Tuesday, April 30, 2019

How to Make Better Decisions

Decisions, Decisions...we are bombarded with them daily from the monumental to the inconsequential. When you really stop and think about it, our life is shaped by (and ultimately a series of) choices that we have made to get to where we are today- from the city we choose to live in, the school we attended, the career path we've pursued, how much we allocate to our hobbies or working out in a month, the person we call our significant other, the friends we have decided to associate with and in many cases the timing in which we wish to incorporate the more significant events of life such as: when to get married, plan to start trying for a family, the timing of finally turning that hobby or passion project into a full-blown business and everything else in between.

One thing is for sure, in this lifetime we will all experience the feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, confusion, stress or fear at times along with the opposite feelings of possibility that surround it like excitement and anticipation, all of which are components of decision making. My goal for today's post is to get you thinking about how to make better decisions for your own life. I hope your eyes will be opened up to new ideas and tactics that will assist you as you make your most important life decisions so that you're armed with the confidence and conviction to decide without wavering or second guessing yourself, nor experiencing feelings of regret long after your choices have been made.

I vividly remember making one of the hardest decisions that I've ever been faced with...the decision to leave my marriage of nearly 10 years, something I did not take lightly especially with a two-year-old to consider. It was something that I contemplated on a few different occasions due to certain patterns observed over the years, behaviors, and the loneliness that I often felt as we lived apart many times while he traveled overseas along with lack of partnership. I could also see its impact on my sweet little girl and if I wanted her to experience a different and better life, I knew it was up to me to make the bold move so she we could both experience the joy and fullness that life has to offer. If I'm really honest with myself, my gut told me something wasn't quite right the first month following our wedding. I initially disregarded my gut instincts and instead forged ahead making the best of not only a less than ideal situation and relationship, but also dishonored myself and tolerated so many things that I never would have nor did while dating anyone. If I had experienced such things earlier in time, I would never have made such a serious commitment. However, because of that promise and feeling a certain level of shame in not being able to 'make it work', I stayed. I'm grateful to have my beautiful daughter as a result, so not all was lost, there was a purpose for that season of my life.

If you've followed along here for a while, you may have wondered why family posts and life shares came to a grinding halt a few years ago in 2016 both here as well as on social media, it was the year I was faced with reliving my own childhood as I contemplated life as not only a single woman after a decade or being married but also become *gasp* a single mom, following in the footsteps of my own mother. I have sooo much respect for every single mama out there (and I developed a new found admiration for mine), ladies it is hard! After our many conversations I considered her life lessons, regrets and advice. I was also very grateful to have her full support no matter what I decided. Although her and my father's situation, experiences and reasons were entirely different from my own in parting ways, I gained insight from the many conversations she and I had. While I have a wonderful relationship with my mom, I also have an amazingly close relationship with my father and I am eternally grateful for his love and support as he was instrumental in our move to the west coast, I'm thankful to now be living just minutes away from him here in the Bay Area! While I listened to the advice of loved ones along, spent time in prayer and quiet reflection, considered both sides of my decision, read relevant books and sought out wise counsel, what I finally realized I needed the most was to listen to my heart and my gut instinct, to stop drowning out the feelings I felt for so long and truly embrace what I knew I needed to do.

I want to break down the methods I personally use while making decisions because nearly 3 years after taking that big step which included moving across the country, what I know for sure is that although difficult, I felt complete confidence in myself and my decisions which allowed me to squash any fear and instead focus all of my energy and time on the positive: my next steps, the bright future for my daughter and I which I'm currently living out today. And in case you're wondering....in the process of learning the art of better decision making and staying true to myself, at the right time I ended up meeting the most incredible man- my sweetie Byron who is such an awesome, ever-present and loving daddy to our sweet princess, they have built such a beautiful relationship together and it's so precious to see the way she adores him (you can see some of our family adventures on instagram).


7 Tips for Making Better Decisions

1. Go with Your Gut-There is research proving that our first inclination is typically accurate, after all nobody knows us better than we know ourselves. Often times we intuitively already know the answer even before contemplating our best course of action. We were all given a sense of intuition for a reason, we need only trust it instead of looking outside of ourselves. This may feel different for each person, for me it feels like a sense of peace and in warning scenarios it's a tightening feeling and a sense of uneasiness in my diaphragm, something to pay attention to. You may not be as able to detect such a feeling while you're searching for an answer but I can assure that if you think back to a decision that has gone wrong, you may recall having felt that nagging sense of 'I knew I should have done such and such but didn't listen to my inner wisdom", use this feeling as a guide for making better future decisions. My gut warned me a few months into my marriage that there were red flags, I chose to ignore my gut and instead convinced myself that maybe my expectations were too high and these were just the adjustments to living together under one roof, when in reality I was in an unhealthy relationship. I'm thankful that I ultimately listened to my inner voice, allowing it serve as my guide.

2. Get Clear on Your Values- When we become crystal clear on what our goals and values are, we will be far less likely to operate out of a place of fear. For example, deciding to remain in a romantic relationship with someone that you know is not right for you because it's comfortable and you're not sure if anyone will ever love you again or because you don't want to be single and faced with the dating world again is making a choice for all the wrong reasons and stems from a fear-based mindset. Instead, when we know what we need within a relationship (as well as what we have to offer), the characteristics we would most like our partner to possess as well as what how we wish to feel as a couple, it's far easier to use that as a guide to choose well. 

When it comes to what we desire for a career, we can consider aspects as deeply as how we wish to be able to dress for our job everyday, how often we're willing to travel and possibly be away from loved ones or how much time we are willing to invest for the experience, education, salary offered, potential career advancement opportunities down the road, even the type of relationship we'd like to have with our boss or coworkers. Maybe a job offer involves a move out of state to a location that has a completely different climate, is located away from close friends and family, etc. What you decide at 25 will likely be different than what you decide at 40 because as time progresses our goals, dreams and what's important to us will change. It's vital to continually check in and make sure we're making the best decisions for the current lifestyle we lead.

3. Sleep on It- I have slept on every single big decision I have ever made in life and have never regretted it. While the answer won't necessarily be revealed to us in a dream (although I have had that experience a few times!) when we feel tired, stressed and overwhelmed with a variety of emotions and the demands of life is precisely when we need to take a break and give our body and brain some rest. If you can't sleep on it, at the very least commit to spending some quiet time alone in prayer or meditation.

4. Spend Time in Meditation / Prayer- When I face my most difficult challenges in life, I take them to God. Sometimes that means quickly praying in my car before a meeting that I make the best decision for my family or the one that will reveal the highest good for all. I often find tranquility and can clear my mind by sitting in a quiet, dark room or one with relaxing meditation music and sense an answer to a question just come to me. In this noisy world, solitude is greatly beneficial as we struggle to be present in the moment, it allows our brain a reprieve from the many demands upon us and allows us to return to self. Taking a walk in nature is one of my favorite activities, the sounds of ocean waves crashing, birds chirping or leaves crunching under my feet have such a calming effect.

5. Gather Facts- Most decisions are multi-dimensional and affect multiple facets of our life. For example going back to school may impact your entire household's schedule. This in turn may alter our personal life such as how we spend weekends, our significant other and possibly our relationship with them and our children. Due to cost, it can also impact the amount of disposable income available which in turn affects the entire family's happiness in the short term even though the long term goals of great earning power may be a reality. It's important to consider all angles, do some research, speak with others who have had to make similar decisions. Sometimes you'll need to collect far more information than you initially considered (as with contemplating a move overseas) vs. deciding something less involved such as which elementary school your child should attend for example. In my case moving across the country involved moving costs, logistics, a change of career (working for someone else vs. myself), a higher cost of living, closer proximity to my own immediate family, educating myself on preschool and daycare options in a new state along with realizing a better overall quality of life in terms of connecting with nature, climate, outdoor enjoyment, living in a more progressive state-we love having so much at our fingertips here.

6. Create a Deadline- When my dad suffered a massive heart attack a year and a half ago, as his daughter and immediate family who was present, I needed to make quick health decisions on his behalf while he was in the ICU so I didn't have the luxury of pondering options for days endlessly. However, I did have a short defined period to do so. Typically we do have more time on our side, and in such cases I think it's valuable to create an end point whether it's 24 hours, 3 days or a week, I don't think dwelling on something for long stretches of time actually benefit us, most times within about a weeks' time we already know the answer but are just afraid to make the wrong move.

7. Decide, Commit, and Move On- One of the best approaches to decision making is to fully embrace and commit to a choice. There should be no wavering afterward. Don't analyze it later, trust yourself and the decision you've made and just move forward. If you overthink every decision that you make, you will literally drive yourself crazy, and possibly those around you! Living in constant regret is no way to live at all. Be confident that you have made the best possible decision for your life and if you need to pivot at some point in the future, by all means do it, but know that each decision we make will ultimately lead to others, the lessons gathered along the way can only help propel us forward in an even more positive way.

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I'd love to know what strategies you use while facing difficult decisions. What was one of the most challenging ones you've had to make?


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