6 Steps To Making A Life-Changing Decision

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Need to make a life-changing decision? Feeling anxious and scared about it? Feeling uncertain about what choice is best for you?

Good news! Those are all perfectly normal things to feel when you’re about to make a life-changing decision.

Living in active participation of life requires you to decide how to pursue your life and where to direct your energy. That can feel overwhelming if you don’t have a good process for making those big decisions.

We’re going to outline a simple process that will help you find your right path.

1. Clarify the decision.

To make the right decision, you need to identify and clarify what decision you’re actually making.

Break it down into a single sentence that represents the change that you want to make. This will help dispel the confusing emotions that often surround these situations.

Be specific and direct about the decision that you want to make. Here are a few examples to give you an idea.

– Should I move to a new city?

– Should I go back to college?

– Should I leave my partner?

Grab yourself a sheet of paper and write your decision statement across the top. This statement will help serve as an anchor.

2. Create a list of the pros and cons of the decision.

A pros and cons list is a great way to help cut away confusion about making your life-changing decision.

On your sheet of paper, write a column of pros and cons side-by-side down the paper. Put down everything you can think of that might be relevant.

Focus back on your decision statement at the top of the sheet if you find yourself getting swamped in emotions or feel your focus shifting around too much. This is your anchor back into the thought processes if you find yourself drifting.

If you find yourself having difficulty coming up with pros and cons, consider different questions that might help break those thoughts loose.

Use words other than “pro” and “con” because those aren’t really words we use in everyday life to get to this kind of information.

Instead, consider questions like:

– What are the benefits of making this change?

– How will I feel if I make this change?

– How will I feel if I don’t make this change?

– How can this decision harm me or my life?

– Will I ever have this kind of opportunity again?

3. Consider and score each pro and con.

We’re going to put a little spin on the old method of drawing up a pros and cons list. We’re going to rate each pro and con on a scale of zero to five.

A zero should represent an item that you don’t feel strongly about or don’t think will make a big difference. In contrast, a five should represent an item you feel most strongly about or feel will make a huge difference. Numbers one, two, three, and four should represent different intensities between the two.

Add up the total of your pros and cons columns, and you will have a tool to better weigh the decision.

Rating each of these items will help give you a better idea of just how important each entry is, rather than just being an abstract list.

For example, your list may have many cons, but they are mostly zeroes and ones, whereas your pros list is shorter with many fours and fives. The pros list’s actual weight might be heavier than the cons, thus leaning you more toward making that decision even though the cons list is longer.

4. Make peace with your decision.

It’s worthwhile to take some time to consider the potential outcomes of your choice.

But, here’s the problem. Often, we may think something will turn out one way, but the outcome is nothing like what we wanted or expected. You may have grand designs for your life, and they just don’t work out for whatever reason.

The opposite is true too. You may suffer a setback, or a plan might blow up that leads you in an entirely new direction that you didn’t know you wanted until you had it. Sometimes it might lead you to realize that what you thought you wanted isn’t actually what you wanted.

Instead of focusing on the potential outcome, focus on whether you can be okay with the decision.

Everyone has regrets about things they wish they would have done differently. You want to be as sure as you can that your decision is what you feel is best for your life based on the information you have at hand.

And if you don’t feel like you have enough useful information to make that decision, seek it out.

5. Don’t make a move unless your heart is into it.

What does that mean?

It means that this is a decision that you are making for yourself, which resonates with you. It’s a decision that’s in alignment with something necessary for you and your life.

Yes, there are times when we need to make decisions that benefit other people over ourselves. That’s a big part of having responsibility.

But when it comes to making life-changing decisions, you want to be absolutely sure that you can be okay with the decision that you’ve made. If you don’t, it can very quickly blow up in your face and destroy relationships with other people.

Let me give you an example, so you can better understand.

Sophia and Jack have been together for about five years. Sophia has been applying to colleges and gets accepted into her dream school with a scholarship, but it’s out of state. Jack doesn’t want to move. He wants Sophia to go to a school near where they live or stay at home with him. Now Sophia is faced with a choice. Does she go to her dream school out of state and break up with Jack? Or does she forego that dream, stay with Jack, and go to a local school?

In that scenario, Sophia must do what’s in line with her own desire. Suppose she doesn’t go, and that’s what’s in her heart. In that case, she will eventually resent Jack, which will poison and erode the relationship, potentially breaking it down later. Then she won’t have the relationship or the experience, all for nothing.

But maybe staying is right for her. Maybe she also got accepted to a program locally where she can pursue her education, stay with her partner and family and friends she has in the area.

There’s no right or wrong answer because it depends on what’s in Sophia’s heart. What decision is best for Sophia and her future?

And what decision is best for you? That is most in line with what you want out of life?

Don’t make halfhearted moves with life-changing decisions. Make sure your heart is into it, even if you’re feeling afraid or unsure; that way, you won’t regret that decision thirty years down the road.

6. Make the choice to act – then do it!

Ever heard of “analysis paralysis?” It’s a phrase that’s used to call attention to the behavior of using research to overwhelm oneself into not making a decision.

The person trapped in analysis paralysis may feel like they just don’t have enough information to make the appropriate decision! They must have more! They must consider every possible angle and outcome before they can feel okay with taking the steps they need to take.

Sometimes we don’t have the freedom for that. There may be a looming deadline or a hard cut off point where it’s either doing the thing or losing the opportunity. In that case, the decision is best made with enough time to work around any problems that might pop up.

But if there is no time limit, then you’re going to have to decide for yourself when to take action. It’s generally not a good idea to make an impulsive decision, but it’s also not right to let it sit for too long either.

You’ll need to make the decision for yourself if no external factors are guiding you. Give yourself about a month. That will give you plenty of time to research and consider your options. Once that thirty-day mark rolls in, it’s time to make the decision if you haven’t yet.

Do it and get moving forward, whether that’s pursuing that life-changing decision or finding a different path that is right for your life.

7. Don’t overestimate the importance of the decision.

When we talk about making life-changing decisions, it’s often the case that while something may very well change our life, those changes aren’t quite as significant as you think.

A career change doesn’t have to be permanent if it doesn’t work out – you’ll still have the skills and experience to return to your current career path if you want to or need to.

Ending a relationship can seem like a massive thing at the time, especially when that relationship has been a long one. But you’d be amazed at how quickly life can get back to normal after a breakup or divorce.

Moving to a new city can change many things about your life – new friends, new job, new surroundings and hobbies. But, again, life gets back to a normal, even if it’s a new normal, pretty quickly. And you could always move back again.

Perhaps the only decision that changes your life permanently is that of having children. You can’t really take that one back once it’s happened and life does change in a great many ways. But even then, you settle into a new routine and life goes on.

So if you find yourself worrying about the decision, just remember that whatever you choose is unlikely to ruin your life. It may mean an adjustment or transition, but you’ll be fine one way or another.

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About The Author

Jack Nollan is a person who has lived with Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar-depression for almost 30 years now. Jack is a mental health writer of 10 years who pairs lived experience with evidence-based information to provide perspective from the side of the mental health consumer. With hands-on experience as the facilitator of a mental health support group, Jack has a firm grasp of the wide range of struggles people face when their mind is not in the healthiest of places. Jack is an activist who is passionate about helping disadvantaged people find a better path.