How to Make Important Decisions

To jump or not to jump … by Joacim Bohlander on Unsplash

There are many decision we have to make in our daily life – most are trivial, but now and then there comes a time where we have to decide something that will have a massive influence on our future life. Often these decisions are all but obvious and doing the right thing in situations like that is hard. In times like these systems can offer an easier path to a good decision – in this case I like to use an approach my brother introduced me to some time ago – the rusty scales.

Put arguments for continuing on one path on the lower side and arguments for change on the other side of the rusty scale and see if the arguments agains change hold up against the resistance of the scale.

Some years back I was really struggling with my relationship of eight years. It wasn’t that I didn’t like my then-girlfriend anymore or that there was any pressing problem that drove me away, but somehow it didn’t really feel right anymore. We started dating during school and were together through all of my time in university and I longed for new experiences. I still liked her a lot – as a person and as a friend – but it didn’t feel like I loved here.

I struggled with this decision for months without any progress and it took several months more until I finally mad up my mind and left. After that I never regretted the decision.

While a situation like that will never be easy for me, there is a way to take away some of the doubt and the process is rather simple:

  • imagine a rusty old scale, maybe one like Justitia uses – it still moves, but it takes quiet a bit of weight difference to make it move
  • take all arguments against a decision and put it on the lower scale
  • take all the arguments for a decision and put it on the upper scale
  • if the upper scale moves down, go along with the choice

The reasoning here is that for a hard decision both sides have merit. However, there are often good reasons for the status quo, reasons you shouldn’t easily discount. This is the rust in the mechanisms of the scales – it takes more than just a balance of weight to make scales move and for you to take the plunge.

All of this doesn’t make hard choices easy, but – at least for me – it helps to take away some of the anxiety and often that is everything I need.

There is No Growth without Discomfort

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.

Joseph Campell

To me growth is at the core of a fulfilled life and growth only happens on the edges of our skills or personality – the “place” we call our comfort zone. Maybe fear is to strong a word here, I would choose discomfort, but the core of the message holds true. You have to go where it isn’t comfortable, maybe not even safe, and through that anxiety and fear creeps in. If we stop at the slightest discomfort, we will always stay where we are. If we brave our fear and continue onwarts despite of it we will grow.

Maybe safety and comfort is important to you. There is nothing wrong with that, nothing wrong with staying within the boundaries of your comfort zone. But know that it is a choice, your choice.