Making sense out of the hard-to-accept truths about your career can be a daunting task. Sometimes it is making a choice between a job that pays more and one that is more fulfilling. Other times it is taking a job that is well paying but having to leave your family behind. The uncertainties that come with change, the what-ifs, and fear of having to cry a few weeks later with regrets is psychologically exhausting. You will be encouraged to know that the less-known and challenging path is often more rewarding.
1. Set a Time Rule
The more time you take on a decision, the more options you have. Scientists have actually discovered that a human being’s ability to make decisions works like a muscle. The more it is in use, the more tired it gets. In fact, they have a name for it. They call it decision fatigue. In essence, you can only use this muscle for a given period during the day or week, and then you should rest it. It also means that the less you use this muscle on one decision, the better for its health.
The most liberating truth about decision-making you can ever embrace is the fact that there is no perfect choice. The more options you are exposed to, the less perfect you will start believing each of them is. Most of the decisions you make about your career only matter to that level. They will only affect your career and perhaps your spouse and children if you are at that level. They are not a matter of life of death. The worst that can happen is that you get stuck in a situation you do not like for a while as you find a way out.
Setting up a time frame for your decision helps you to get it out of the way sooner. Even if you have weeks to give your feedback, challenge yourself to do so in days. Take time off from your current commitment for a day or two and commit to having a decision by the end of that period. Remember that sometimes procrastination can manifest as perfectionism. Make a decision sooner rather than later and you can always revise the issue should new facts crop up.
2. Bring in Your Inner Contrarian
If you are prone to make wrong decisions, chances are this pattern will manifest once again. Challenging yourself is perhaps the surest way to confirm you are making a good decision. The trick is to confront your first instinct and default way of thinking. Push yourself to evaluate and consider new ideas and step out of what feels “normal” for you. List your assumptions and reverse each of them. While a mental backflip may sound like creating more confusion, sometimes getting outside your comfort zone empowers you to make better decisions.
At the end of the day, the idea is to come up with options that you wouldn’t ordinarily consider. After you come up with a list, imagine yourself as if you had made each of those choices, and you were living with them. If it is about pushing for a promotion, toss in the option of a horizontal movement to a new department for the sake of diversifying your experience. You will find yourself with a few options that you had never considered, such as moving to an entirely new profession. Such a situation will challenge your brain and assumptions on what matters most, and what happens in the long term.
3. Minimize Information
It’s pretty automatic that people gather as much information as they can before making a big decision. It is one of those tricks people have believed for so long that it becomes hard for your brain to counteract. When you have insufficient data, your brain starts screaming at you on the need to focus. The brain also has a tendency to overestimate the value of any missing data. This is because the human mind is uncomfortable with uncertainty. However, there is something called a problem of choice. Having too many choices is challenge by itself. At some point, more information creates confusion. When you have too much information, you add weight and exhaustion to your brain. Whether it is too many varying opinions from friends or reviews on the company you are deciding on, too much of it makes the decision process more complicated.
The idea behind this trick is protecting your brain from information overload. Cut off some facts and opinions, and only focus on that which is basic and substantial. Remember that most decisions in your career path are reversible. Do not put too much weight on the matter than it is worth. Yes, making a career move is a big deal, but if you make a decision that sucks, you forgive yourself, make another one, and move on.
4. Go for the Simpler Option
Sometimes the best decision is what is easier to do at the moment. The diligent you will push to ensure you don’t miss out on any opportunity, but sometimes the door is too busy, and you just need a “do not disturb” sticker. Settle for what feels least overwhelming. It may seem shallow or lazy to go easy on a big career decision, but sometimes the path of least resistance is a better choice. Going minimalist on the factors you need to consider also leaves you with fewer issues to think about. For example, if you are choosing between two equally fulfilling opportunities, you can decide to base your decision simply on which is nearest to your house.
5. Follow Your Intuition
The most common element in all the definitions you can find for the word “critical” is judgment. It is, therefore, why critical thinking has to involve sitting back and judging every tiny piece of information to fit in the modernity of decision making. It is not only exhausting, but the idea of having to break down a decision-making path into constituent concepts is intimidating. Sometimes you just want to be a bystander and have someone else do all the thinking. Sadly, you cannot. It is your life, and it is your career. And sometimes the options look equally enticing. The heavens are on your side, and you feel spoilt for choice. You are suffering from an option block.
In the midst of all the madness, your gut feeling is that little voice that brings clarity and sanity. Go with what feels most comfortable for you and those affected by your choice. Be sure to consider long-term pros or cons. Do not be too hard on yourself demanding only perfection. Unless it is a matter of life or death, you will be okay should it turn out to be a wrong decision. Take a deep breath, find the core of your being that knows you best and have a talk.
Life is short, and you need to make the most of it. It happens not for those who live with the I-will-peep-by-the- fence and let-others-go-first attitude. Life happens for the bold, reasonably radical, and determined. Take well-thought risks, make mistakes, dust off and move on, and put on a smile while at it. After all, in the end, you will regret more that which you did not try than that which you did and failed. “Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise.” Horace.