Maybe you weren’t expecting to have to make this choice so soon, or maybe you’ve been putting off making it for months, but here you are. It’s time to make a decision, and you are painfully aware of how much this choice might influence your life. Whatever you pick will make ripples in your future that you’re not able to predict. It’s a lot of pressure, and it can be pretty paralyzing.
Even though nobody can tell you what to choose, there are ways you can approach this decision that will at least help you figure out how to make a choice that you can ultimately be at peace with.
Flip a coin
No, really. Flip a coin, and then pay really close attention to how you feel when it lands. Are you a little bit relieved by the verdict? Disappointed? This is a good trick for when you’re so tangled up in your “pros” and “cons” list that you don’t even know what you want anymore. You don’t have to do what the coin says — what you’re doing is listening for a little voice of deep desire to speak up. It’s often drowned out by other considerations, but it’s worth listening to because that deep desire is usually rooted in a core value.
Focus on what’s most realistic
Being realistic seems obvious, but we put a surprising amount of focus on what we wish life was like, or what we think it ought to be like. I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who thrives on travel and adventure. But that ignores the fact that shaking up my routine makes me feel unstable. I keep making decisions based on the kind of person I wish I was — and then I find myself backing out when it dawns on me how much I don’t want to, say, take a 12-hour road trip with kids in tow. There’s not going to be any objectively perfect choice in many situations — you have to think honestly about who you are to know what’s the best fit.
Ask yourself: “How will I feel if everything goes wrong?”
No choice comes without risks. No matter how likely it is that you succeed, there’s always going to be a chance that it crashes and burns. Nothing we do can protect us from the possibility of failure. So think about what happens if a choice does fail and you find yourself living out your worst-case scenario. Do you think, “I cannot believe I did this to myself”? Or do you think, “Well, this sure tanked, but I’m proud of myself for trying”? You can’t control what happens, but if you know you won’t look back with regret, you’ll have peace.
Not choosing is making a choice, too
When you decide to do nothing, life makes the choice for you. The deadline comes and goes, the person you’re interested assumes you’re not paying attention, you miss your chance. Whatever happens, there’s no scenario where it wasn’t up to you in some way. It seems distressing, but it’s actually a comfort — and it’s a good reason not to give in to the temptation to do nothing at all.
Nobody else can decide for you
No matter how much you trust somebody, no matter how much experience they have or how well they know you, they’ll never know you better than you know yourself. It’s tempting to go to everyone we know for advice, but it might just end up being distracting and overwhelming. Getting the advice of one or two people you trust most is fine, but the responsibility is ultimately yours.
Give yourself a deadline to choose
Don’t let your indecision go on forever. If you tell yourself “I don’t want to rush this, but I need an answer by this the end of the week,” you’ll give yourself the gift of not having to rush, but also the sense of urgency to make sure you take the choice seriously and keep it top-of-mind. If you struggle with this, it might help to get somebody to hold you accountable and make sure you meet your deadline.
And above all else, keep in mind that life is unpredictable — there’s a lot more going on than we could possibly control. So do the best you can, and then hang on and enjoy the ride. You’re not in this alone — God is walking with you every step of the way.