SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim shares some secrets to making tough choices easier.
My young adult child is facing a whole bunch of scary decisions right now that will change the course of his life. He is having the hardest time making these choices because he is so afraid of making a mistake. I wondered if you had some advice for him since you often talk about fear.
Whenever you have trouble making a big decision there is probably some fear in the mix. For many of us, this fear causes paralysis where it feels safer to avoid choosing than to take the chance that we will make a wrong choice. Most of the time it's one of the following three fear issues that is causing the standstill.
- It's a fear-of-failure problem. You might be afraid that if you choose one option, you won't be able to be successful at it and will end up a failure. You might even believe you could be a failure just for making the wrong choice. Fear of failure is also in play when you are afraid of looking bad or being judged for your choice. All of these possibilities make it safer to stall.
- It's a fear-of-loss problem. You might be afraid if you choose one option, you would be losing out on the other. Every time you come to a crossroads and have to choose a path, you are going to miss out on whatever is down the other side. This means every choice will have loss in it because you always lose something you didn't choose. It is common to get stuck here because the feelings of loss are so acute.
- It's a fear of success problem. You might be afraid of the commitments and responsibilities that would come from choosing an option and going for it. This is really about being afraid that later, down the road, you won't be able to hack it.
It is helpful if you can tell which one of these fear issues is in play for you — and it could be more than one — because that will help you to understand which faulty beliefs are in play in your head.
Below are some steps I have used with coaching clients to help them remove the fear and make a love- or value-driven decision. Making a decision based on avoiding fear will never be the choice that is right for you long-term. It's much better to clear away the fear and listen to your heart (inner-GPS/intuition) to guide you.
Choose to believe that your value can't change
Choose a new belief that human value doesn't go up and down because it's unchangeable. This means every human being has the same intrinsic value as every other. This means no matter which option you choose, and no matter how it goes down the road, you still have the same value as every other human on the planet.
There is nothing you can do and no choice you can make that can diminish your value. These different paths are just signing you up for different classroom journeys; but no matter which class you are in, your value is the same.
Choose to believe that your life is always the perfect classroom journey for you
No matter which choice you make, the universe will co-create with you the perfect classroom journey for you. This means you are safe no matter what you choose. You cannot make a mistake; you can only make a choice and trust God and the universe to use that choice to give you the perfect journey you need to grow and learn.
If you believe this is true, there is no loss. You are never missing anything you were meant to have. You can never get less than the perfect journey for you. Listen to your heart and intuition; it's like an inner-GPS that always knows which path is the classroom journey for you.
Narrow the choices down to 2 options and process through them
If you are having trouble narrowing your choices down, put each option on a card and spread them out on a table in front of you. Play a game where you choose one to take off and throw in the garbage. Then, sit with what's left and see how it feels.
If you feel good about what's left, keep going. If it feels wrong, put that option back on the table. Play this until you have two options left.
Once you have your two options, put them through the following process:
- Make a list of all the reasons you are scared to choose each option. What are you afraid of when you consider option A and what are you afraid of about option B? Set this list aside.
- Write down the love/value/passion reasons you would want to choose option A and option B. What are the key benefits each option would give you? Try to come up with four benefits for each option. I have a free worksheet that takes you through this on my website (link in bio).
- Rank the choices. Now that you have identified eight benefits total for both options, take those benefits and rank them independent of which option they came from. Figure out which is the best and most important in your life, based on your value system, and make it No. 1. Figure out which is the least good and least important in your life and make it No. 8. Then, rank the others in between until you have each benefit ranked by how important it is in your life.
- Assign the following scores: Ranking No. 1 gets 15 points; No. 2 gets 13 points; No. 3 gets 11 points; No. 4 gets nine points; No. 5 gets seven points; No 6 gets five points; No. 7 gets three points; No. 8 gets one point.
- Total the points and move the options. Take the points for each benefit and move them back to the two options. Total the points for each option, and one option will mathematically win as being more consistent with your values. This points process is much more effective than simply writing down the pros and cons. What you need to know is which option fits best with your personal values.
- Try the answer on for a while. Decide that whatever option won is the choice you are going to make. Don't do anything to start down that road yet, but assume the choice is made. Then, see how you feel as you try on the choice (for few hours to a few days). Does your inner GPS feel peaceful and content with this choice, or is it still bugging you and feeling wrong? If you cannot get a peaceful feeling from this, then choose the other option and try it on for a while. See if you can feel calm about that choice. Sometimes your inner GPS doesn't agree with your value systems, and then you have to decide which to trust. I personally trust my inner GPS more, and most of my clients over the years have agreed. But you will have to play with it and see how you feel.
Understand that you are the only one entitled to the answer to this decision
You can ask others for advice as research and gather information before you decide. But at the end of the day, you are the only one entitled to knowing your perfect classroom journey path. Don't let anyone else push you toward the answer they think is best; they aren't entitled to the answer on this. Trust yourself.
The 10 years after high school are years filled with life-altering decisions, and anxiety is sure to accompany this. It's important that you choose to believe you cannot make a mistake. Whatever you choose will be the perfect classroom journey for you, so do your best to think it through, try these techniques, and then just make a choice and start moving.
Many people change their career or degree later on, or get divorced and remarried. These situations are not ideal, but they also don't mean you are a failure or made a mistake. Choose to see them as perfect lessons you needed. Trust that, in the end, you will be the best you and all your experiences will have served you to get there.
You can do this.