At one time or another, most of us will find ourselves at a crossroads. Whether it’s deciding to take a new job that’s all the way across the country, figuring out where to put down roots and settle down with our family, or whether or not to go back to college and pursue a new career path, there are myriad choices that can alter life as we know it. As an impulsive species, it’s in our nature to jump into a decision without thinking it all the way through. As a result, we can easily find ourselves second-guessing whether or not we chose the right path, and what could have been if we’d selected differently. If you find yourself in this position, here are five introspective questions to ask yourself. Answering them as honestly as possible can help steer you in the direction that will yield the most reward and long-term happiness.
1. What are the potential outcomes of every scenario?
Faced with multiple options to choose from and unsure which one is best? Begin by imagining yourself pursuing every one. Then, realistically consider how that would look one day from now, five years from now, a decade from now, and even longer down the road. Who, if anyone, would be directly affected by each choice and how? What are the negative consequences you could face or the positive benefits you could reap?
Moreover, what else will change if you select one choice over another? These are often secondary considerations that we might overlook at first but can play a major role in how the future pans out. For instance, my family and I are considering a major move from our current home onto family property about 10 minutes away, where we could build a forever home. At first, we only thought about how it would affect us as spouses. Could we afford it and how? What kind of home would we build? How would we get into town from there? Then, we realized the move would change our children’s school district, and that opened an entirely new dialogue. Consider heavily who will be impacted by the decisions you make, and how.
2. Who relies on me and what are my obligations?
While it sounds dreamy to be able to simply pack up our lives and hit the road whenever a better opportunity comes along, the reality is that most of us answer to at least a handful of people. Whether that’s our spouse, our parents, our children or our boss, there are people who would be directly affected by our choice one way or another. For instance, if you are considering changing careers, you might remember that you signed a contract with your boss that says you’ll work for a set amount of time before pursuing a different job. That would be a major factor in your decision-making process.
Be cognizant to really think about everyone who you are tied or connected to and how the decision would affect them. While some choices will remain deeply personal, it’s important to think about who would feel the impact if you decide to go one way or another.
3. What is the most practical thing at the moment?
We can daydream all day long about ideal possibilities, but working with what we have in the very moment, what is the most realistic option? Especially when the potential move is exciting or life-changing, we can become swept up in the “what if” possibilities but staying grounded in the present is essential.
For instance, we can’t relocate to a different part of the world for a career without researching the cost of living, available rental options, currency conversions, educational systems and more. We might research all of the reasons to move somewhere exciting, without considering if and how we’ll make it work on our end. How does the cost of living compare? What is the currency exchange rate? Where will I live during the relocation process? Before making a major decision, be sure you’re adopting a realistic mindset about every scenario and aren’t building any of them up to be bigger than they actually are.
Doing so can often help you eliminate grandiose options that seem incredible in our minds but aren’t exactly feasible. Using the example of my family and I building a home, we started out drawing 4500 square feet house plans, then ran a budget calculator to see what we could truly afford. Needless to say, those dimensions changed just a little.
4. Who am I as a person?
Before making a major decision, consider how the options line up with your personal beliefs, value system, short and long-term goals, and expectations. This step requires a level of self-reflection that might be a little uncomfortable at times, but is essential to ensuring that you don’t end up in a position that you regret down the road. For instance, I have a cousin who sold her beloved country cottage after all of her friends from college started settling down in massive tract homes on the other side of town. She followed suit to fit in, but almost immediately began missing her tiny brick home on the edge of town. You’ll know in your gut if a choice is aligned with your personal interests and values. If it isn’t, it’s likely time to move onto the next.
5. What can I live with?
This last question isn’t about asking yourself what you’re willing to settle for. An important part of life is pushing ourselves beyond our boundaries and going after that which we truly believe will better us. You shouldn’t be forced to settle for anything. Yet, it is important to ask yourself which path will bring you contentment and peace. Is there one option that seems wrought with turmoil, even though it could lead to some positive outcomes? If you’ll be uncomfortable or unhappy in the position down the road, those tiny glimmers of good are likely not worth it. Ask yourself which choice will put you in a place of happiness and allow you a positive outlook.
Denise W Anderson from Bismarck, North Dakota on April 29, 2018:
These are great questions to ask ourselves when we are facing a major life change. I went to a training this past week and my company is facing some restructuring that will affect me down the road. It is a good idea to start asking myself these questions now, before the dust starts flying and I am in the thick of it. Thanks for getting me thinking!