What To Do? Cracking The Code Of Hard Decisions

We have all been there. When faced with decisions concerning big changes in life, planning the future and deciding between seemingly impossible-to-pick scenarios, people get a little overwhelmed to say the least. The underlying reason is simple, we really don’t want to make the wrong decision. What makes a decision wrong? At the end, it’s about not being happy with the results and making the alternatives look better in hindsight.

First of all, there is no way of actually knowing whether the alternatives would have been better. Simply put, these scenarios don’t exist in reality and have never existed anywhere other than your own mind. Upon finally deciding, people start to shape their outer world according to their inner resolutions. Yet, the decision itself is nothing but a mere thought. Simple decisions have clear outcomes, at least most of the time. In these cases, you can be sure of the possible positive and negative results, plus some hazy expectations driven by unescapable cognitive biases.

Right now, we will leave the latter out of the equation for the sake of simplicity. Mostly, when people use the capacities of their intelligence, simple decisions have readily understandable consequences, payoffs, dangers, etc, which means that making the ‘right decision’ is not that complex at all. As we grow from the teenage years into the adulthood, our ability to make sound judgments makes a great leap as we learn from our own and other people’s mistakes. By the time of reaching the age 20, making simple decisions shouldn’t be a huge problem as the years before have taught about action-consequence, empathy, seeing the big picture and other aspects of relating to the world and its ways.

The next big thing is learning about the harsh truth about hard decisions. Overall, there are fitting and unfitting choices making up the fabric of difficult decisions. Fitting choices boil down to very different scenarios with distinct features, such as going for the PhD versus building a charity organization. These choices are not in the same category. Unfitting choices are scenarios within the same category, for example getting the PhD in business administration versus economy. At first, fitting choices seem contradictory. You can have either choice A or B (or in a really confusing case A to K, but most  it probably would include unfitting choices) and somehow you get the feeling of exclusion of other choices along the way. Now, the bad news about fitting choices is the fact that they are confusing as hell. The flipside though, is that fitting choices don’t need to be mutually exclusive.

Happiness lies in the smooth combining of fitting choices with an aim of creating your dream life. One of the choices must be the flagship decision, which will be accompanied, but must not be blotted out by the other choice(s). The flagship decision is the one choice that you will go after no matter what happens. Usually, the flagship decision is picked up amongst the unfitting choices. Having many unfitting choices demonstrates a recurring theme in one’s wishes and ambitions. You know the direction, but you aren’t totally sure which road to take in order to get there. How does all of this work out in real life?

Let’s say, you have to make a hard decision between getting a top-class engineering degree, building up an NGO, going for a financial degree, taking pottery classes and travelling the world. Now, there are already two unfitting choices in the mixture. You have the flagship decision material. Pick one blindly, use a decision making chart, meditate on it, ask advice from friends etc. Don’t think too much and just use the process that feels the most comfortable for you. The next step is to creatively find ways to make fitting choices work out in the context of studying in a higher educational facility at the same time. This will not be an easy task, but it sure is fulfilling and raises the quality of life bar higher than it would have been in the case of only seeing a conflict between the choices making up the hard decision.Creativity is the key, whatever happens, you will get a nice boost of daily innovational skills along the way.

Ultimately, not all plans go the imagined way and this is the same with balancing the choices behind hard decisions. The motivation behind harmonizing hard decisions is concentrated in minimizing negativity, frustration and unhappiness that is sometimes foreshadowing the results of making hard decisions. Knowing that you tried to balance the choices takes away the guilt of ‘what if’ questions. You gave your best, learned something along the way and are better off than before. Upon succeeding, on the other hand, it’s just time to rejoice and send some fireworks up in the sky. One of the main reasons the balancing act of fitting choices doesn’t often come intuitively for us originates from the way people frame the alternative choices. Black and white thinking leaves no room for compromises because it ‘would just not be the same’ or some form of negative self-talk would unjustifiably influence the construction of the solutions to the hard decisions. Situations and challenges resulting from hard decisions are often so unique in their own ways that there is no point in drawing discouraging or even encouraging parallels from the past. Hard isn’t synonymous with impossible, but it might be a prologue to happiness.

Picture Credit: We Heart It

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