Imagine you have just been offered a promotion at work. This is great news, right? You’ll be making more money, have more status and prestige within your industry, and have a whole team of people working under you.
Of course, you’ll have to relocate to a new state, pulling your partner and children from their work and schools, and you’ll all be leaving a community where you have a strong support system of family and friends. Many people who find themselves in such a position become filled with a paralyzing level of anxiety that renders them unable to make a decision. It is certainly understandable—lots of decisions are tough to make, and those that have significant implications for your career, living situation, and family are among the toughest. So what can you do?
When people are anxious about a decision, they often try desperately to escape that anxiety. They will fill their days to the brim with distractions—drinking, shopping, exercise, work, or household projects—to avoid it. While it’s natural to avoid discomfort, the elements of your anxiety may actually help you make a decision.
It can be useful to sit with your anxiety and let it talk to you. Feel the anxiety and allow the troubling thoughts and feelings to come to the surface. If you are an introvert and want to process this on your own, start writing. If you are more extroverted, talk it through with someone you trust. Either way, acknowledging what is underneath the anxiety is necessary.
Let’s unpack the potential concerns underlying the anxiety in scenario described above. There are many reasons that you might feel anxious about taking a promotion that involves relocation: fear of failing in the new position, worries about your family’s potential resentments as they adjust to the transition, concern over finding adequate schools, and trepidation regarding your own adjustment to the simultaneous change in job and community. These are all very natural fears and concerns. Acknowledging what lies beneath the anxiety, and further acknowledging that it is all quite normal, will likely bring some relief: taking the mystery out of anxiety is a big first step to controlling it.
With some of the anxiety alleviated, it is time to create a decision-making plan. First, you should set a deadline for when the decision must be made. Then go back to the fears and concerns you identified when exploring your anxiety and create a game plan for investigating each issue. Since this particular decision directly impacts the lives of all members of the family, engage them in this process. Ask them to investigate the schools, community resources, and activities available in the area where the new job would take you. If the children are teenagers, they can do this on their own; if they are younger, they will need to be guided through the process. In addition to investigating the community with your partner and children, you should also learn more about the new job. Review the new and challenging aspects of the position and make sure they are aligned with your core competencies. If you identify some weak spots in your training or skills, work to identify resources—like classes, books, or coaches—that will help you get up to speed.
Finally, schedule a family meeting in advance of your decision deadline and have everyone present the information they have found. Segue into an open discussion about everyone’s thoughts and feelings around this potential change. Then, sit down with your partner and discuss the pros and cons of each side of the decision, based on all of the information you have collected, and work together to make the best decision for your family.
Whether you are part of a couple, part of a family, or single, life is full of decisions—some big and some small. For some, all decisions are fraught with anxiety, while others make decisions with remarkable ease. Most, however, fall somewhere in between and struggle most with major life decisions around career, family, relationships, and finances. Next time you find yourself struggling to make a decision, try following the steps described in this article—allow your anxiety to help you identify the fears and concerns around the decision, set a deadline, create a game plan for investigating those fears and concerns, and then make the best decision you can.
© Copyright 2011 by By Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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.