I’ll never forget the day I decided to pack up my life in Austin, TX and move back home to Colorado. So many tough choices. Paradoxically, it was the easiest and most difficult decision I’ve ever made. I knew I needed to go home, back to my roots. Colorado was calling me.
But I was also scared. What would I do when I got there? Would I get a job? How would I pay my bills? Would I make new friends? Could I hit the reset button and start over? Could I get past my substance abuse issues and deal with my problems.
Choices like this can be both paralyzing and empowering. They can be exciting and scary. They can be joyful and sad. And these choices are often the most powerful ones we make.
The power of choice is arguably the most compelling aspect of being human. Through choice, we set the direction of our lives.
You can choose to stay in a job you don’t like, or you can choose to find one that better suits your style and talents.
You can choose to stay silent and suffer, or you can choose to speak up and affect change.
You can choose to hold on to pain and fear, or you can choose to move past it so you can live a more fulfilled life.
You can choose to be a force of positivity, or you can choose to drag yourself and others down.
Every day, you get to choose. Choose your mindset. Choose your life path. Choose how you respond to adversity. Choose to make your life better.
Or choose to remain stuck. Choose to be miserable. Choose to judge yourself.
No matter your choice, you are designing your life. And since it’s (possibly) the only life you’ll live, why not go for it? Why not make an impact? Why not find ways to be happy and to help others?
Why not design the best life possible?
So how do you go about making good choices?
Here are some tips:
1. Remember your goals and priorities and consider how this choice meets or changes them. You won’t know for sure that your decision will bring the outcome you want, but you should make choices that keep you moving in the direction you want. Sometimes when you make a choice, you may feel like you are taking a step backward, but remember, growth isn’t always linear. For example, you might take a job with a lesser title or a pay cut to get experience in a new area or to work for a company where you can grow faster. Positive things can come from sideways or even backward moves.
2. Analyze the cost of failure. Consider what would happen if you failed and what you would do to get yourself out of it. I am a big believer that you never actually fail but instead learn a way NOT to do something. Still, the truth is that failure can hurt, and you should consider it not as a way to talk yourself out of making the choice but to prepare yourself for the risk and develop a mitigation plan.
3. What does your head say? What does your heart say? Often, our logical minds kick in and overpower what our heart is telling us. The analytical mind likes to spin stories of fear and failure. “Don’t take the risk! Look at all the bad things that can happen,” it says. But the truth is that our hearts have a lot of wisdom and can help us make the right choice. I’ve never gone wrong when I’ve followed my heart, even though the journey hasn’t always been easy.
4. Considered alternatives. Sometimes the best choice is hidden. As you think through your options, consider what it might look like if you make a different choice altogether. For example, you are considering leaving your job to find a new one. It may seem like it’s a black and white choice. Stay or go. But there are other choices you could make. You could have an honest conversation with your boss and see if there is a way to increase your job satisfaction. You could ask for what’s called a mindful transition, where you continue to work in your current role while you look for a new job and your employer finds your replacement. You could apply for a different position within the organization. You could suggest working part-time while you pursue another passion. Considering alternatives helps you find your way to the best possible choice.
5. Give yourself some time. A little time and space can help you see your choice more clearly. If you cannot decide after performing the previous suggestions, sleep on it. When you wake up, do the three-second test. Ask yourself, “should I make this specific choice?” Immediately write down your answer on a piece of paper. Trust yourself with the answer.
6. Make the decision. There is a lot of power in deciding, even if the decision is small. And acting is the best way to get unstuck. Kicking the can down the road usually only prolongs our unhappiness. There is progress in action, even if it’s not immediately apparent. And remember, not deciding is actually making a decision. Acknowledge this fact as it helps you hold yourself accountable for making life decisions.
Despite all my fears, one of the best choices I’ve ever made was leaving Austin and moving back to Colorado. Despite taking a perceived step backward. Despite having to move back in with my mom to reset. Despite leaving my friends and my high-paying job. Leaning into my fear and following my heart allowed me to create a life I had never imagined. I am living my best life ever. You can make choices that help you do the same.
Making choices is the essence of being human. We all want a choice. Don’t ever take it for granted.
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