We all have times when we are faced with decisions and we are not sure what path to take. You might be weighing whether to look for a new job or start a business. Should you take that promotion? Have another baby? Move to a new city? Go back to school?
Perhaps you haven’t even gotten to a yes or no decision. Maybe you are trying to figure out how to solve a problem and don’t know where to start.
Whatever the reasons for your indecision, the strategies here can help. They won’t all be right for you and, frankly, some of them contradict each other. That is because there isn’t one right way to do things. That is something you need to keep in mind as you search for answers. This is not like the true/false test in school where an answer was either true or false, right or wrong. Life has many possible answers, and they might all be right! Or they could all be right but some of them are not right for you.
Ask, “How important is this decision?” Deciding whether or not to have Chinese food for dinner is not significant. Deciding whether or not to take a two-year job in China is. Ask yourself what the repercussions of this decision will be in five years. Do not waste time agonizing over things that do not matter.
Think inside the box and eliminate some choices. There are choices that you may not be willing to consider because of your religious beliefs or budgetary restrictions. Or they just may not be right for you right now because of other responsibilities. You can take them off the table and deal with the choices that work now.
Ask if this is something you need to decide, or if it is none of your business. Are you stressing over a decision that is not yours to make? Don’t get overly involved in making choices for others, even when those others are people you love.
Oprah Winfrey says to “do nothing.” When you find yourself asking everyone else what you should do, do not do anything. “Get still until you do know, because nobody knows but you.”
“Do the next right thing.” This advice comes from Michael Hyatt, who says, “Clarity comes when you move toward your destination and correct along the way.” Take a step that moves you closer to your goal without worrying about all of the other possibilities or the steps that come later. (This generally works better for me than Oprah’s advice, but there are times when being still is a good choice, too.)
Make a list of pros and cons. The idea is not that the one with the most pros wins, it is that the most compelling pros or cons “win.” Maybe taking a job in another city has lots of pros in its favor, but your spouse can’t leave, so taking the job would mean living apart–or maybe even the end of your marriage. If the marriage is important to you, moving away is a deal breaker.
Pretend you are advising someone else. If your best friend or a dear family member asked your advice in the situation you are dealing with, what would you tell them? Often, the path becomes clearer when we imagine someone else facing the decision.
Talk it out. Asking everyone, including strangers on the street, what you should do is generally not helpful. However, talking it out with a close confidant (a friend, your mom or even your therapist) can be useful. It is less about what advice they have to offer than what happens when you say things out loud. Start talking about the reasons why you should or should not do something, or which things you should choose, and suddenly things start clicking into place.
Sleep on it. Think about your options, then get a good night’s sleep. While you are sleeping, your subconscious mind is still working. You may find that an obvious solution pops into your head, perhaps during a dream or maybe while you are having lunch the next day.
Although we all have times when we are unsure of what to do, having a plan for dealing with those times can make them less stressful. Keep this list in mind to avoid future meltdowns!