Do you have trouble making decisions?

I do too. Even the smallest decisions can weigh heavily on my mind.

  • what to eat for lunch?
  • should I get a haircut this week?
  • which new shoes should I buy?
  • do I even need new shoes?

Most of those questions are easy enough to solve – I just force a decision.

But then we kick the complexity up a notch and I need another strategy.

  • which city do I want to live in?
  • who should I spend my time with?
  • how often should I go to the gym?
  • what will I write about today?

The answer to these questions are a balance of pragmatic and emotional thought. That means I weigh in factors like money, abilities, obligations and happiness.

But I need yet another strategy for the biggest question of them all:

What do I want to do with my life?

That’s why I came up with a simple approach for really understanding the impact of my decisions. I’m going to share that strategy in this post.

The Root of The Problem

First, let’s talk a little bit about indecision and why it often plagues our best intentions. It’s certainly not an inability to make choices – we do that all the time. But as I outlined above, as we scale up in complexity of decisions we must give greater consideration for their consequences.

But that’s not the root of the problem. If we only had one option, we’d still take it regardless of the impact. So, the problem is often that we have too many choices with different potential outcomes.

When it comes to that big question: what do I want to do with my life? The many different career/location/relationship and other options come into play and fog up our ability to make the choice. How then, can you start to compare your choices and find the route that works best for you?

How to Understand the Outcomes

There are a multitude of articles online with well-intentioned advice. They often say something like, “think you might want to be a lawyer? Take a lawyer out for lunch and ask them questions about their career”. But when was the last time you actually did that? When was the last time one of your friends did that? Does anybody actually do that?

Sure they do, but this strategy involves reaching out to another person. It can be scary, right? You don’t want to waste their time and you don’t want to heap your problems with uncertainty onto them.

So for me, I look internally for the answers and play an imagination game.

Here’s How To Do It

I imagine I’m out for an early morning walk in Beijing. I come to a crossroad and try a new direction. I’m glad I did because I arrive at a calm river with a cobblestone path reaching out before me. At the end of the path there is a bench, and on the bench are two old men drinking tea. One of the men sits strong and tall with a content look on his face, while the other is hunched over with his tear-streamed cheeks in his hands.

So I sit down and ask them a question. The most charming part of imagination is that you can ask them any question you want.

  • is it okay to start over?
  • should I marry my partner?
  • can I quit my job?
  • what should I do with my life?

And when you’ve asked your question – sit quietly and listen for the answer. Sometimes the content old man will speak first and sometimes his brother will. It doesn’t matter, just listen and both will have their turn. What you will find is that each of them selected one of your choices, and dozens of years in hindsight they can give you a very honest perspective on it.

The content old man will tell you that leaving his partner was the best thing he ever did. Because he knew she wasn’t right for him – she didn’t make him feel like he could go on forever. And then it was just like his friends said, he really did meet the women of his dreams. Three months later. At a park. They dated. They danced. They kissed. They got married. They grew old together.

The crying old man will tell you that he married her. That even though she’d put him down and made him feel worthless, that he was afraid of being alone. He was afraid of hurting her. He wanted to keep his promise to her that he’d be with her forever. So they grew old together too, and his whole life he’s wondered if he made the right decision.

Back to Reality

Whenever I play this scenario out in mind, I really do find the answer that is most true to myself. Because the two men aren’t some wise old mysterious strangers, they are future versions of me. And when it comes down to a life of content, or a life of a regret – that is a choice that is so easy to make every time.

I really hope this article helps you make a big decision in your life. Thanks so much for reading.

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I write about marketing, productivity, personal finance and charity.