Life is full of choices. Some require little thought or reflection—like the choice of what to eat for dinner— while others demand rigorous deliberation. When it comes to your career, you’ve likely already made several difficult choices in the past and will undoubtedly face many more.
There is a natural give and take in every decision. Usually, whenever something is gained, something else is lost. In order to make wise choices, you must weigh the risks against the potential rewards. You must make predictions and assumptions and, at times, great leaps of faith. Choices are rarely ever black and white, all good or all bad, clearly right or clearly wrong. They are complicated and multi-dimensional; prisms through which no two people will see the same world.
As with most things in life, putting in the effort on the front end is the best way to reduce the potential for disappointing results on the back end. There is no guarantee, of course. Even the most thoughtful decisions have been known to backfire. A choice is, most often, nothing more than a best guess—a hopeful step in a new direction.
So, when facing a career choice, whether big or small, how can you make sure you’re approaching the situation with the appropriate level of consideration? How can you ensure your “guess” is truly the best you can do? Below, I’ve outlined a few points to remember in your decision-making process.
Choices reflect values
Your life is the result of your choices. Every choice shapes your reality and is a reflection of who you are, what you value and what you want. Making choices that conflict with your underlying values will inevitably lead to restlessness and dissatisfaction. If you aren’t happy with the choices you’ve made in the past, evaluate your values and what motivated your decision. More than likely, there was a disconnect.
Emotions influence choices
Recognize the role that emotions play in your decision-making process. Though it’s unrealistic—and unhealthy—to suppress emotions completely, it’s helpful to understand how they influence your behaviors. Look for the messages beneath the emotions; let your heart and your head work together to find the best solutions.
Don’t rush yourself
Anxiety and urgency almost always have a negative impact on decision-making. Don’t let a ticking clock push you into a choice you haven’t properly evaluated. Sure, you likely don’t have an infinite amount of time with which to work, but avoid placing unnecessary deadlines on yourself. Be thorough and balance your desire for a quick resolution with your need for a well thought-out decision-making process.
NOT making a choice is still a choice
You can’t simply ignore a decision that has to be made and expect it to go away. Choosing not to choose is an abdication of power but it’s still a choice in its own special way. It’s the choice to observe rather than participate, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are times when you’re better off simply letting a situation run its course without attempting to steer it in any direction. Sit back, allow events to unfold, and let the path form naturally.
Refuse “either/or” dilemmas
There are always more options. When you trap yourself in limited thinking, you fail to see the real opportunities. Don’t place artificial restrictions on yourself or the possibilities the world has to offer. When you face an “either/or” dilemma, look for the grey space in between. This isn’t an empty void; it’s a deep and endless well of potential.
Trust in yourself, trust in others, trust in the Universe. Have a little faith that everything will work out well, whether or not the future looks exactly the way you had imagined it. Remember that change is constant and you have the resources to manage whatever comes along. Your choices have consequences that shape your reality; you always have the opportunity to make different choices in the future and create a new reality for yourself.
Remember that a well thought-out choice is never wrong, no matter what happens. It might be tempting to blame yourself when things don’t turn out the way you had anticipated, but this accomplishes nothing. Don’t dwell in regret. Simply accept the lesson and move on. Take what you’ve learned with you and use it the next time you face a difficult choice in your career or elsewhere in life.
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