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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 31, 2020

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

Why We Procrastinate After All?

We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

Is Procrastination Bad?

Yes it is.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

How Bad Procrastination Can Be

Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article: 8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

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Procrastination, a Technical Failure

Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

Learn more about how to fix your procrastination problem here: What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide)

Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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