Alice came to the fork in the road.
“Which road do I take?” she asked.
“Where do you want to go?” responded the Cheshire cat.
“I don’t know,” Alice answered.
“Then,” said the cat, “it doesn't matter.”
Alice in Wonderland
As any adult knows, life is filled with choices. Life wouldn't be the same without them -- and who would want to give them up? -- but they can definitely make life tricky sometimes. Throughout our lives we often find ourselves standing at the end of a road, wondering whether or not we should turn left or right. Sometimes we find ourselves on the same road we've been traveling down, yet we find ourselves yearning to take a turn down a different street. The wonderful thing is that we have a choice. Unfortunately, the hardest thing is also the fact that we have a choice. So often we come to a place in our lives where we can decide whether we want something to stay the same or we want our lives to change, and it can be really difficult to make large, life-changing decisions. Even more difficult can be the challenge of staying positive as you're struggling to determine what choice is best for you.
This week I found myself in this very position. I have the opportunity to make a big life change, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to take the leap. Change has always been something I've done my best to steer clear of (especially when it comes to the big things), but I've reached a point in this situation where I feel like change might really be the best thing for me. As I weigh the pros and cons of keeping things the same or making a change, I find myself struggling to look for the positive, to realize that whatever situation I choose will be the right situation for me. Getting caught up in the future of potential change or weighed down by the reminders of changes in the past, I find myself unable to stay in the present. My mind is racing with "What ifs..." and "Remember whens..." I like things to be very clear cut and, as we all know so well, so often they are not that way.
Life has a funny way of avoiding black and white. It's always logged somewhere in a state of grey and it's up to us to use our skills and our knowledge and our support systems to figure out what's best for us. Amid all of the clutter and noise and shading, there are answers. Beneath all of our expectations and realizations and estimations, there is the truth. There is the one answer we need. If only it were that easy to reach that answer. For most of us, it is buried. It is hiding. It is sometimes clear, but then it fades away when we are shaking ourselves out of a perfect reverie with pros and cons, with the ups and the downs. The most frustrating thing about this is that we know there is an answer. We know we will reach that answer. We just don't know when.
Over the past few days I've been in a battle with myself, contemplating the pros and cons of my situation and weighing out all of the options. When one is toying with the idea of changing his or her life, everything suddenly becomes much more important. Every detail, every day, has more merit than the last. I think in terms of ideal situations. I want perfection. I also realize that, at this point in time, it is not attainable. So what's a girl to do? She must analyze and consider and discuss and weigh and confer until eventually, finally, thankfully, she arrives at a conclusion. And, through it all, she must keep her mind open and her thoughts positive.
It's been a tough couple of days, trying to sort through it all and keep my chin up while doing so, but, as I finally arrived at answer today I realized that I've learned a lot from this experience. Making big life choices is part of being an adult (something that, at twenty-six, I'm still getting used to) and it's something that will happen over and over again. The question is not what the choices will be or even what decisions we will make when we come to them, but the question is: how will we handle ourselves when faced with the choice between what we know and what we have not yet experienced? Over the past few days, I have to say I've learned a lot about this and these are some of the things I've come up with:
7 Tips for Choosing Wisely
Listen to your instinct. When I was first faced with the choice, I had a gut instinct. Before I gave into the pros and cons lists and asking my friends and family for their opinions there was just me standing at a crossroads, instinctively knowing what choice I wanted to make. The other day I read this quote: "When faced with two choices, simply toss a coin...because in that brief moment when that coin is in the air, you suddenly know what you were hoping for." You instinctively know what you want. Don't ignore that instinct.
Weigh the pros and cons. While I really do believe that it's essential to listen to that first instinct, I also recognize the importance of weighing the pros and cons. Though I can give into my emotional side a bit too often, I'm generally a logical person and I think listening to logic can be vital when making big decisions. Take some time and thoroughly analyze the pros and cons of each situation. In most cases, there will be both good and bad. Recognize that and then work to determine which situation will provide you with the most good and least bad.
Get outside input. I'm a big fan of listening to myself and making my own decisions, but I cannot deny the value of getting input from others. When it comes to making big life decisions you may have to make them with others in mind, but sometimes it might be all up to you. In my situation, it's completely up to me. But that doesn't mean I don't value the input of others. I want to know what they have to say and I want to get a variety of opinions. These words of wisdom will help me to make the best possible decision.
Don't let fear decide. One of the greatest foes I've come up against through this decision making process is fear. I've been battling it throughout weighing the pros and cons and as I was listening to the advice of others. Big changes can be scary. Making choices can be intimidating. One thing I find creeping into my decision making process is fear. It leads to believe that keeping things the same is better and that change is not worth the risk. I'm learning to push that fear aside and recognizing that I need to make a choice that's based on what's best for me, not a choice based on avoiding what I am afraid of.
Do what's best for you. And that last point brings us to this: you have to do what's right for you. This can be hard to determine sometimes when you're weighing all of the options and getting various words of advice, but ultimately you have to focus on yourself. Tune everything else out and really ask yourself, "What is the right choice for me?" If you took away all of the details and distractions and "What if" questions, you'll come to the realization that you know what's best for you. Once you determine what's best for you the question is: are you going to do what's best for you? Sometimes this is much easier realized than acted upon...
Trust in yourself. This ties in with the first point, but it's not entirely the same. Once you've done all of the things above and you reach a decision, you may find yourself stepping back and questioning the choice your about to make. Even after all of the work you've done to get to this point, your mind might be filled with doubts. Don't let those doubts overcome you. Remind yourself that you are doing what's best for you and you've taken great steps to come to this conclusion. Believe in the choice you've made and, above all, remind yourself that everything is happening just as it should.
- Don't ever look back. Once you've made your choice, make sure that you commit yourself to it and refuse to look back. It's easy to begin doubting your choice, but looking back and wondering about what could have happened if you had made a different choice will do you no good. You have to make a decision and stick to it. At times it may not even seem like it was the right choice, but you have to keep reminding yourself that everything is happening for a reason and those choices are the choices you made because they were the choices you were meant to make. Know that everything will work out the way it's supposed to and that you have done the very best you could to make your decisions.
No matter what you're faced with, making big life decisions is never easy. In fact, it's one of the most challenging things about life. But it's also one of the most amazing things about life. There are people in this world that have no choice at all. They have no options and no outlets for change. As terrifying as change and choice can be at times, can you imagine how terrifying it would be not to have the ability to choose? Choice can be, and always will be intimidating, but when I think about it I realize that it really is a privilege. I am fortunate to have the ability to choose and it's up to me to make the most of my options and do what I can to choose wisely.
What advice would you add to this list?
How to you make big life decisions?