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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
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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.

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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 November 18, 2020

15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)
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It’s okay, you can finally admit it. It’s been two months since you’ve seen the inside of the gym. Getting sick, family crisis, overtime at work and school papers that needed to get finished all kept you for exercising. Now, the question is: how do you start again?
Once you have an exercise habit, it becomes automatic. You just go to the gym, there is no force involved. But after a month, two months or possibly a year off, it can be hard to get started again. Here are some tips to climb back on that treadmill after you’ve fallen off.

  1. Don’t Break the Habit – The easiest way to keep things going is simply not to stop. Avoid long breaks in exercising or rebuilding the habit will take some effort. This may be advice a little too late for some people. But if you have an exercise habit going, don’t drop it at the first sign of trouble.
  2. Reward Showing Up – Woody Allen once said that, “Half of life is showing up.” I’d argue that 90% of making a habit is just making the effort to get there. You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you run or the amount you can bench press later.
  3. Commit for Thirty Days – Make a commitment to go every day (even just for 20 minutes) for one month. This will solidify the exercise habit. By making a commitment you also take pressure off yourself in the first weeks back of deciding whether to go.
  4. Make it Fun – If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym, it is going to be hard to keep it a habit. There are thousands of ways you can move your body and exercise, so don’t give up if you’ve decided lifting weights or doing crunches isn’t for you. Many large fitness centers will offer a range of programs that can suit your tastes.
  5. Schedule During Quiet Hours – Don’t put exercise time in a place where it will easily be pushed aside by something more important. Right after work or first thing in the morning are often good places to put it. Lunch-hour workouts might be too easy to skip if work demands start mounting.
  6. Get a Buddy – Grab a friend to join you. Having a social aspect to exercising can boost your commitment to the exercise habit.
  7. X Your Calendar – One person I know has the habit of drawing a red “X” through any day on the calendar he goes to the gym. The benefit of this is it quickly shows how long it has been since you’ve gone to the gym. Keeping a steady amount of X’s on your calendar is an easy way to motivate yourself.
  8. Enjoyment Before Effort – After you finish any work out, ask yourself what parts you enjoyed and what parts you did not. As a rule, the enjoyable aspects of your workout will get done and the rest will be avoided. By focusing on how you can make workouts more enjoyable, you can make sure you want to keep going to the gym.
  9. Create a Ritual – Your workout routine should become so ingrained that it becomes a ritual. This means that the time of day, place or cue automatically starts you towards grabbing your bag and heading out. If your workout times are completely random, it will be harder to benefit from the momentum of a ritual.
  10. Stress Relief – What do you do when your stressed? Chances are it isn’t running. But exercise can be a great way to relieve stress, releasing endorphin which will improve your mood. The next time you feel stressed or tired, try doing an exercise you enjoy. When stress relief is linked to exercise, it is easy to regain the habit even after a leave of absence.
  11. Measure Fitness – Weight isn’t always the best number to track. Increase in muscle can offset decreases in fat so the scale doesn’t change even if your body is. But fitness improvements are a great way to stay motivated. Recording simple numbers such as the number of push-ups, sit-ups or speed you can run can help you see that the exercise is making you stronger and faster.
  12. Habits First, Equipment Later – Fancy equipment doesn’t create a habit for exercise. Despite this, some people still believe that buying a thousand dollar machine will make up for their inactivity. It won’t. Start building the exercise habit first, only afterwards should you worry about having a personal gym.
  13. Isolate Your Weakness – If falling off the exercise wagon is a common occurrence for you, find out why. Do you not enjoy exercising? Is it a lack of time? Is it feeling self-conscious at the gym? Is it a lack of fitness know-how? As soon as you can isolate your weakness, you can make steps to improve the situation.
  14. Start Small – Trying to run fifteen miles your first workout isn’t a good way to build a habit. Work below your capacity for the first few weeks to build the habit. Otherwise you might scare yourself off after a brutal workout.
  15. Go for Yourself, Not to Impress – Going to the gym with the only goal of looking great is like starting a business with only the goal to make money. The effort can’t justify the results. But if you go to the gym to push yourself, gain energy and have a good time, then you can keep going even when results are slow.

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