To get something you never had,
you have to do something you never did. – Anonymous
“What is ambivalent?” my 16-year old student asked me as I helped him prepare for a college admissions exam.
“It’s to be unsure; to experience doubt,” I answered.
While he jotted down the meaning of the word in his notebook, I thought about how difficult it can be to make decisions, especially when we believe that the path we choose will change the entire course of our life.
I was overcome with uncertainty at the time to select my major in college. I only had two weeks to choose one of two entirely different options: engineering or communications. I switched my decision several times until the registration deadline forced me to make a decision.
Shortly after graduation, two companies offered me a job on the same day. Although I was elated to have two job offers, my stress levels were off the charts during the “couple of days” the recruiters allowed me to give them an answer.
My struggle to make big decisions wasn’t limited to my career. I remember lying awake in the middle of the night, wondering whether I should or could remain in a relationship with someone who had repeatedly betrayed my trust but who I deeply loved.
All of these situations had one unwanted element in common: fear of making the “wrong” decision.
How can we bring ease and peace to the decision-making process? Here is what has worked for me, and I believe it will work for you, too.
How to Make Hard Choices
5 Effective Tips for Easy Decision-Making
Determine Your Core Values
Take some quiet time to write down what matters to you in life. Let the words come through you without judging them or wondering what other people would think. What is important to you? Love? Spirituality? Family? Health? Comfort?
Rank the values in order of importance, and circle the top ten. Ideally, you’ll repeat this exercise every six months until you notice a pattern. Your actual values will remain high on the list as months and years go by.
Lay Out All the Choices Available
You might realize you have more options than you initially thought.
In my case, I didn’t consider the option of waiting a semester until I knew what college major I wanted to pursue. I didn’t ask further questions to my potential employers to help me decide which job to accept. I also didn’t ask for time away from my loved one until I could sort out my feelings about our relationship.
Looking back, realizing I had additional options would have saved me hours, days, and months of dwelling in ambivalence.
Select the Choice That is Most Closely Aligned With Your Core Values
Contemplate how each choice matches your values. For example, if your top value is time with family, you’ll stay away from the job that pays well but requires 12-hour workdays.
Let Go of Your Attachment to What You Didn’t Choose
Instead of wasting precious life moments wondering what would have happened if you had selected the other choice(s), remind yourself that your decision was based on what matters the most to you, which makes your selection the most appropriate in the present moment.
Say to yourself that your decision is made and keep on moving on.
Trust that the Outcome of Your Decision Will Be in Your Favor
Replace the fear about your uncertain future with the reassuring knowledge that you are being guided by the wisdom of your true self, and your true self can only guide you to a place of happiness.
Decision-making based on your values becomes easy decision-making.