How do you make a difficult decision? It’s a dilemma as old as freewill itself. You have one choice in your left hand and one choice in your right hand and, even though one might be heavier than the other, or prettier or more beneficial, it’s hard to see the answer when you’re holding the options too close to your heart.
I recently found myself in a two-month internal battle that began at a fork in the road. Contemplating a career change, I spent my waking hours jumping from prong to prong, second-guessing and weighing and over analyzing, until my head throbbed and my stomach ached. (It’s amazing what stress can do to your body.) A dear family friend said simply, “You need to walk, and you need to pray.” So I did. I strolled and I looked up to the clouds and tried to let my heart be as open as possible. I settled in to a guided meditation where you were instructed to ask yourself over and over, “What do I want? What do I want?” When my inner voice responded in a whisper, it merely said, “a cheeseburger.” Not the insightful nudge I was hoping for.
There was this great post by Lysa TerKeurst – who writes wonderful lifestyle pieces from a spiritual perspective on her self-titled blog – about decision making. She suggested, when analyzing a crossroads in your life, you take a walk along the banks of a hypothetical river. It’s important, whenever possible, to follow the flow of water to see what you will pass and where you will most likely end up, for every available option, and then compare the different journeys. Once you jump in the water, you don’t have nearly as much control, so it’s important to know where the current might take you. So, I tried to follow Lysa’s advice, and walk the riverbanks.
I waffled, almost hourly, between, “Get over yourself, this isn’t that big of a deal. People have much tougher decisions to make with much greater consequences every day, all around the world.” And the opposing, “Oh my gosh, if you pick the wrong job you could trigger a surge of misfortune so powerful your great grandchildren will feel its wrath.”
I love a good old-fashioned pros and cons list as much as the next gal, but with someone as hyper-analytical as me, it simply falls short and, in this scenario, the options were nearly equal. I reached out to my ghosts of managers past and gave them the details in exchange for council. I have to say, I have been blessed to work with some seriously kickass women. The kind of women who say things like, “Proceed with confidence,” and “Make it matter.” The kind of leaders who make you want to start a business with only the name picked out, or go braless just because it makes your dress look better and you don’t give a shit what people think. Those kind of women. And they all said it was time for a change.
The worst part about making one of these gut-wrenching decisions is that, the second you pick one option, the other slowly starts to look like that old boyfriend. You know the one. He chewed like a horse and the conversation was dull as children’s scissors, until he got a new girlfriend. Then he looked all shiny and sharp.
But the truth is, no matter what decision I made in the end, it would (and will) inevitably transform into my “what got me here.” A person’s retrospect is typically seen through rose-colored glasses. We justify things with, “If I hadn’t picked this, then I would never have done that …” And it’s true, to an extent. Every choice ignites a plot twist, or a freshly paved path or an unexpected stop. We embrace our present because we know no different and it’s impossible to go back in time and see the alternate storyline. We can send a “what if” out into the great abyss, but it seldom responds. All of this suggests it’s best to just avoid tripping over the things left behind, and focus the eyes forward. So that’s what I’m working on.
I’m now nearing the tip of the prong I picked. I made the decision, ugly cried to make it official, and am training my neck not to look back. It is time to proceed with confidence, and to jump into the roaring river and let the rapids take me where they will. Let the plot twist begin.