Now is NOT the Time to Make a Big Change—Or is It?
May 29, 2020
How to Make Big Decisions in an Uncertain Time
“I’m quitting my job and sailing across the Pacific Ocean,” my friend said. “I’ve wanted to do that for decades. Being alone on a sailboat makes sense right now. Do you think I’m crazy?” she asked me.
“Do it!” I screamed. “No, I don’t think you’re crazy! Go!”
“But I might not have a job when I come back,” she mused. “But if I’m honest–it’s not really an issue,” she said. “I can always find a job.” Which is true, given the field she works in.
“So go,” I said. “Why not?”
Three days later, an educator-friend announced that she’s looking for a job. She’s realized that her school is toxic and she can’t return. Is this a trend? I thought. Everyone making drastic changes in their lives in the middle of a pandemic?
Then my coaching client, Samuel, told me that although he was accepted into a doctoral program for next year, he’s thinking of turning it down. “Now is not the time to make a big change like that,” he said. I know that he’s been wanting to pursue a PhD for several years. “Do you want to talk through this?” I asked. I didn’t want to convince him to go, (I don’t have opinions on what he should do) but I wanted to walk him through this decision. Which we did. He hasn’t decided what he’ll do yet.
How to Make Big Decisions
When you have a decision to make, get clear on your priorities. Ask yourself: What matters most? It’s possible that you’ll have competing commitments and you’ll find it hard to get clear on what matters most. That’s usually why it’s hard to make decisions.
These questions can help you get clearer:
- What’s the worst that could happen? If the worst happens, then what would happen?
- What would it mean about me if the worst happens? What are my fears about what others would think about me?
- If I make this decision and things work out, then in ten years, what would I tell myself if I could travel back in time to this point now?
- What’s holding me back? What percentage of what’s holding me back is fear? (If fear is more than 50%, then that’s critical information. And probably, it means that you should do whatever you’re afraid of doing.)
When older adults reflect on their lives, they tend to have more regrets over things that they didn’t do, than regrets about things they did do. This might be the most uncertain time we’ve ever lived through, personally and collectively, and it might be a prime and powerful time for making big changes. Not reckless, dangerous changes (my friend who will sail across the Pacific is an expert sailor) and not changes that would have harmful consequences on others–but changes that might open us to more joy, satisfaction, fulfillment and love.
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