How Do You Make Hard Life Choices?
A few years ago I wrote about how taking a leap of faith in myself was the biggest and most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life. A reader made a comment about how that act of taking a leap of faith requires a ton of self-reflection, meditation, and self-inquiry and she would like me to expand on that. So here you go …
Every few years, most of us go through a period in our lives where we start questioning the path we are on. We may end up changing jobs, leaving relationships, moving cities, embarking on solo travels, and going through an extensive period of soul-searching.
I am just like you. I might seem like I’ve got it all together but if you are close to me, you’d know that I get confused as much and as often as you do. From wanting to move away from home, moving to a new country, one university after another, one city after another, one job after another, one man after another, one group of close friends after another, I am just one fickle, indecisive human being who seems to float through life like a bird.
To my mom’s eyes - someone who has been in the same job for the past 30 years, lives in the same place, and does the same routine - I am like a balloon. Literally, this is what she said the last time I was back home. She said,
“You’re like a balloon. You’re floating around up in the air with no anchor. One day you’re going to pop.”
I laughed when she said that. We can’t be any more different. To her, the scariest thing is to be a balloon that pops and lands in an unfamiliar land full of unfamiliar faces. To me, that’s probably the most exciting adventure of all.
I don’t need an anchor. I am my own anchor.
But this is how self-awareness, self-reflection, and self-inquiry come in. You need to know yourself well enough to know what matters to you. You need to know yourself well enough to know what would make you feel fulfilled.
Sometimes I feel that my search for freedom is a testament to that - to the fact that I grew up with a mom who wants to control everything in her life so much; who craves stability and certainty so much that everything she grabbed ran away from her. But she is happy now, with a man who shares that exact same value - having extreme stability and certainty in life. They are now two peas in a pod, and I couldn’t be happier she found someone compatible to grow old with.
Back to pondering upon life choices, I don’t believe there are right or wrong choices. But the choices you make end up leading you to different things in life.
At the end of the day, it’s a question of “are you happy with the choices you make” or “do you regret making those choices”.
If you’re trying to make a decision between two choices, I’d encourage you to map out the paths.
I’m sure the choices are different and present different values. Therefore, you’d end up living different lives, taking different actions, and feeling differently about yourself and your life.
If you can’t make a decision, it’s probably because you value the values both of the choices embrace. However, sometimes the two or three values you embrace can’t co-exist. So you end up having to make a decision and sacrifice one thing in order to have the other.
For me, it always comes back to the question: what will make me happiest and most fulfilled at the end of my life?
Even then, it’s still hard. Here's what you can do:
- Write down what the choices are and what the life paths would look like.
- Give each of them a score. How happy would I be on path A? How happy would I be on path B?
- Prioritize the values. Out of all the values I value, which one is most important to me? Arrange your values in order and go with the choice that embraces the value you cherish the most. Sometimes it’s hard to know what will make us happier. So you have to come back to your values. The things you do that embrace your core values the most will make you happiest and most fulfilled in the long run.
- Make a decision and stick to it. Be happy with the life you choose to live. Forget the other path because otherwise, you’ll always be wondering 'what if'.
Use these worksheets to help you figure it out.