Decisions: How to Approach Them and How to Finalize Them (Must You Really?)

Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: pexels.com

Today’s post is based, in part, on a conversation I had with one of my oldest and best friends Olga De Jong. She’s a coach (https://www.olgadejong.be/) and I often learn a lot from what she shares about how she deals with issues, or from the techniques she shares with me.

This time we discussed a decision we need to make about my children’s education in the coming school year. There are a few options and I struggle with not being able to look into the future to find out which of these options will work best. Sounds familiar?

Some decisions we make are easy. Either we have a very clear preference (tea versus coffee), it is very obvious which decision will lead to what result (wearing shoes in the house or slippers), or the result of the decision is of little significance (what to eat for dinner). We make those decisions all the time, and often turn one option into a habit so we don’t even have to think about it anymore.

Decisions become harder when we find that different options fill different needs. Eating junk food doesn’t make us good physically but might help comfort us. Cleaning up is boring now but will lead to more calm and peace in the long run. In many of these cases, we kind of know what the ‘healthy’ option is but find ourselves tempted by something different. It’s not so much the decision that’s hard, but more so following through on it.

The hardest decisions are those that have two or more options, that could lead to very different but unpredictable outcomes: Where do I move? Which job do I take? Do we have children or not? Do we stay in this relationship or end it?

These are the decisions we struggle with most of all. Because the outcome is potentially huge and because we fear ‘making the wrong decision’. Something we will only be able to evaluate after the facts, and sometimes long after the facts.

I’ve been fortunate to find some helpful bits of information for decision-making over the past few years and want to share them with you here.

Decisions happen

When I was discussing when/whether to return to my job with my therapist back in January, I found myself almost paralyzed by it. There seemed to be no right answer and the feeling that I had to make the decision was weighing on a depression that already felt heavy enough. At one point, my therapist said: You don’t have to make this decision now. Just focus on resting and recovery, and the decision will happen on its own. From then on, whenever I found myself going in these circles again in my head, I focussed on doing what needed to be done now. Little by little I gained strength, talked with people about options and outcomes, and a decision grew organically. It doesn’t work for everything, but maybe for more than we think.

What inspires your pros and cons?

When Olga suggested I make a list for each of my children’s education options, at first I was a little hesitant. Making a pros and cons list had never helped me before. But then she added the following crucial step: now circle every item on that list that is based on ‘love’. That blew my mind! Many of the reasons for choosing one option versus another are reasons based on something other than love: they may be fear-based (he won’t have any friends), or just practical (I’ll be driving around too much). They may be based on other people’s opinions, too (my mom thinks this is best). Finding out what reasons are based on love, kindness and compassion can be eye-opening.

Nobody consciously makes the wrong decision

In many cases, there is no possible knowing what a decision will lead to, and yet we’re afraid we’ll make the wrong decision. But if there’s no possibility of knowing the result, can we really make the wrong choice? We’re all doing the best we can, also in the decisions we make. Decisions in themselves are neither good nor bad, they are just a choice with a consequence. When it’s important to finalize a decision, sometimes inaction is worse than any kind of action and it doesn’t really matter so much what we decide as long as we decide. When I look back on some of the decisions I’ve made in my life, I know that I would do it differently this time around. But I also know that I made the best decision possible for the person I was and with the knowledge I had.

Tomorrow brings a new decision

Some decisions feel so big that we think they will determine the entire outcome of our lives. In the end, I’ve only made one decision that proved to be completely irreversible, and that was the decision to have children (and, by extension, how many children). Every other decision I made was followed up with other decisions and choices: which job I took, where we lived, what I studied in college and which relationship I was in. We get to evaluate our decisions when we get some feedback and make choices at those times as well. Few things in life are forever etched in stone. That realisation can take some of the weight off of our shoulders when we are trying to decide something. If my daughter switches hobbies but finds she doesn’t like it, we can decide to switch back. If we move to China but it ends up being horrible, we can leave.

Knowing all of the above has given me some peace of mind. Sure, I still need to bite the bullet and actually decide, but I don’t have to do it right now, I can change my decision later, I can focus on reasons that are based on love and I can rest in the fact that whatever I decide, it will be the best possible decision I can make at that moment.

And now, breakfast.

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