responsible for your life.
This is how we move towards a life that won’t end up in regret. We need to step up, look up. Not just look at the branches ahead of us – but look at them in the grander scheme of things.
This is the start of making decision-making more fluid. And easier.
By the way. my friend was right. None of those job opportunities were for me 🙂