Don’t know what to do? How to make difficult decisions

Don’t know what to do? How to make difficult decisions

Life is not black and white and sometimes the decisions you need to make are hard. There are pivotal points in your life where, whichever decision you choose, there will be difficulty after you make your choice. Not wanting to navigate that difficulty leads to a lack of clarity, feeling stuck and ruminating about what to do. You may try talking to friends and family but, if the issue is long standing, they stop listening, you feel unheard, and remain stuck.

The paradox is, sometimes when we say, “I don’t know what to do,” it is not strictly true. There are times when we do know deep down but are so concerned about the consequences, we avoid, or delay, doing what must be done. This makes sense as the consequences of these difficult decisions are often painful, for us and others, and we all prefer to avoid pain.

It’s helpful to be aware that there are often layers of meaning behind “I don’t know what to do.”

What “I don’t know what to do” may really mean

· “There is too much at stake for me to say what I really want.”
· “I am not ready yet to deal with the consequences of what I need to do.”
· “I don’t feel strong enough to stand up for my choice.”
· “I find it too hard to risk the disapproval of others.”
· “Others’ opinions of what I should do and how I should behave holds more power than living my truth.”

The problem with avoiding

The problem with avoiding making a decision is the issue remains and you put your integrity, self-belief and possibly your mental health at risk. Making no choice is still a choice. You are left stuck with the issue, expending precious mental and emotional energy ignoring it, feeling compromised, or ruminating about it. That energy is better spent getting help with your decision.

Moving toward clarity

The first step toward greater clarity is to make time and space to acknowledge and give voice to the conflicting parts involved in your inner conflict. Be honest about what the different parts of you want. An example of this could be, “Part of me wants to stay quiet to keep the peace but another part of me is furious and wants to let rip!” Give each of these parts a full voice without shutting anything down.

Be open to listening to the deeper or quieter parts of you, even when you don’t want to hear what they have to say. There is often great wisdom in the parts of you that you have habitually dismissed.

6 steps to get unstuck:

1. Acknowledge each part of your inner conflict without judgement – be curious and give each part a voice.
2. Write down the conflicting statements and concerns.
3. Project ahead to the natural consequence of each path. What is the worst case scenario and can you manage that? What is the impact on you? On others?
4. Assess these consequences and outcomes and decide what is most in alignment with your values and who you want to be.
5. Ask yourself: What would I do if I were living in accordance with my deepest held values? What might I try if I do not to let fear govern my decision? What options have I disregarded or not considered?
6. If things are still unclear seek therapy for a fresh perspective.

Some choices are difficult and it is hard to know what to do to minimise discomfort for yourself and others. With some decisions, especially important life decisions, there is no way to avoid pain – no matter which choice you make. Having a strategy for what to do when you are stuck is important for your sense of self, integrity and personal power. Making difficult decisions based on your values and integrity helps you to sleep at night, knowing you did the best you could.

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