Making Tough Decisions: Doing What’s Right, Rather Than What’s Expected

Have you ever been faced with a challenge where those around you – family, friends, colleagues – give their advice on what you should do? I think we’ve all been there. Sometimes the advice is welcomed and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it fits with what you are thinking you want to do and sometimes it doesn’t. But remember, the only person ultimately responsible for making the decision and living with the consequences of that decision is YOU.

So many times we seem to want others to just tell us what to do. Maybe it’s because we’re afraid to actually make the decision. Maybe it’s because if things don’t work out, we can blame someone else. But when we don’t trust ourselves to make the best decision for us, we can really be playing a dangerous game –one where we reinforce the belief that we cannot trust ourselves, or that we aren’t strong, or…(insert your own negative self belief here).

Tough decisions are going to come our way. It’s just part of life – whether they involve relationships, finances, health, parenting, career, politics, spirituality, sexuality, etc.  The more we know ourselves, are connected with our feelings, values, and beliefs, the easier it will be to make those decisions. Here’s some ideas to help you get through your decision-making process:

  1. Get silent. Too often when we seek the advice from others (or when others give their advice unsolicited), we are bombarded with noise. We not only hear what they are saying, but also what our inner voice is saying. There’s a lot of chatter, and when there’s a lot of chatter going on in our heads, it can be tough to even make a decision. Take some time to just be by yourself and be silent. Think about your challenge and let whatever comes up just be there – whether it’s thoughts, feelings, ideas, or guidance. And even if you don’t have much come up as you are silent, sometimes just taking a break from all that noise can be helpful in recharging your energy.
  2. Look at all angles. It can be helpful to entertain different possible outcomes from different possible decisions. Some people use a pro and con list. Others just talk it out. Helpful questions to ask yourself during the decision-making process can be “what if” and “what then.” Ask yourself, what if I do this (A)? What would happen then (A1, A2, A3)? Come up with several possibilities. Then, ask yourself what if I do this (B)? What would happen then (B1, B2, B3)?
  3. Trust your gut. Remember that while it is helpful to use your analytical skills to evaluate the possible outcomes of your decision, you can not rely solely on your thoughts. It is important to also check in with your gut (or your feelings) to find out how you feel about any possible decision. Too many times, we discount that inner knowing, or instinct. Once you have gotten silent and looked at your decision from different angles, check in with your gut and how you feel about each possible decision. Your feelings will help guide you in making the best decision, the one that is right for you.
  4. Commit to a decision. Once you’ve checked in on how you feel, it is likely that the choices will become more limited as you notice certain decisions don’t quite feel right. Focus now only on the choices that you can live with, that either leave you feeling good (or the least bad, as the case may be). It’s now time to commit to ONE decision, which involves taking responsibility for any possible outcome. Once you make your decision, move on. Most of the time, the fact that you have made a decision will bring some relief. And now that you have made the decision, you free up the energy you were spending in deliberation to move on to other things.

Remember that even though it may feel like it at the time, no decision is every really final. Sure, making tough decisions may close the door on certain opportunities, but keep in mind that even better opportunities are likely just around the corner. And making decisions that go against what others expect from you (or want from you) may create some tension, but people who truly love and/or support you will be able to accept you, even if they don’t agree with your decision. Ultimately, you must do what is right for you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on making tough decisions. Please leave a comment below.

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