Making Decisions Can Be Overwhelming, Here’s How I Do It

By: Chantal Redmond

From my junior year of high school to my early twenties I found making decisions very overwhelming. Deciding which college to attend, which major to study, and what career to pursue made my head spin. On top of feelings of confusion, guilt, and failure, as a black woman, I felt pressured to live above the stereotype, which didn’t make finalizing a decision any less daunting. Who has that kind of energy? I’m here to tell you decision making doesn’t have to be such an emotional rollercoaster. I’m not a life coach or a therapist, but I have found a process that works for me and maybe what I’ve learned can help you.

When I was faced with a big decision, I would let different scenarios play through my head over and over throughout the day. This is very counterproductive because I let myself become distracted from everyday life, and I was essentially worrying the whole time without coming to a real conclusion. Instead, now I designate time to work through my thoughts. This time may involve thinking, journaling, making a list, researching, or using whatever method you need to help you work through making the decision.

How much time you set aside is up to you. When I was deciding on which neighborhood to move to, I set aside an hour a day. When I needed to choose on a career path, I gave myself three months. It is easy to feel like you’re too busy, but everybody has seven hours in a week to give. That’s only one hour a day and there are 168 hours in a week. You might have to sacrifice a Power episode (or dare I say a season) to come to a conclusion, but it will be more than worth it in the end. It was for me anyway.

Sometimes my problem with making a decision is having no idea about what I want at all. If I don’t know what I want specifically, I start with what I value. For example, when deciding what career to pursue I noted that I enjoy writing. Besides actually writing, I value having a flexible work location, answering to myself, managing my own time, being creative, and being able to support myself financially.

All of these values played a major role in helping me decision to pursue freelance writing, but everything wasn’t rosy. I had to weigh the potential risks, assess how big they were, and decide if they were worth it. I asked myself plenty of questions. For instance, will I be able to support myself while I launch my writing career? Will I be disciplined enough to write every day? Is making my own hours too much freedom?

After playing devil’s advocate against my values, I decided the risks were worth it for me. Weighing risks wasn’t always easy, so I followed this advanced pros and cons list. To sum it up, you make a standard list of pros and cons, rate them from one to ten, and weight them against each other. This one is really beneficial when I’m on the fence.

By now, I have made a decision. Next, I reverse engineer, research, and make a plan. The key is to see the plan through, trust it, and be patient. I am in the middle of this stage with my freelance writing.

There are steps to follow and I have to be patient about a number of things like hearing back from potential clients, with myself because my writing speed isn’t where I want it to be, and I am having a hard time balancing my schedule. With time and a little trial and error, everything will fall into place. I will become a faster writer and figure out how to balance my career and personal life. I just have to be patient and trust the process will get me there.

Don’t be discouraged if your plan doesn’t work out. As I’ve heard before, if option a, b, and c don’t work for you, there’s still the rest of the alphabet. For example, I had no idea what I wanted to major in, but I knew what I liked. Based on what I enjoyed, I decided to major in international relations.

After a few classes, I realized I was not a fan of politics at all, so I switched my major to modern languages. The issue of graduating late made me change my mind in a heartbeat, so I finally chose French. Choosing a major didn’t work out the first or second time, but I kept tweaking my plan and figured it out.

Big decisions will always be stressful, but they don’t have to necessarily be overwhelming. Remember to give yourself time, check your values, weigh them against the risks, make a final decision and stick to it, make a plan, be patient, and be flexible about tweaking your plan. Trust the process and you’ll get there before you know it.

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