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How to Deal with Decision Making at Tough Crossroads of Life

How to Deal with Decision Making at Tough Crossroads of Life

Crossroads.

That is one of the few words I regularly used (too much) in my early twenties. Why? I was at a stage when I was presented with multiple directions to choose, yet not wise or experienced enough to make the decision without fear of failing or regrets. Often I felt the energy and drive to charge forward, but I was afraid that I might choose the wrong path or if I’d miss the opportunity to build on my expertise if I hopped around too much.

Need versus desire

Advises were all around but they’re just that, opinions of others, perspectives on what mattered to them rather than yourself. Often, we’re being told that we cannot have the best of both worlds, or even to go with the flow and see how things go.

It was hard. Sometimes we have to choose between what we need versus what we desire, other times we have to weigh the importance and pick what we value most. It was hard because as a competitive person, a rebel and as a go-getter, I felt obliged to take up such challenges, to pursue what others told me I couldn’t do, and so I did.

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Of course, there were moments when I made decisions right there and then, and never looked back because I know those were what I wanted all along. I’d charge on regardless of the obstacles ahead.

Then, there were times when I was unsure and indecisive, and I ended up making (some huge) mistakes which I’d never forget over my lifetime; like how I sacrificed four years in a company that didn’t even care about my career progression because it was well-paid. I was in the same position, taking the same salary for 3.5 years and it was my longest employment to date. It took me two years to finally decide it was the last straw and time to make the grand exit. That was when my career took flight and I realized how much more I could have gained had I left earlier.

The direction and decisions we take

Precisely because we are humans who will err, and we all want to avoid making expensive mistakes, it is so vital that we know who we are and what matters to us so that when we are presented with options, we are clear about the direction and decisions we’ll make.

So what happens when our stable life gets rocky with changes around us, most times beyond our control?

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It’s common to expect changes, but what if we come across big changes that require us to make choices that will affect us in ways we might never imagine? Having to leave a place we call home? Changing our environment or even profession?  Having to let go of what matter so much to us?

What if you are a free soul and you suddenly have to enter a situation where you’d be tied down for life? What if your life goal is to travel the world but you tend to get bogged down by commitments after commitments? What if your aim was to start your dream career but you need to stay in the job that you hate to pay your bills? What if you have your months / years / life all planned out and things take quite a turn, forcing you to change your priorities or even let go of your dreams for now?

In such situations, we often feel a sense of loss; loss of direction, loss of sense of belonging, loss of something that we held on to for so long. When you are clear about who you are, and what are important to you, it makes your situation more manageable and decisions simpler.

Understand who you are

Are you someone who prefers stability or likes a good challenge? Are you patient or fickle-minded? Do you value quality or aesthetic? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What sort of character and personality do you have? Are you practical or idealistic? Do you tend to sit on the fence or stand firm on your point of view? Are you strong-willed or easy-going?

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The little-known facts about you matter because often times when we choose to ignore who we are and choose something we’re not, or try to become someone we’re not, we become unhappy and disgruntled in our earlier decisions.

Find out what matters to you 

Do you carry any life principles that you’d never bend backward on regardless of what situations you come across? What do you value? Friendships? Morality? Integrity? Family? Loyalty? Knowledge?

These will help you weigh the pros and cons of your decisions in the majority of the tough situations you will come across.

If you have the opportunity to relocate overseas for work but you are a family person, how do you decide when you value both family and career? Which matters more to you?

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Pick up lessons learned from tough experiences

Changes and adversities can build or break a person, depending on how we respond. How do we see the light in dark times? What can we learn from tough situations? How do we make decisions that are best for us, even with much uncertainties and insecurities?

Stagnant and stable times may be good, but they cause us to be complacent. We fall into routines that we do almost on autopilot mode, yet nothing ever seems to change or improve. Choices allow us the opportunity to do something different, or even start afresh.

We actually learn more about ourselves from these difficult experiences. We pick up on how we manage ourselves and our responses in difficult situations when we try to make difficult decisions. We learn how we manage emotionally, psychologically and mentally; sometimes our body react to changes in ways we don’t even know; if we are pessimistic or optimistic, how we act in situations when we need to decide, if we are one who faces the music or runs away with excuses; on our thought processes and how we weigh our options.

On top of that, we build ourselves to be stronger, wiser and more resilient for the future.

Look forward, always

Although we may not want to welcome big abrupt changes that can turn our lives upside down, when they happen, they happen. No matter how grim a situation looks like now, there is always a silver lining at the end.
Old times may be good or even great but they are over. We can only look forward with confidence and positive mentality. We can choose to complain and live in the good old times but we can also choose to look forward to better days ahead. Have an open mindset and be willing to explore try out new things even if they feel challenging at first.
Appreciate what you had before but look towards the future with anticipation and excitement. Integrate what you have gained or learned before into what you’re going into moving forward. Our priorities change at different points in our lives. However hard it may be to accept, it is a fact. If we choose to ignore making decisions, we might end up in places where we don’t want to be in the first place, making it even tougher to get out.
Our goals may get postponed as our paths get diverted with changes and decisions to make, but when we are clear about what we want and who we are, we will still reach the destination we aim for eventually. In the meantime, what we can do is to enjoy the ride.

Featured photo credit: Hermanne Allan Poe via magickfromscratch.files.wordpress.com

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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