Making a hard decision -- about money, relationships, which job to take, which pathway to travel in life, you name it -- becomes a war waged across the battlefield of our hearts and minds.
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand that decision-making impacts us physically and mentally. It's palpable. Like you're caught in a giant, clenching fist that's squeezing ever tighter. Your brain becomes muddled in a swamp of pros and cons and questions -- What if this? What if that? And it only intensifies with time, as deadlines loom and then crash down.
When it comes to life's most challenging decisions, here are three tips for maintaining a healthy mind and making the right choice.
Don't Fear the Swamp, Jump In!
Imagine a hard decision as a swamp. Quicksand. You're in it up to your waist, and sinking fast.
Our first inclination is to avoid a swamp altogether. It's yucky, you can't see the bottom, and who knows what's lurking (or slithering!) in there.
But difficult decisions are a part of life. Not easy to ignore or run away from. Besides, they always have a way of catching up to us sooner or later.
So, instead of procrastinating over a hard decision or fearing the inevitable agony, jump in. Mindfully tabulate what you're feeling: anxiety, fear, depression, pain, hopelessness, anger, loneliness. Know that this is natural. These are human reactions.
Too often, we allow the process of making a hard decision to bring out the worst in us -- to deplete us and to literally stress us to death. All because we never take the time to go to the root and address what we're feeling. We become a ticking time bomb.
Sit quietly, and really feel the anxiety, fear, depression, pain, hopelessness, anger, and loneliness coursing through every cell in your body. Allow yourself the space to cry, vent, kick and scream, confide in friends, and travel through the thick darkness of a breakdown. Whatever it takes to process that moment and to let off steam before you go BOOM.
When you do this, suddenly there will be a click over to light in your mind. You'll realize that those dark and negative things you're feeling are all roadblocks to the clarity and healthy mind you need. They're the slithering creepy things in the swamp preventing you from making the right choice. Once you understand them for what they are, you can deal with them and set them aside so you'll have a clearer vision of the decision you have to make.
Ask Yourself These Questions . . .
Any time I have a difficult decision to make, I ask myself these five questions.
1. Which choice will make my heart sing?
Life is way too short not to spend at least most of it happy. Choose the option that tips the Joy Scale in your favor.
2. Which choice will best utilize my talents?
You've been gifted with many talents in this life. If either choice will prevent you from fully realizing or using those gifts, then the decision just got a little easier to make.
3. Which choice will present new and exciting challenges to help me grow in some way?
A life without challenges, and even risks, that move us forward means slipping under the swamp. Game over. Hasta la vista, baby!
4. How have similar decisions in my past worked out?
Our past successes and mistakes are, above all, learning experiences. While navigating the roster of emotions you're feeling right now, also think about past decisions -- what worked, what didn't, and why. Hidden somewhere in there will be valuable clues for what choice to make this time around.
5. Will the world end based on my decision?
Unless you're the president with your finger on the big red button, I'm pretty sure you'll survive whichever choice you make. So don't over think it too much, and try to keep a sense of humor about it.
The "Right Thing To Do" Isn't Always the Right Thing
We often hear folks say, "This choice is the right thing to do."
Entire plots of novels and movies are anchored on the "right thing to do."
However, in some cases, the right thing to do becomes a tricky conundrum -- an even greater tug of war layered atop an already hard decision. Case in point: The right thing to do for me is to choose Option A, but the right thing to do for my loved ones is to choose Option B.
If you choose Option A, you risk grief and anguish and hurt feelings from family and friends. If you choose Option B, you risk regret and disappointment and missing great opportunities for yourself, not to mention peace of mind.
When the question of doing the "right thing" rears up, circle back to the first two tips above. Process what you're feeling and ask the crucial questions through the lens of what it really means to do the right thing here and now. Then, with a clear mind, follow your instincts and make the best decision you can at the time.