Sometimes we come to forks in the road that call for us to make difficult or perhaps drastic decisions. Our goals change, and we have varied priorities in different phases of our lives. These decisions can impact all areas of our lives, including the lives of those around us. I’m not talking about the dilemma of what to name the dog or which shower curtain to buy, but rather points in time where we have to discern opportunity from risk. Examples include decisions about a career change, moving, buying or selling a house, ending or beginning a relationship, placing loved ones in a full-time care facility, adopting a child or retirement.
Wow! Just pondering those examples can bring thoughts of tension and confusion and even a bit of relief as well– assuming the positives will surely outweigh any negatives. These life choices demand careful consideration.
Here are five suggestions to help you make tough decisions:
Look beyond the moment
A sure sign of immaturity is to make choices only with the present moment in mind. Tough decisions require looking not only at an immediate gain from a particular choice but also considering its potential long-term benefits. Sometimes we have to pay a small price in the short term, but the long-term gains far outweigh the immediate sacrifices. Think of a child with a fist full of allowance money who wisely opts to save his money to purchase a bike, as opposed to buying candy or videos whenever the urge strikes. The same principle applies to adults managing the temptations of daily desires versus achieving long-term goals. The moment will pass, but will you still be confident in your choice next week, or next year?
Evaluate a “head choice” versus a “heart choice”
A “head choice” is a decision that makes a lot of sense on paper. A “heart choice” is one that speaks to your soul and meets a need or longing. Heart choices envelope your passion and emotion. Often, these choices are made without careful consideration because it feels good at the time and brings an emotional high, albeit short-lived. A bad relationship mistake can be made overnight because you only thought of the short-term benefits. Yet, someone who chooses a spouse from the “head choice” perspective alone aims to check off certain traits and ideals from a list and overlooks the importance of an emotional or spiritual bond. The best decisions often have both emotional rewards and make rational sense as well.
Consider if you could you survive if disappointed
Once you decide which path to take and you pursue it with all your might, what if you realize that you made a mistake? Can you survive even if you feel like you failed? It is important to weigh the cost of failure, and not just the financial cost, but the emotional devastation and the time and energy lost. While some disappointment comes with many decisions we make, it is important to assess our resiliency and coping skills when things don’t work out the way we had hoped. If you choose a path that would annihilate you if its outcome were unsuccessful, it is probably not a wise choice. Think through the “what if” questions before taking the plunge forward.
Respect the effect and influence of others
Take into account how your decision will affect those around you, particularly family members or close friends or associates who could be impacted. A single person typically has more flexibility to make a major life change, whereas a family needs to factor in other risks (or rewards) and consider the household impact. For example, a husband who is debating accepting a job that requires moving to another state should also think of the challenges that relocation may bring for his spouse and children as they would have to uproot and depart their current lifestyle and activities. Some major life choices can be awesome opportunities and bring much reward and blessings – but only in the context of the timing of the choice.
Go with what you know
While we can never have all the answers surrounding our options, we can do some serious research into picking the best option. Decisions should not be made solely on hopes, wishes, dreams and potential, but also on facts that can support the choice, if possible. Are you financially stable enough to recover if you chose one decision over another? Is there evidence that others have gained much from making a similar choice? And, will you be able to look back on the decision with confidence that you made the best decision with the information you had? Sometimes life calls for tough choices, and that’s OK. You can survive. You can go with what you know to help you make important decisions.