Do you often struggle to make a decision be it career, job, relationship? Is there something you feel is very important but can’t figure out what to do? Ask yourself these three questions when you can’t make the decision?
Part of Kathy Caprino’s series “The Most Powerful You”
Back in 2004, I had left my 18-year corporate marketing career for good, and was in the process of a complete career transformation. I was studying to become a marriage and family therapist, and engrossed in my Master’s degree studies in that field. I had one year left to go in my studies and began obsessively worrying about the exact next steps I should take after graduation.
I’d go over and over questions in my mind, day and night, such as, “Should I work for a social services agency, or go out on my own?” “What about starting a private practice—can I afford this or should I take another route? “If I do proceed in that direction, should I launch a new venture with several of the other people in my program, or join an existing practice?” And “When should I start this process of creating a new practice?”
The questions kept coming, with no end in sight and no solid answers emerging. The options rolled around in my head continuously and gave me so much anxiety. I asked a good number of people what they thought, but it still didn’t resolve my confusion. I couldn’t quell my fears that I’d blow it and make a very bad move, in great part because I’d made a lot of wrong moves in my previous corporate life that really hurt me and led me far from who I wanted to be. For the life of me, I just couldn’t make a decision about what I should do.
During that time, I had a conversation with my friend and colleague Trudy Griswold and told her of my dilemma, and she shared some powerful advice that was life-changing for me. I follow this advice to this day and offer it any chance I get—to my clients, course members, colleagues, family and friends—whenever they too are in the swirl of indecision that is keeping them up at night and fueling chaos and anxiety.
Here’s what Trudy shared and how I’ve interpreted and used it all these years:
When you’re in the middle of a period of gripping indecisiveness (what I now call “the swirl” thanks to a client who shared that term with me) about something you feel is very important but can’t figure out what to do, take a step back and examine your decision-making process as a whole. Ask yourself three key questions:
#1: Do I have enough information to make this decision?
So often, we go around and around about an issue or question, trying to make a decision when in fact, we simply don’t have a sufficient amount of data, research, experience or information to arrive at a successful conclusion or opinion. For me, for instance, I had a full year to go in my studies, including a long period of both an internal therapeutic internship (at the therapy clinic at my university) and an external intern role where I’d be working directly for a local social services agency providing therapeutic support on a wide range of client issues.
It turns out that after doing these yearlong internships, so much was answered for me. In short, I needed that year of additional training and learning before I could make any kind of sound decision on my next step after graduation.
#2: Do I have to make this decision now?
Secondly, is this a decision that must be made today or even this month or year? If not, stop agonizing. It’s not time yet to decide. Identify when you really do need to make this decision and put the actual due date on your calendar, then let it go.