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Major Personal Decisions

Major decisions are not to be taken lightly, as the consequences of making the ‘wrong call’ can be far reaching and long lasting. It is, of course, important to recognize a major decision as such, so that you give it the attention it deserves.

Examples of major decisions include choice/change of career, decision to relocate or emigrate, decision to marry/ get divorced/have a family, major financial investments, when to retire etc.

Our major decisions should be driven by what is important to us. So what is important ? Interviews with those who are terminally ill about their regrets, as they approach the end of their lives, sheds light on this question. Key regrets recorded * are :
– lacked courage to live a life which is true to self, living the life that others expected, dreams unfulfilled ( most common regret)
– worked too hard, not enough time for partner and young children
– suppressed true feelings to keep the peace with others (often leads to illness)
– not staying in touch with friends, not investing in friendship
– not embracing happiness, not realizing it is a choice. Staying stuck in the familiar, pretending to be content, due to a fear of change.
* ‘The Top Five Regrets of the Dying ‘ by Bronnie Ware

With the above in mind my top 10 tips for major decisions are :

1. Give time to identifying all the options (often more options than you think at first) and work through carefully where each option would lead, if taken. Using a coach as a sounding board for this can be helpful.

2. Consider how different options align with what is important to you ( note ‘regret’ list above!)

3 List the points ‘in favor’ and ‘against’ each option. Place greater weight on long term over short term considerations. Work out the small number of key considerations (criteria) upon which the decision will be made.

4. A feature of major decisions is fear. Explore and work through the fears you are experiencing. How real are they?  If you don’t challenge your fears they may dominate your decision making and fear based decisions tend not to be good decisions.

5. Consult widely, with people who have a variety of perspectives, to ensure that you are factoring in all relevant  considerations.

6. Test the validity of key assumptions you are making, as you don’t want your decision to be made on inaccurate information.

7. Do nothing is often an option, but it has consequences which need to be examined. The status quo will always seem enticing, as however bad it is, at least it seems certain. Of course, this is an illusion as there is always change on the horizon, whether you realize it or not.

8. Take all the time you need or is available before deciding. You need time to explore any niggling doubts and to become comfortable with the direction of your thinking, before finally deciding.

9. Don’t procrastinate (opposite of 8!). Remember that not everything can be known at the point of decision, you will have to accept some element of uncertainty. This is a feature of major decisions.

10. Finally trust your intuition. How a decision feels is as important as the hard analysis.

While making major decisions can be daunting, once you decide it will feel like a load is lifted (the burden of indecision), hopefully accompanied by a sense of excitement at the prospect of pursuing the new direction you have chosen.

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