“He still had some doubts about the decision he had made. But he was able to understand one thing: making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”
- Paulo Coehlo, The Alchemist
When was the last time you really struggled with making a difficult decision? Take a moment to reflect on the situation. What factors influenced your final choice? And looking back, did you make the right one?
We will all face a number of forks in the road throughout our lives. The important part is that we remember to keep moving forward. We don’t want to have to back-track and take the path initially overlooked. And many times this is not even possible, as the other paths appear to disintegrate once we have started in our direction of choice. Of course, we rarely know where each path will lead us in the end—which is what makes the deciding part so challenging. Who knows, maybe the paths will cross again one day, or meet back up at the finish line?
The fact of the matter is, our decisions have a hand in shaping the outcomes of our lives. In some situations, there is not really a wrong decision—whatever you choose will lead you to another exciting adventure. An example of this may be choosing what subject to major in at university or college. People change majors all the time. And although there will still be consequences to this decision (such as wasting spending money on courses not required for earning your degree), there are also benefits (such as meeting your best friend in that class where you learned absolutely nothing you can apply to real life). As for making those decisions which, in the moment, feel crucial in their ability to dictate your overall well-being… well, we’ll get to that.
First, I wanted to highlight three ways to look at the act of decision-making. This may be difficult to fathom in the moment of deciding, but if you take a step back to observe, you may realize making the right choice is easier than it looks.
Every decision we make is a learning experience.
This may be more easily recognized with some decisions than others, but it is always worth noting. If your decision ends up resulting in a missed opportunity or a lost friendship, for example, you will find there is a valuable lesson to be taken from the experience. And in the end, it will make you a better person, as you are able to apply this understanding to future circumstances.
Often, making the decision is the highest obstacle to climb.
Although you may not believe it at the time, it is often true that deciding is the hardest part. Once you make your decision, and feel confident in your choice, then you can move forward down the given path. Sure, you might trip over the odd tree root stretching across your way, but you may also stumble across a beautiful stone bridge stretching over a sparkling creek. And in continuing across this bridge, you could discover this is where your dreams will come true. But if you avoid making the decision, you may never even reach the bridge.
Each decision is a stepping stone to your final destination.
Sometimes, it might not matter which direction you choose. Whether you decide to start an entry-level job and take your time climbing the corporate ladder, or whether you choose to return to school and earn your Master’s degree—years later, both routes could lead you to snagging that VP position with the 6-digit salary. And who knows? Maybe another five years after that, you quit your prestigious 9 to 5 office job to start your own business or to start a family. Either way you look at it, your choices have led you to the same place; you just picked whatever solution and experience made sense at the time.
Now back to that part about making a life-changing decision. Don’t all decisions have the prospective of being “life-changing?” You know, like the had-you-not-chosen-to-go-grocery-shopping-on-that-Sunday-afternoon-at-that-supermarket-you-never-would-have-met-the-love-of-your-life story. But really, if it came down to something as significant as meeting your soul mate, wouldn’t the winds blow you in the right direction the next day anyway? Who knows, maybe meeting at the car wash would have been more exciting (and less cliché). But it doesn’t matter. Because you met him at the supermarket, and that’s the story you love to imagine telling your grandchildren one day. I digress.
The important part is that you make the decision. Eventually, it’s going to lead to another decision anyway. If you spend your life hesitating and second-guessing yourself, it’s just going to take you that much longer to cross the bridge. And don’t you want to find out what’s waiting for you on the other side?