As millennials, we have choices.
A LOT of choices.
Unlike our parents and grandparents, our lives are there to be claimed, to be designed the way WE want.
The burden that comes with this, though, is that we will need to make infinitely more decisions.
Should I get married or keep enjoying Tinder? Should I build a family or be independent and flexible as a global digital nomad? Should I take an “ordinary” job, or pursue my purpose? Should I quit my job to start my own company?
These are just some of the major decisions we get to take in life. I say GET TO because I see our ability to choose our own fate as a great privilege.
There has been a lot of fascinating research on decision making. What we now know is that our subconscious decides WAY before we come up with a “rational” decision.
Most of our decision-making is purely on a subconscious level and only after the fact we try to rationalize the decision we have already taken.
After being very conflicted about the “baby question” for a while, I forced myself to make a decision a couple of years ago, so that I could move on and plan the future.
(For various reasons, which I will not go into in this post, I decided against having children.)
Since then I have never looked back and felt such relief and clarity about the whole thing.
It was a long, painful process to get to this decision. But I learned so many decision-making tools that I want to share with you.
So how did I do it?
Here is what helped me the most when I took this difficult decision.
1. Look inside
Don’t look outside before you calibrate your own compass. Your family, partner, and friends will all have a certain stake in your decision and will not shy away with advice. Just because your partner wants to get married, does not mean that this is YOUR path.
Take some time to reflect on your own. Perhaps you can journal, go on a short solo-trip or go for a long walk. This step is so essential in making a decision that is aligned with your heart and personal values.
2. Live as if
Here is a trick I learned from an amazing psychologist. Let’s say you need to decide between two major options: working for a big insurance corporation or joining a startup for example.
In order to listen to your heart, pretend that the decision was taken and convince yourself for one week that this is your new reality. In the second week, you do the same for the other option.
At the end of the two weeks, I can assure you that you have clarity about what the best decision is for you.
3. Make a good old pros & cons list
Yes, you probably have reasons for and against it in your head. But did you actually bother writing it down on a piece of paper?
The good old pro & con list is really helpful when you are completely torn whether or not you should embark on a major change in your life.
Jut fold the paper in half and jot down as many reasons you can think of that speak for or against the option.
4. Flip a coin
Yes, it’s that easy. No, don’t worry — we are not going to let chance decide your fate. For experimentation, purposes decide what head and toe represent in your case (decision a/b). Then you flip a coin.
Now imagine that the decision has been taken for you. Done deal!
You will have an instant gut reaction when the results show. Perhaps you feel relief or disappointment? Based on this fast reaction you are able to gauge what decision feels more “right”.
5. Sample your decision
With many decisions, we actually have the possibility to try out different options. So rather than deciding on something that you only know from the outside, put yourself in a position to experience some aspects of the new life first-hand.
Spend a day with a friend who has a newborn. Talk to a married couple about their experience of settling down. Spend some time with people who have started their own company. Etc. You get the idea.
Just do a mini-internship to get a more realistic picture of the impact the decision would have on you.
6. Future-date your decision
If none of the above options worked for you, it may be worth considering to postpone your decision to a certain date.
You could mark your agenda on a certain day and re-visit the decision then.
Chances are that the picture changed due to outside influences and your foundation for the decision is different.