Have you ever thought of yourself as being “indecisive” or “bad” at making decisions?
(not a helpful thing to think, by the way).
I’ve put off making decisions for fear of making the “wrong” one, I’ve put off making decisions thinking I needed more information or time, and I’ve put off making decisions for reasons unknown.
It’s so strange that the older I get, the more I’ve realized I’m less inclined to make decisions. It's almost as if I have a belief that I've made them all already--after all, I'm a mom, I have a career, I have a husband, I've lived in the same home for over a decade, the same city for longer than that, I have a best friend, family traditions, a nearly 16 year old dog, regular routines and habits, a plan for my retirement, my kids' education etc. etc. What more is there to decide?
I have to remind myself that I don't have or want to just decide everything about my life once. I don't want to constantly default to the same patterns, behaviours and choices based on decisions I made years, even decades ago.
I like to remind myself often and loudly that I always have choices. I'm allowed to change my mind, evaluate and re-evaluate things in my life--and not with the intention of stirring up problems where there are none but with the intention of not avoiding problems that I'd prefer not to see.
I encourage you to consider how much power you have over your life. How much power you have in your life as a result of the decisions you make (or don’t make). Something I’ve seen in myself and in my clients is this belief that we “have” to do things, that we have to live out decisions that have already been made in our lives, or that all of the important decisions in our life have already been made and now we must suffer though the consequences of them.
What if you started challenging this belief a little? What if you considered that this isn’t true and that you can explore all of your options and decisions continually?
What if you made it a priority to do this every year?
Okay, so let me back this train up a bit. Let’s talk a little more about decisions. Life is full of them. They are actually what make up our life, right? Let’s start by getting on the same page about what a decision even is. My favourite definition is one I learned many years ago in a coaching training:
A decision is made when we commit to thinking and acting in a certain way in order to create a result.
Some of this is a little mind bendy but stick with me. Sit with that for a minute if you can, and think about what it means to you.
Viewing decisions as commitments—I find this helpful for a number of reasons. One of the biggest reasons is that it simply helps to take the pressure off of making one.
For example, if we’re faced with having to decide between 2 great job offers, (I know what you're thinking - "boo hoo"), what I see so often is clients agonizing over making a decision for fear of making the “wrong” one. What if I choose the wrong job? What if I change my mind? What if I hate it? It feels like an impossible decision to make. Hey, I’ve been there too. The struggle is real. This feels very hard.
So instead of avoiding a decision or suffering sleepless nights ruminating about which decision to make, I would like to offer that we try this instead: we pick one based on reasons we feel good about and then commit to thinking and acting in a way that will make it the best decision for us. We make the decision, we commit and then we move on.
Learning how to make decisions is a skill many of us haven’t tried to get better at. Think about when you were a kid, you were mostly told what to do, what to believe, and what to think. Many of your decisions were made for you. Many of them served you well, even into adulthood—maybe even now.
But what if they didn’t? What if they don’t?
The tricky thing is you might be making decisions today based on other peoples’ beliefs—beliefs you adopted either implicitly or explicitly from your parents or other authority figures, society etc.
So, by the definition I use of what a decision is, often we are thinking and acting in a certain way in an effort to create a result based on something we committed to over 10 years ago and sometimes even much longer. 10 years ago is a long time. How much have you changed during that time? How much have your beliefs evolved, your opinions changed?
I can’t help but think it might be worth it for all of us to take a look at what we’ve been saying yes to. Have we truly been considering our options or are we constantly defaulting to one option we’ve been told is best for us. One way of being. One way of thinking.
In some ways we’ve become a society making decisions based on “should have” and “supposed to” rather than on what we desire.
If considering this for a minute does nothing except bring our awareness to this, I believe it’s worthwhile. A simple check-in could include answering the question “Would I choose this again today?” A bit terrifying, and a bit liberating all rolled into one, right?
Something I have learned in 20 years of working with clients is that the belief that we don’t have choice keeps us painfully stuck. Stuck in the suffering of believing we need to continue to live in the pain of past decisions and that if we make the “wrong” decision going forward we’ll have no choice but to live in whatever pain that creates forever.
Clients also tell me they are stuck in a life made up of constant to do lists and commitments that drain them.
So, I remind them that they have free will and can indeed decide to do or not do anything they want.
The point I’m making is that often we’ve never considered that much of what we are currently doing is something we either really want to do (say, taking care of elderly parents) or that we could stop doing if we chose to (have dinner with our in laws every Friday). The truth of the matter is we all have more power than we often even attempt to use. We’re just not in the habit of evaluating our options and making decisions based on what we want now instead of what we “should do” or what may have worked for us in the past.
Even if you decide to keep your to do list exactly as it is, coming to a place where you truly believe you have a choice will change how you think and feel about everything. I’ve worked with lots of clients who came to me believing they hated their job and hated their life. What they came to realize after evaluating their decisions and realizing that they had choices and options was that they actually did want the career + life they had. They decided to choose it again. This changed everything.
What had made them feel stuck was thinking they were. I know, this is a bit mind bendy too.
Set yourself free. Realize that you can change your relationships, your house, your job, your education, and your future. You can re-decide your life at any point in time. You don’t have to keep living the decisions of your past or the decisions of others.
You have choice.
Also, there are no wrong or right decisions.
We decide what is right or wrong by what it is we choose to think and believe. Re-deciding what is right or wrong for yourself on a continual basis is what makes your life keep evolving. Things change, we evolve. We can change our mind.
I have many clients who have come to me to change careers and are trapped in feelings that they should be an engineer, or a lawyer, or something else because it is the “right thing” to do spending so much money on their education. My clients believe that they can’t make a decision that will hurt another person under any circumstances, even if not making that decision is hurting themselves. I like to get curious about this and examine it from every angle. Of course it seems obvious and that we'd choose not to hurt somebody else, it seems like the truth but what if they simply considered another possibility? What if the person they were trying to protect wouldn’t want to be the reason they stayed in their suffering? What if it actually wouldn’t cause them any suffering at all? What if it did cause them some level of suffering to set yourself free?
Of course we don’t want to let people down or not follow through on commitments. Of course we don’t want to change our minds if others will be disappointed.
But the alternative is to stay in jobs we don’t want and in lives that feel meaningless. We live a lie thinking we can use it to control how other people see us while we suffer. We think we are putting the other person's needs ahead of ours. But is it being selfless or is it it just lying?
Of course this isn’t about intentionally hurting or disappointment people or not thinking things through. It’s about understanding that we can see things from all sides and realize that we can be happy with whatever choice we make by simply deciding.
This is actually the truth because your happiness is not based on making a right or wrong decision. Your happiness depends on your thoughts about your decision.
Rather than avoiding deciding about your life, I’d offer that you decide a whole lot more. Decide consciously.
This is how you change your career and this is how you change your life—you change the daily decisions you make about how you live each day. You re-decide, you re-commit. This is the best secret sauce I’ve got.
Finally, I wanted to say more about the decisions we just don’t make. So many clients come to me saying they’re holding off on making decisions believing that they are avoiding making a “wrong” or “bad” one. But the truth is, not making a decision consciously is making a decision. You are making a decision not to change. You are choosing your current career and life situation every single day whether you acknowledge it or not
Notice all the decisions you are putting off and not making by not thinking deeply about your future.
Ask yourself this: “Where will I be in one year, two years, five years, 25 years?”
The truth is, you are deciding in each moment where your life is taking you. If you don’t change things, nothing will change from within your own power. If you don’t recommit to the current life you have, you will live a life of default that won’t feel as powerful as it could.
Who do you want to be? What do you want to do? Where do you want to go?
You really do get to decide.
p.s: Hey, if you have been putting off making a decision about working with a coach, you can schedule a free call with me. During a consultation, we’ll decide if we’re a fit, we can chat about what I offer and then decide how to move forward. Look at all this deciding! It’s very good practice. :)