How to Make a Difficult Decision: 30 Ideas to Help You Choose

“The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.” ~Flora Whittemore

I have been running this website for almost two years. A few months back, I met a goal I set for myself: I eliminated most of my other freelance work and focused my energy on Tiny Buddha.

Since I don’t require much money to live—and since my eBook has been selling regularly—I was able to transition in the spring. As a consequence, I decreased my workload dramatically.

Now that I have more time, I realize that I need to discover a sense of purpose beyond writing and editing, and not just through hobbies and fun. Essentially, I need to find new ways to contribute to the world, regardless of the income it generates, because I crave a greater sense of connection and engagement, outside the world of the web.

Last week, I received an offer to run a ‘tween website, working part-time hours. My first paid writing gig was for a ‘tween magazine, back in 2006. This felt meaningful to me, not just because I fulfilled the dream of seeing my byline in print, but because I understand how difficult it is to be that age.

Many of my problems began in junior high, when I was chubby, overdeveloped, harassed, and even abused by other kids. Because that time was so traumatic for me, I revel in the opportunity to speak to girls who may be struggling to love themselves.

This leaves me with a tough decision to make: Do I listen to the instinct that tells me to try to help young girls? Or do I listen to the instinct that tells me to stay unplugged when I’m not working on Tiny Buddha?

Do I do what comes naturally to me—what I’ve done through various sites these last five years—and keep analyzing, advising, and helping online? Or do I step outside the world of the written word, onto a path I’ve yet to define, and see where it may lead?

One seems to involve a lot more certainty. I’ll definitely feel fulfilled writing for girls (and the extra money couldn’t hurt). But I’ll likely also feel frustrated that I’m continuing to spend so much time alone, at my computer.

The other revolves around a million unknowns. What’s next if it isn’t online? How do I pick one of the many ideas I have, and how can I bring it to fruition? How do I know that what I choose will work out, and if it doesn’t, that I won’t regret not going the other way?

The answer is I don’t, can’t, and won’t. We can never know for sure when we make a decision that it’s going to pan out as we hope. All we can do is follow our strongest calling, and then trust that whatever the future holds, it will enrich our lives, one way or another.

Since I’ve been struggling with career-related decisions recently, I turned to the Tiny Buddha Facebook page and asked the community, “How do you make a difficult decision?” I collected some of the responses that resonated with me most strongly:

(Note: I changed “I” to “you” in these contributions and attributed these to the readers’ Facebook names.)

1. Consider whether or not you will be able to look proudly into the mirror the next day. ~Marcia Jones

2. Reflect on past difficult decisions and how you made them. The problems don’t have to be similar for the method to work the same. ~Gentry Harvey

3. Meditate and listen to your instincts. ~Stacey Chandler

4. Meditate on how it affects balance within your life. Then have the faith and will to carry out by action. ~Isaac Guest

5. Set aside time to give careful thought to the decision. The worst thing you can do is act in haste. ~Dana David

6. Ask yourself, “Who will it affect and what does my heart tell me?” ~Phyllis McBride Molhusen

7. Imagine having made the decision. If you get a feeling of relief, that’s the way to go, even if it’s coupled with sadness. ~Emma Gilding

8. Ask yourself, “What is the most pleasurable choice, and where is the most fun?” ~David Heisler

9. Check with your internal compass. How will you feel if you make one decision? How will you feel if you make the other? ~Kyczy Hawk

10. Make mistakes and learn from them. ~Sandra Leigh

11. Talk it through with friends. Then after you have gathered as much info as possible, decide and act! ~Charlene Wood

12. Make a patient effort and have confidence in yourself as decision maker. Whatever choice you make is valid, as you can gain experience and wisdom through any experience, preferred or not. ~Meagan Le Dagger~

13. Let go of fear. Know there is no “right” or “wrong” decision. Any decision is better than indecision. ~Deidre Americo

14. Ask yourself three questions before diving into something new or daunting: What’s the worst that can happen? How likely is that to happen? Can you deal with it? ~Long Ho

15. Go with your first instinct. The minute you second guess yourself or doubt your choice, then it goes all downhill from there. ~Kelsey Walsh

16. Take a moment to think about the consequences of every course of action, and decide which course will be best for everyone. ~Daniel Roy

17. Try to see the situation from all angles. Also ask your elders for advice. They are always great sources! Sometimes you need to walk away from the issue for a bit, and then come back for a fresh look. ~Lisa Marie Josey

18. Remember this quote: “Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s.” ~Paulina Angelique

19. If you find that you have to talk yourself into something, it is usually a bad decision. Good decisions usually feel right without much second-guessing. -Triana Avis

20. One method is to contemplate options and select the one that you feel a sense of excitement for. ~Katherine Melo Sipe

21. “Stay in the tension” as long as possible. If neither choice feels right, try to delay making the decision. Sometimes a third option you hadn’t thought of before becomes open. ~Jody Bower

22. Listen to your emotional instinct. If it feels good, authentically good, then go for it. If it does not use caution and back away. ~Dedric Carroll

23. Ask yourself two questions: Is this choice good for me? Is this choice good for my family? Then listen to what your heart says. ~Andrew J. Kelley

24. Make the small decisions with your head and the big ones with your heart. ~Emily Keith

25. Take a step back and try to stop thinking so much. -Liz Morton

26. Take two pieces of paper and write down your options on each. Put them in a hat, close your eyes, and pick one. If you feel disappointed with the outcome, then you know that is the wrong decision to make! ~Dina Agnessi-Lorenzetti

27. Reflect on my past decisions. Good or bad, each teaches a lesson. To learn by your mistakes is key, but don’t forget your triumphs. They are just as important. ~Mick Roman

28. Think about how you will feel when you’re seventy. First, it will put the difficult decision into perspective (maybe it’s not as big a deal as you think it is) and secondly, it will help you make a good decision for the long term, rather than just for instant gratification. ~Andrew Gills

29. Have a good, deep, non-judgmental look at what’s inside you, and journaling also helps. ~Indigo Perry

30. Align your actions with your life purpose and personal values, and then it’s much easier to know the direction that is right for you. The prerequisite to this is actually knowing and defining yourself. Gain awareness. Be true to who you really are. Follow the path of least resistance. ~Self Improvement Saga

What helps you make difficult decisions?

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha. She started the site after struggling with depression, bulimia, c-PTSD, and toxic shame so she could recycle her former pain into something useful and inspire others do the same. She recently created the Breaking Barriers to Self-Care eCourse to help people overcome internal blocks to meeting their needs—so they can feel their best, be their best, and live their best possible life. If you’re ready to start thriving instead of merely surviving, you can learn more and get instant access here.

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