How to Make Difficult Decisions

Every once in a while, everyone encounters some sort of a crossroad. It might be regarding your career (whether to quit your corporate job and become a baker), your relationships (whether to be with Iris or Betsy), which sort of thing to study at university (philosophy or engineering), or whether to have a doughnut or a study session. Difficult choices are what define our lives in one way or another, and they’re not to be taken lightly, or the pain of regret will soon be on your taste buds. On the other hand, take them too seriously and you will never be able to convince yourself which choice is right. Whichever one you might be struggling with, finding the right answer is not an easy task, as unfortunately not even Google can provide you with a hint for this one.

One of the most important aspects of such decision making is to not listen to other people’s advice. Everyone has their own life story, with their own insecurities and failures, fears and weaknesses. For quite an understandable reason, when people are giving advice, they oft-times forget that not everyone has had the same type of experiences, and thus assume that our criteria for a good choice are the same as theirs. For instance, take your parents or grandparents: they’ve raised children and have had a family to support, hence they had to deal with something quite a few of the world’s families have to go through too – monetary issues. Not having enough to pay the rent, not being able to afford a nice enough Christmas gift, not being able to buy this or that or the other that for your family. In light of this experience, it only makes sense that if these people could re-do their life all over again, they’d study computer science instead of arts, or accounting instead of contemporary film making. Making money would be their top priority, and with strong rationale behind it too. But, for one reason or another, their priorities were different when they had to make this type of decision in the past, and thus it might seem to them that if they could do it again, they’d do it differently. Naturally, you’d want people to avoid making the same mistakes you did and thus we get the advice to study something more practical than interesting.

On the other end of the spectrum, some people might have made an opposite mistake – they’ve listened to their parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and studied something ‘useful’ – engineering, programming, finance, what have you. Now, being in the midst of their lives, they have a great apartment, a brand new car with leather seats, and yet one dullness of a life. Work is 40 hours of nothingness a week, co-workers are not the sort of people you’d want to hang out with if you could so choose, and money is worth nothing at all if you have nothing to spend it on. On the bright side, at least they can afford a decent therapist. Therefore, although it can be incredibly tempting to ask for direction from your parents, friends or the internet, you should avoid doing that as much as you can, or, at the very least, take it with a grain of salt. If you are lacking direction so much as to end up asking what other people think you should do, be sure to understand that they probably don’t know what you truly need in life, only what they would do if they were you, and, well… they’re not. Asking other people for advice can actually be a form of avoiding responsibility, as that’s a really appealing thing to do because making hard decisions can be more difficult than you’d think. It’s really tempting to be able to say “hey, my parents said I should study engineering so it’s not my fault I hate my life”. Unfortunately, it really is your fault, and refusing to accept that is only making it worse and preventing you from fixing your past blunders. In the end, no matter what you end up with, the choice was yours. Despite all the pressure, all the advice from your lovely grandma and Buzzfeed, you were the one who will live with the consequences, not anyone else. So pick responsibly, and pick for yourself.

On the other hand, one can of course get some incredible perspective form other people on what to do, yet less as a direct suggestion, and more as a method of introspection. Expressing your emotion to another person and thinking out loud is an incredibly valuable experience and can be the little nudge one needs to find the right direction. However, this sort of emotional guidance is available to a limited amount of our population, thus another way of action would be preferable, and that way is this: instead of listening to your nan and looking for external validation, a wiser thing to do is to search for internal one. What do you truly desire? What is your heart telling you do to? Sometimes, deep down, you know you’re making a bad decision, you just need to listen to yourself more and let go of all the other bothersome elements. Don’t push the voice down because it’s easier or because it’s saying something your mum doesn’t want to heart. That’s deception – in the long term it’s truly less risky to listen to your inner monologue than to regret not taking control of your life when you should have. At least then you can say that you made that decision because it seemed like the best one, and not out of anxiety or fear of displeasing one’s loved ones. Making decisions from the inside out allows you to learn from them and grow as a person, and it’s exactly that which makes for a good life. Or something. I’m twenty one, I’d know…

Anyway, putting everything aside, undoubtedly the most important thing to realise when making tough decisions is that there is nothing wrong with not making the best decision possible. Sure, picking one thing over another might open some doors and close others, but that doesn’t mean those were the only doors you’ll ever have the chance to open. Even though life really is a series of closing doors, who’s to say that different combinations of doors can’t lead to the same destination? Or, that some paths might be more rocky at first, and become more fulfilling over time, and vice versa. One day you might KNOW FOR A CERTAINTY that you want to get a photography degree, and the day after that you might start to think that you have made the biggest mistake of your life and how in the world could you have been so stupid not to see it before??

Tough decisions are tough for a reason, yet they are not your whole life. Mistakes can (usually) be fixed, failures can be learned from, and regrets can serve as a reminder what not to do. After all, both gloriously great and comically horrible decisions are what make us who we are, and if we end up not liking who we’ve become, it’s time to pick a door to open.