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what to do when you have a hard decision
a guide to helping yourself :
“You need to get out of the echo chamber that is your mind” - a dear friend exclaimed. She is one of the very few people that I’d be willing to fly across the country for. Lying on her bed with my legs up the wall, I was to be blunt lost, and to be winding, in a strange and uncomfortable head space.
I have had this urgency to find a perspective. I have a big, important, and potentially life-changing decision to make but I don’t have a good vantage point to see it. Every time I think about it, I end up spiraling, getting caught up in the minutiae of the situation.
I once had a manager who told me to zoom out and look at the big picture instead of being hyper-focused on what was right in front of me. As much as I try to overcome that tendency, worries can get the best of me. The frustration ate me alive: I became annoyed and distant. I refused to meet people when my inner working is screaming at me. The chatter, the confusion, the options, and their possible consequences. I beg the universe to give me a sign. Sign after sign, I still can’t seem to have enough data points to make a decision. You can only know the consequence of a decision in hindsight. How does one in the present without certainty of the future make “the right” decision?
Bringing this up to my therapist, she explains plainly “There is no right or wrong decision. You just need to make A DECISION.”
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Understanding myself in my 20s so far has been a process of elimination: finding the work that I don’t like to get one step closer to the work that I do like, falling for people who take me for granted to understand what I deserve, moving and traveling to understand the non-negotiables of a living environment, etc. Action drives my decision-making. As I moved out of the Midwest and to the South of U.S., I understand what I like and don’t about each region. As I finally commit to a full-time 9-5 schedule, I can say with more certainty what I want to do in the future that I couldn’t in college.
During a period of uncertainty, it is easier to not do anything. We are scared of making the wrong decision. We are not sure because we don’t have enough data points and it is our first time doing it.
What if I told you that doing something, or anything will give you more clarity?
Two things that have helped me in this process:
Creating a distance between the worry and myself
When I stay with my thoughts for too long, my reasoning gets convoluted. I make the effort to spend quality time with friends who can comfort and distract me from anxiety. Of course, I also entertain, and do fun things with them. This has been of the greatest help.
Switching up daily routine is also useful in distancing from the nagging anxiety. I treated myself to occasional matcha treats on my walks, called a friend that I have not talked to in a long time on the phone, traveled to see the ocean as I love water bodies.
Committing to an activity, experience, or baby decision
The more experience I gain, the clearer the picture can get. It won’t solve all of the murkiness, but it helps even a little.
If you are not sure whether a certain career path is right for you, try out a few personal projects or shadow a professional to understand the job better. If you end up loving it, great, if not, even better because you will have saved a lot of time pursuing something you don’t enjoy.
If you are uncertain about making a certain set of decisions because they are too big and all-encompassing, make smaller decisions that have insignificant consequences first and evaluate your gut reaction. It surprises me when I declare verbally to do one thing and when I am in the moment to actually execute it, my intuition turns into saying no.
Throughout this whole deliberation process, I have learned a lot about myself. If I wanted to have clarity of mind, I need to do something different. If overworking and isolating myself make me depressed, I might consider relax and spend quality time with people I love. If being overly frugal is depriving me of experiences, I might consider splurging every once in a while. How do I expect to gain clarity when I continue the precise behavior that led me here?
When I was smaller, there is a clearly defined path of what I would do next. Right and wrong decisions were obvious and generally accepted by the elderly and society. Staying in school is good, dropping out is bad. Listening to what your parents tell you is good, acting against their will is bad.
Now an independent person, I had to navigate the complex and ever-evolving relationship with my Vietnamese family and unravel what is perceived as good by them and right by me.
There is no perfect decision. You make a decision and commit to it.
If you enjoy this week’s writing, here is a lovely essay you might want to check out: less roads to travel by
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