Making the Right Choice in the Face of Difficult Decisions

Hand choosing a hanging keyHow do you know what to commit to in your life, or what choices to make? What romantic interest, job, friend, trip, or task do you choose? There are so many options. How do you know how to make the right choice? What does choosing “right” even mean? Options and choices can lead to feelings of overwhelm and confusion. Feeling confused, in turn, can lead to stagnation because of indecision. Lately, I hear smart, driven people say they are so nervous about making the wrong choice, they’re making no choice. This is a problem in and of itself. When you are not making choices in life, you can’t make progress. Your choices create the flow in your life.

No choice, no flow.

I have held, and still do hold resistance to commitment. My natural tendency is to live more as a “free bird,” meaning I desire to go with the flow, take off on a whim, adventure, and sway away from a concrete plan. I love when choices reveal themselves to me. I love the organic nature of how life shows me what direction to go, although there are times when a straightforward decision is called for. So, what do you do then? What do you do when you need to make a clear choice?

Focus on the Now

When I’m making a choice and I look into the future of how the decision can affect my future and everyone in it, I begin to feel paralyzed. The fear that arises from focusing on the hypothetical future if I make a choice is just not a healthy approach. Instead, focus on the now and how that choice is going to affect you in the present. Your present reality is all you have, and all you need. Do your best to get in tune with what you are feeling and make the best choice you know how to make in the now considering what feels right.

Ditch the Past

The past is generally a good predictor of what to expect and what is to come. However, sometimes there is no relevant connection from the present to the past, and it’s not productive to seek one. Looking at each choice you make with current and fresh eyes is a centered and more realistic approach. Being mindful not to bring the past into your current experience is a more positive way to approach life. Living in the “what used to be” or the “what might be” is a surefire way not to live in the now.

Take a Step Back

Breathe. Take a break. Remove yourself from the situation. Focus on something totally different. Get a good night’s rest. Have fun. Take a trip. Very often when you are unsure of what move to make, allowing yourself to step away from the decision-making process can help you see things with more clarity. I’ve made the most monumental decisions in my life just after returning from trips. I go into the trip confused, unsure, and stressed about what to do. Magically, sometime during the trip or in reflection when I get back, I feel clearer about what I want to do. I’ve moved cities, quit jobs, and pressed some major reset buttons for my life after giving myself time away from the issue.

Trust Something Bigger

I know this is easier said than done, but try not to put so much pressure on yourself toward “figuring it all out.” Yes, you have choices and decisions in life to make, but there are also outside, higher-power forces that are bigger than you and your decisions. These forces show up as coincidences; missed trains, planes and buses; ironic happenings; etc. Letting go of the perspective that you have to do 100% of the action toward making something happen goes against the natural flow of life. Sometimes things, opportunities, and people fall into our lives without any work on our part. Trust that. When you do your best to live a life that feels good, these happenings occur with a lot more frequency.

Recognize Very Few Things Are Permanent

As we make decisions, it’s easy to get caught in the permanence of it all. The thing is, very few things in life are permanent. Many choices can be revised down the road and changed. For example, if you moved cities and it’s not the life you envisioned, move again. You’re dating someone and he/she is not what you initially thought, break up and switch it up. You started a career and it’s wearing on you to show up each day, start something different.

I understand, with compassion, that it’s far more complicated than those easy-breezy solutions. The point to take away from this is that it’s not impossible. People make major changes every day and survive. Very often, when you gain the confidence and trust to jump into the unknown, wonderful things are waiting for you once you land. I’ve yet to meet someone who moved away from a draining situation and regretted it.  Very often, it’s not one choice that will make or break you. Choices, usually, are small. You get the freedom to make choices for yourself all day long. One positive choice followed by another will lead you in a positive direction. By practicing decision-making with small choices, you have already carved out a positive path to walk. This lessens the confusion around a decision and leaves you with the control to make the best decision you know how to make at the given time. After you complete that step, you get to sit back and allow life to show you the way. Your awareness of who and what is around you will help you with your decision-making.  You got this.

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Kim Egel, MA, MFT, therapist in Cardiff, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • jeremy

    June 21st, 2016 at 9:20 AM

    I always let the past kind of cloud my decision making.You know too busy looking back to look at what is actually right in front of me.

  • Celeste

    June 21st, 2016 at 2:22 PM

    We may not always know what is the absolute right thing to do but I think that instinctively you can always sort of know which direction you should take.
    It might not be the easiest thing to do but you have to know when there is something that feels right and then it feels wrong.
    I know that life is kind of crazy at times but trust your first instinct. That has always served me pretty well.

  • adam d

    June 22nd, 2016 at 9:23 AM

    This would be a time when I would definitely be soliciting advice and guidance from others.

  • Jayden

    June 22nd, 2016 at 4:17 PM

    Sometimes you don’t have any way of knowing until it is too late just what the better choice would have been. I would say that in many cases you should just fake it til you make it but who knows if by them it might be too late to correct. I think that most of the time you make the most intelligent decision based on the knowledge that you have at the time and then you hope that you have done the right thing.

  • Lynne

    June 23rd, 2016 at 1:06 PM

    Nothing lasts forever. The repercussions, even if you make a bad decison, won’t have to follow you hopefully forever

  • Ruby

    June 24th, 2016 at 9:43 AM

    Life will always be full of tough decisions. Some of them will be easy choices to make and some will always feel like no matter what you do you will be left wondering if you made the right choice. You need to go with your initial gut instinct. I think that in my experience once I start to overthink things, this is when I usually wind up in trouble. Just trust yourself to do the right thing, and I think that usually you will see in the end that you have absolutely made the right choice.

  • Barb

    June 26th, 2016 at 5:14 AM

    When you are a real adult this is simply something that you have to do every single day. It shouldn’t come as some big surprise unless this is your first ride on the “adulting” carousel.

  • jonathan

    June 27th, 2016 at 8:19 AM

    Over the course of my 40 plus years I have made some great decisions and I have made some terrible ones. At a certain point you have to roll with the punches and just be thankful for being here and for having the opportunity to make yet another choice in life. The alternative is that there will always be someone else there making all of the decisions for you, and that is not a feeling of independence in that. That boils down to always having to rely on someone else for even the most mundane of issues. That is not being an adult in any way, shape or form.

  • Ted

    June 28th, 2016 at 11:48 AM

    Yep we have become so consumed with fear about making the wrong decisions that this has frightened us into complete and utter inaction.

  • corinne A

    June 28th, 2016 at 4:18 PM

    First step: leave the past in the past

  • Patty

    September 17th, 2016 at 9:56 AM

    Hi I am a mommy to my daughter but she not living with me my x boyfriend is the reason why she not with me just looking for some support.

  • The GoodTherapy.org Team

    The GoodTherapy.org Team

    September 17th, 2016 at 12:09 PM

    Hi Patti,

    If you would like to consult with a mental health professional, please feel free to return to our homepage, http://www.goodtherapy.org/, and enter your zip code into the search field to find therapists in your area.

    Once you enter your information, you’ll be directed to a list of therapists and counselors who meet your criteria. From this list you can click to view our members’ full profiles and contact the therapists themselves for more information. You are also welcome to call us for assistance finding a therapist. We are in the office Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time; our phone number is 888-563-2112 ext. 1.

    Kind regards,
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