Photo courtesy of Liu Wen in China Vogue April 2012
In my non writing life I am a clinical mental health counselor. I’ve been in the business of helping people all my life (second oldest of five) and professionally for the past eight years. Perhaps what I enjoy most about helping people is working with them in order to assist them in making the changes they seek to make. For some it’s about self perception, others it’s about healthier relationships, and yet for others it’s about cultivating a joyful and more positive outlook on life and the challenges they encounter in life. Regardless of the client, the one question almost all of them ask at some point is “So what should I do?” And my response
“It’s up to you. You have to decide.”
If you’ve read the about page you know that the simply LIVEd life is the chosen life. Another word for chosen- decided. Life is full of decisions. Whether it’s what time to set the alarm for the next morning, Chinese takeout or pizza from Little Anthony’s, the wedge heel or the classic pump, vacation off season or peak season, new job in state or out of state, marry him/her although I’m not in love with him/her but we “work” together, rent or buy, blue shirt or green shirt, the Chardonnay or the Riesling, and well I am sure you catch my drift. We are deciding all the time. But how do we know we are deciding well? How do we make good decisions, especially if the consequence of my decision is less about an extra inch on my waist line (you chose pizza from Little Anthony’s) and more like breaking up with someone with whom I’ve been dating for four years but we’re growing apart, or telling your family you want to be a teacher overseas and not the lawyer they paid your tuition to be.
Define the Dilemma
What exactly are you trying to decide? Rarely is the decision to eat or not eat, it’s what to eat. Likewise your decision is not to work or not work, it’s deciding what kind of work do you want to do, that will bring you joy more days that not. Take a minute to write down the decision that needs to be made.
Due Date to Decide
After you figured out what you need to decide, set a date to deliver your decision. Be reasonable, but don’t set a date to think about getting blonde highlights a year from today. And if you know the deadline to the Anthropology program at Cal Sate Berkley is the 22nd of the month, don’t set you deadline for the 21st. Now, due date setting may be a little tricky as it may be based upon all of the logistics of the decision you have to make. So, if you can’t set a due date to decide, then go ahead and find the facts to see if that will better assist you in pinpointing a day when you will act on your decision. Once you choose the moment, sharpie it in your planner, enter it on your Google calendar, tell Siri to put it in your iphone, post it on the fridge. Decide and deliver!
Photo courtesy of Naufal Photography
Find the Facts
Once you have defined the dilemma and a due date, write down the facts. Last spring I knew I wanted to move. My decision- buy or rent. Fact finding for me was everything from finding a Realtor and understanding the process, applying for a mortgage, researching first time buyers programs, calculating utility costs, neighborhoods in which I’d rent or buy, renters insurance versus home owners insurance, roommates, etc. I needed to know as much as possible before I made any decisions.
Face the Facts
After you’ve gathered the facts, face them. What are you confident you could live with and what are you fairly certain would way heavy on your conscience for a long time? What are you sure you will get through or get over and what does your gut say you will regret or resent? The job overseas in the country whose language you don’t know could certainly be daunting and overwhelming, especially when a space has been saved for you in the family business or you have a host of connections through various relationships and could certainly find work in a familiar environment. However, are you going to regret turning down that opportunity two years from now when you wake up realizing you are still in the same environment you’ve practically always been in? How does your budget, credit history, current debt, and earning potential impact the decision? How much time will you have to dedicate to what you choose?
Be honest with yourself about the facts you find. I didn’t buy a house. I wasn’t ready and for what I wanted in a home and neighborhood, I didn’t feel comfortable with on my budget. Plus, after living with 6 other people most of my life and the 11 other people for three years of my life up until three years ago, roommates to offset cost was NOT an option. I landed a sweet 2 bedroom flat that just so happened to take my over an hour commute to work to barely 20 minutes. Facts found and faced.
Declare the Decision
Once you have faced the facts, make up your mind and Nike it. In other words, make the decision Just do it. Don’t double back, procrastinate, or wait for more facts to magically appear. You’ve done your research, now share your findings. You’re confident that marrying him or her will cause resentment or regret in the next year, don’t do it. Cancel Thursday afternoon’s cake tasting, delete the Target registry, call your made of honor or best man, grab some cocktails, and tell them you’re calling off the engagement. You can’t take one more day of your supervisor screaming in your face about numbers for next quarter’s projection and you’d rather live out your day dreams of starting a grass roots green energy company, start drafting that resignation letter, and start perusing Craig’s list for a smaller apartment. I wanted to rent so I called my Realtor, thanked him for the time already spent, and cancelled future showings. Then I was on my grind to find an apartment. That sweet 2 bedroom flat I found- found it literally a week before I had to be out of my old place in the city.
Photo courtesy of Google images
Once you’ve made the decision, LIVE it. Remember the facts you found? Hopefully they included things like it will be hard, uncomfortable, or challenging at first. Remember those facts and embrace them knowing with time they will subside. I’m also hoping the fact facing included needing help. Maybe it was help drafting the resignation letter, maybe it was help moving (I needed that), maybe help just holding yourself accountable to saving more money each month, but a part of living the decided life will require some help. Get the help you acknowledged you would need when you faced the facts. Oh, and if fact facing doesn’t include needing help outside of yourself, go back and make sure you found all of the acts. I don’t know any decision that doesn’t require help outside of ourselves, even if it’s deciding to get that pizza from Little Anthony. You needed Little Anthony to make that pizza. Sometimes the help comes from another person or an entity/business. I pray a lot when I need help and I say it helps.
My decision to LIVE was one I had pondered for quite some time. I mean in theory, who doesn’t want to live incredibly victoriously and emphatically every single day? Who doesn’t want to maximize their existence on this planet? But wanting to do it was not enough. I wanted to and was still in a job I didn’t like, was surrounded by people I didn’t feel deeply connected with, had a “meh” relationship with God, wasn’t kind to my body (wasn’t exercising, eating, or resting as best I could). I was existing. I had a decision to make. Either I was going to live well every day or I wasn’t. Once I made the decision I went through this process, and it’s a process I continue to go through because…life is full of decisions.
How do you make decisions?
I’d love to hear about your process. xxoo