Is this all there is? Is this what I am going to do with the rest of my life? Faced with a life decision the risk is we take the first decent choice that presents itself. In order to increase the chances of success it’s helpful to be able to answer a few questions and structure a road map so that one way options. Here they are:
Make a Decision Map
It’s useful to have a strategy, some form of road map to help identify the routes worth following, the one’s that are dead ends, and the one’s that take us in entirely the wrong direction. How to go about this? We think you can start the process by asking five basic questions of yourself and then build on these as you feel necessary. Very often the hardest part of a decision map is getting started. Once you’ve warmed up to the idea you’ll find your creative juices will begin to flow:
1. What Do I Mean By Success?
Be very specific. “I want to be rich,” is not an answer – just what does “rich” mean, anyway? Are you thinking of a set number? And if so, why? Or is the term “rich” a substitute for certain freedoms and opportunities that you view as coming only with money – and by limiting them to being accessed only through money, are you missing out on other alternative pathways?
Some alternatives to “I want to be rich,” depend on your circumstances: so, “I want to have enough net income to meet my current financial responsibilities without strain, plus have time and money left over for travel,” or “I want to be able to comfortably afford a jet-setting lifestyle in New York City,” or “I want to spend four days a week at home with my kids,” are perhaps more viable alternatives to “becoming a billionaire.”
Try to come up with at least three answers to the question of what success really means to you personally, with each one reflecting a different facet of what you feel makes up a truly successful life. Keep the money issue to just one statement – after all, such things as personal fulfilment, spiritual meaning and other essential needs and values cannot be solved, acquired or even influenced by money.
One of the biggest obstacles to effective life changing decisions is that most of us have never consciously explored what that really means. It can get confused with vague and nebulous ideas of fame, fortune or other worldly success. Knowing what success really means to you in the context of life decisions – what you hope or imagine that these generic definitions of success would actually provide and how you want those things to physically look like in your life – allows you to balance decision making more carefully.
2. What Can’t Change?
Very few of us are in the position where we can drop everything and move on. Chances are you’re of a certain age and you have a list of things that are important to you. Family, travel, no debt, pleasant work environment, social status, contributions to society, spiritual involvement, public acclaim, love, excitement, comfort – any or all of these, and any others you can think of are legitimate needs that when not met create an environment of stress, want and disempowerment in your life. In order to make a life changing decision you can’t be so bound by commitment that nothing can change. So work out what really can’t change and what really could. This will help de-clutter your thinking.
3. What You Won’t Commit To?
An extension of point two. List all the things that you absolutely do not want present in your life. If the idea of working in a standard hierarchical office environment makes you ill, put that down. If you can’t stand the thought of living in a cold climate, add that to the list. If being poked fun at about your physical condition or other attributes makes life unlivable, note that as well. By knowing what you will not tolerate, many choices become much easier to make. Plus, it allows you to set down rules and policies about who and what you will invite into your life and the standards of behaviour you will, and will not, tolerate.
4. Articulate Your Values
We all have beliefs, which are reinforced by attitudes, which cluster into values. Our values say something about the depth of ourselves as individuals. Spend some time searching your own to come up with a list of values. How might the decisions you make allow you to live the life you want to live. Are you the type who values honesty, clean/green living and a deep love of nature above all things? Or are you more of a ‘comforts of home’, family and fun kind of person? Do you value charity over letting others find their way on their own, or is it the other way around? Knowing what you truly stand for is a vital component of good decisions.
5. Is Legacy Important?
What legacy do you want to leave when you pass on? What do you want people to say about your life and you as a person? What do you want to be known for? What would you like your obituary to say about you? Knowing where you want to end up makes choosing the path to get there, and keeping track of your progress, infinitely easier.
Key Points To Consider
There are three key points to keep in mind when you are faced with making life-changing decisions.
1. Don’t Rush.
In life, as in commercial marketing, “Buy now before this opportunity is gone!” is almost always code-speak for, “Buy now because we don’t want you to stop and think about the decision in case you see flaws in it.” True, from time to time real, honest-to-goodness, amazing, once-in-a-lifetime offers do come around. But if you have laid down a foundation of well-considered decisions and clear-minded focus before this happens, you will have the presence of mind and strength of purpose to know when to jump and when to pass, and be much more capable of telling the difference between a missed opportunity and a close call.
2. You’re Allowed to Change.
The career or lifestyle that suited you perfectly in your 20’s will most likely not fit the middle-aged you, no more than the same wardrobe or lifestyle would. Sometimes this is merely the result of the normal process of personal evolution we all go through as we age and mature, and sometimes it comes about suddenly in response to reality-shifting events and life-changing transitions such as living through a traumatic event, losing a job or getting married.
Learning to steer your life in the direction you want to take it, making decisions to live by your own set of values and desires and making sure that you get the most out of the limited days you are given ensures that when the time comes for your life to pass before your eyes in review, the show will definitely be worth the price of the admission.
3. There May be More Than One Answer
Spending too much time trying to identify your purpose is a bit like studying the tea leaves and expecting a viable answer. Remember that this exercise is about identifying options. Decisions mean that you’ve settled on a course of action and that means you’re making moves. But which of us don’t make decisions that we later modify on the basis of new information along the way? Bad decisions are those that haven’t worked out the way we might have hoped but these can be learning experiences. If you’re making a radical change your life then the risks will be accordingly high. But a big project doesn’t always have to be undertaken in a single step. With thought and planning it should be possible to break it into workable chunks. Such decisions may be more easy to evaluate and adapt to as you work towards your life change.