Big life decisions. We've all had to make them, whether they're to do with relationships, careers or lifestyle.
I'm not a particularly calm or swift decision-maker. I really wish that I was. It's an agonising process isn't it? Swaying back and forth between different scenarios, desperately trying to come down on the right side. The words 'quandary' and 'dilemma' spring to mind. If I was more of an optimist, I would use the words 'choice' and 'opportunity' instead. Because, in all fairness, big life decisions are usually about choices and opportunities even if the process of making them feels more like a quandary or a dilemma.
In the next few months, it's likely that I'll have to make a fairly important decision. I'm not pushed for time (yet), however I've already started some of the processes that I'll need to go through to help me make it.
Pros and cons: Yes, that old chestnut. But, in all honesty, whenever a friend comes to me in this sort of situation, it's exactly the starting point I would suggest. Take a clean page. Put a line down the middle. Write those pros and cons down. Scrutinise the results in black and white. If you're lucky the answer might be staring you in the face. If not, the process of putting your thoughts down on paper will hopefully have nudged you a little further along the decision-making way.
Consult others: Particularly those whom your decision might affect. (Hint: Toddlers are not the most insightful of confidantes). Has someone you know gone through a similar decision-making process? It might be useful to talk to them. Trusted, clear-thinking friends can also be immensely helpful. Take their thoughts and ideas on board. But be prepared to take responsibility for the decision you eventually make - whether you follow their advice or not. (My sister once apologised to me for advising me to take a job that didn't work out. I was genuinely astonished. My decision. My fault. And valuable lessons were learned along the way.)
Defining moments: Sometimes - and particularly if you're a procrastinator like me - it takes a trigger to make you realise where your head and heart lie. A friend recently confided that it wasn't until her boss started making plans for her at work that she knew she was ready for a change. Brilliant parenting blogger, Amy Ramson, confesses in a very honest post how she and her husband made their decision to have a third child. Her defining moment? An unplanned third pregnancy which ended in miscarriage made her feel that nature was telling her 'no' to a third child. The thought made her so miserable that she's turned it into a 'yes'. Happily, she's now pregnant again and expecting a new arrival soon.
Relax: This is rich coming from me as I am one of the least chilled-out people I know. However, Amy Ramson has another piece of advice within her post that makes a lot of sense. Sometimes the best thing you can do is not to overthink the big decisions. There's an ancient Buddhist saying: "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." Perhaps when the mind is relaxed, answers will present themselves more easily too? I like to go running to switch off when I'm stressed out, others might enjoy yoga or walking. Regardless of how you do it, a relaxed mind is surely a strong foundation for moving forward.
And on that happy note, I need to decide whether to flick the kettle on or pour myself a glass of red. Think I can just about handle that one...