7 Tips for Making Difficult Decisions

Decision making is an unavoidable part of life. Every day we confront choices with no guarantee of what the outcome will be, and this uncertainty can often leave us feeling paralyzed. Do we take an exciting risk or move instead toward the comfort of safety? What if the choice sounds right, but feels wrong? How do we move through this world of uncertainty with more excitement, less fear and greater authenticity? Here are a few tips:

  1. Acceptance is key. How can you move toward what you want if you don’t know exactly where you are? You don’t have to be okay with your current circumstances if they are completely unacceptable to you. This only creates frustration and despair. But you do have to accept all the ways that you argue with reality. If your thought contains the words would(n’t), could(n’t) or should(n’t), there’s a good chance you’re doing just that.
  2. Focus on the one thing you can control – your perspective. When you think thoughts that argue with the reality of your situation, this creates the stress and anxiety in your life. If you believe something shouldn’t be happening and it is indeed happening, that’s a pretty glaring contradiction. Get very clear on your current focus and then look for a different perspective that takes into account, but doesn’t resist, reality.
  3. Notice who’s participating in your mental planning process. The logical part of your brain does a great job of thinking about the future and creating plans. It handles complexity and has no problem juggling multiple outcomes from a very practical perspective. Does this make sense? Will it accomplish the goal? Your inner critic is always trying to gain control by introducing fear into this process. It wants to have a say in everything, so it can keep you “safe” from failure, loss, rejection, disappointment and shame. Be wary of questions that factor in fear (How can I avoid getting hurt? What will other people think of my decision?) 
  4. Instead of making decisions motivated by fear, listen for your intuition. Mixed in with the voice of the logical planner and the inner critic is a small voice that whispers from a deeper place of wisdom. When you get very quiet, what do you hear? Even if it sounds wrong, does it feel right? How can you begin to honor this voice in your life through the choices you make?
  5. Know what you value. Whether you realize it or not, every single thing you do in life is motivated by your deeply held core values. If you aren’t aware of what these are, it can be very easy to lose trust in your ability to make sound decisions. Knowing your core values provides a framework to help guide you through uncertainty with authenticity and integrity. The outcome may still be uncertain, but you can trust that if you make the decision in alignment with your values, you’ll find the wisdom you need to keep moving forward along your path.
  6. Trust the universal timeline. There are two timelines at work in each of our lives – a personal timeline and the universal timeline. Your personal timeline is created through a logical planning process, but the pace is often dictated by your inner critic. Nothing ever seems to happen fast enough. The universal timeline, on the other hand, takes into consideration factors your personal timeline would prefer to ignore, including other people’s needs and your level of actual readiness for the goal you’re trying to achieve. The universal timeline always wins. How can you adjust your personal timeline to account for this fact of life?
  7.  The “wrong” decision may give you exactly what you need. It’s very easy in this black and white world to get caught up in the dualistic idea of “right” and “wrong”, but who knows that the final outcome might be? The choice you regret may well be the one that serves as the greatest catalyst for your growth. Never underestimate life for it’s ability to surprise you, nor your ability to navigate the uncertainties it brings.