I recently had to make a pretty big choice. It involves being out of the country for an entire month! And I thought, what is your process when making choices? Particularly when one of the choices is something that might be considered the practical or “responsible” choice, or the thing you should do – and the other choice is something that you’re really passionate about and is important to you.
One thing we all have in common is the indisputable fact that we’ve all made our fair share of regrettable decisions! Someone who says they haven’t made a bad decision is either not being honest, or someone who avoids decisions at all costs. Making sound decisions is a skill set that needs to be developed like any other. According to the dictionary, decision is defined as: the act of or need for making up one’s mind. And choice is: the right, power, or opportunity to choose.
Fortunately, I have tools to make informed choices, rather than emotional decisions. When I am making a choice, I look at my integrity in both matters. How many people are affected by choice of #1 or #2? Can I do/have both? Maybe not simultaneously, but when?
“Do the things you must do so that you can do things you want to do” is a great piece of advice that Denzel Washington once shared as a guideline his father had taught him So maybe it’s not an either/or choice. Maybe it’s just which is first and which is second. And, can I delegate the “responsible” thing to someone else so I can do the “passionate” thing and still be in integrity and take care of all who are counting on me?
Here are a few things to consider when making an informed choice:
Make a list of the pros and cons. I know this seems like common sense, but I find it helpful to see it written down in front of me.
Gather the facts. Get as much information as you can about your options, ask questions, solicit the opinions of trusted friends/colleagues who have made this type of choice before, or have experienced whatever it is you are considering for yourself.
Don’t rush it. People tend to make inferior choices when they’re under a lot of stress or not in a good mood. When facing a complicated decision, use your conscious brain to collect the information you need, and then take a break. Take a nap. Have a beer. Go for a walk. Spend 30 minutes meditating or exercising. The idea is to give your unconscious mind some time to work its magic! The choice you make afterward is more likely to be the right one.
Sometimes, however, we have decisions we need to make immediately or on the fly. If that’s the case, I advise the following:
Trust your gut and lead with your heart. Your “gut instincts” are an emotional or experiential filter that oftentimes has no existing foundation of logical or analytical support. Sometimes it can be all you have to go on when making a choice. Even when you do have more information or data, your instincts can often provide a valuable gut check against the rationality or predisposition of other factors.
I have found that when I listen to my heart and my instincts, 99% of the time I’ve made the right choice, and it all works out. And like anything else, trusting my intuition is a muscle I’ve had to build and develop. My suggestion is to cultivate your ability to be discerning and perceptive. Practice on less consequential choices, so when faced with a larger choice, you are ready!
“Life is about making choices. Always do your best to make the right ones, and always do your best to learn from the wrong ones.” – unknown