When you're attempting to navigate a tough situation and trying to figure out what questions to ask yourself before making a big decision, a lot of things can seem unclear. You're at a fork in the road and you can't be certain which outcome is the best for you. If you go right, what will you be missing out on? If you go left, what could be the worst that could happen? If you choose one path, what sort of domino effect will it have for other opportunities? And what exactly are you closing the door on if you go in that direction? There are too many questions up in the air, and it can be difficult to move forward. But one thing that is certain is that you can't stay in place.
To combat the terrible feeling of just not having a clue what to do, there are questions to ask yourself that will help with a tough decision. They get down to the nitty gritty and go further than the usual pros and cons list. They ask the uncomfortable questions that reveal the truth of the matter: What you're considering, what you're hesitant about, and how you feel about what you might live behind. So are you ready? Take a deep breath, let it out, and get ready to make some decisions.
1. How Will This Opportunity Add Value To My Life?
Everything you do in life should be a small step toward growth. Sometimes you make huge decisions that help you discover what you're capable of (like moving across the country alone) and sometimes they're smaller choices (like eating dinner alone). Whatever it is though, the aim is to be brave enough to do it in order to grow. So when you're faced with a big decision and you're not sure which way to go, ask yourself this: Will this opportunity add value to my life; will it help me grow? Leadership development expert Julia Winston noted on her website, Brave Communication, "How do I keep myself from spiraling into the abyss of 'what ifs'? I say, 'This decision will help me grow; no matter the outcome.' And that's true. When I make a decision quickly, I am growing. If the decision doesn't pan out the way I want, I can learn from it and consequently grow. I don't lose."
If you're not sure if your choice will help you grow, look at any choice you make as an opportunity for growth. This may not make you sure one way or the other, but it will help you feel confident about whichever you choice you do make.
2. Will I Regret It If I Don't Do It?
Sometimes a decision might feel a little irresponsible or like too big of a change to handle. It can feel scary to say yes to. But while you're tempted to play it safe and are considering denying an opportunity, ask yourself if you'll regret it a few years down the road. According to Huffington Post writer and host of radio talk show Doing What Works Maureen Anderson, "It's easy to coast along, thinking this is as good as your life will ever be. Or is it? It depends on whether you pay attention to that nagging feeling the old woman you'll be someday will have, as she looks back on her life and wonders why she didn't take more chances. We write our life stories with every decision."
Maybe you're thinking of leaving a steady paycheck to go freelance, or you're toying with the idea to go live in Paris for six months. Accepting that your life may ping pong into a completely new, foreign direction is terrifying, and it can be tempting to keep it as is to stay comfortable. But do you think that five years from now you'll regret not taking the chance? If you feel in your gut that you really would, then take the risk. The worst thing that can happen is failing, and you always have the choice of brushing yourself off and trying again.
3. Is Fear Stopping Me?
If you're starting to lean towards saying "no" to a big decision, ask yourself what is the main reason for that answer. Is it fear stopping you? Is it because it truly doesn't fit your best interests, or because it's too scary to try? According to Unstuck, a blog that helps you recognize what's holding you back, "Failure is an opportunity to find out what’s necessary to succeed...By seeing failure as a starting point, you neutralize the fear that comes with it. And without fear, you’re free to carry on!" If fear of uncertainty or failure are leading you by a leash, have enough strength to ignore them and think of why it is the right decision for you, regardless of whether you're scared or not.
4. Who Am I Doing This For?
Are you doing this for you, or to please someone else? Sometimes we think we're doing it for ourselves, but we're conveniently ignoring all the people we're trying to please. Maybe you're completely fine renting, but your parents would feel more comfortable if you bought yourself a condo. Maybe you're OK being a manager of a bookstore, but all your other friends have jobs that come with fancy business cards.
Not everyone is going to approve of your decisions. Not everyone is going to understand or admire your choices. That's not because your feelings are wrong, that's just because you're on two different paths in life and see two different truths. Dr. Marcia Reynolds, who has her doctoral degree in organizational psychology, wrote an article for Psychology Today and noted, "It’s hard to make a decision when you are emotionally wrapped up in other people’s opinions."
Don't base a decision on someone else's perspective rather than your own than your own; in the end, you're the one that will be living with the consequences and they'll have both forgotten you and the outcome.
5. Can I Handle It If It All Falls Apart?
You know your limits the best. You can hear all the advice you can stomach about how you should follow your heart and how true failure only happens when you stop trying... but you yourself know what you can handle. Thomas Koupoulos, successful businessman and author of 10 books, said in an article for Inc. that you must accept failure as a possibility before you make a big decision. "Understand the unpleasant and perhaps flawed consequences of your decision and be prepared to live with them. Regrets are horrid bedfellows. So, think carefully about what it will mean to make a bad call and be ready to own it," Koupoulos said.
What if you run out of money during your trip abroad and have to come home? What if you can't get your small business off the ground and are stuck with a loan? Can you cope with the fallout? Do you believe in yourself enough to keep it together and find a way to fix your situation? Sometimes the answer is no, and that's OK. People learn to be strong and to believe in themselves — it's not an intrinsic quality, and sometimes we're just not there yet. If you truly don't think you could handle the negative consequences, then the risk might not be worth it at this point in your life.
Big decisions are terrifying to say the very least, and the fact of the matter is that maybe that huge leap of faith isn't going to give you the exact result you hoped for — but it's also possible things might end up better than you ever dreamed. So ask yourself these questions, make a decision, and jump in feet first.
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