When posed with making a difficult decision, it always begins with a lot of turmoil and confusion. These things most often catch us off guard, which is why they are so initially shocking and unsettling. We feel stable in our relationships, and then a situation occurs, which causes us to question our confidence in that relationship; we feel secure in our job, and then an unforeseen management change happens that changes our job, and we must consider if we will accept these new changes; we have set up a comfortable routine in our living situation, and one day, get a notice that the landlord is not extending our lease, and we are forced to reassess our situations (and sometimes quicker than we would like!)
At the beginning of being presented these decisions—whether it is decisions about dating and relationships, decisions about jobs and schooling, decisions about determining a place to live or buying a car—it always works through the same set of stages (to which, I don’t know why I should be surprised when these things happen, but rather, should expect how the next few pieces will lay themselves out).
It’s an interesting tension that presents itself—to exist in the present while still understanding that the future will, indeed, bring clarity. It is like going through the grieving process—when you are at the beginning stages of the grieving process, you know that you are emotionally disconnected, and that it is difficult to find words to express whatever thoughts are trying to be made in your head. With time, those thoughts definitely come out, but in order for that to happen first, you must exist in the first stage. You know the future will all end up fine, and that in the future, you will understand why things are happening the way that they are, but in your current situation, you will not know that.
The first part in all of this decision making is to figure out what the potential pathways could be, and what the benefits and drawbacks of making that choice might be. The amount of pathways is often much more extensive than ‘stay with our significant other or break up’, ‘stay in our job or quit’, ‘move back in with our parents or buy a house’. It is more like, “should I talk to him about my insecurities and share my past? Should I tell him we need to go to counseling? Should I get advice from my friends? Is this when we have the marriage conversation?”, “Should I share my concerns with the new management? Should I wait around and see how the changes are? Should I ask to be moved into a new department? Is this a sign that I should just quit working and have a baby?”, “Should we try to fight the lease and stay as long as possible? Should we look into buying a house? Should we buy a new house? Should we buy a condo? Is this a sign that we are supposed to do something drastic and move over seas? Should we try to find a new rental in a similar location?”.
You seek out to do research. You contact those you would consider ‘mentors’ to ask for their opinions, their advice. You pull up the ol’ trusty Google and type in search terms. At first, this research seem endless and overwhelming, because there are so many path to go down, and as you sift through, you start placing things into categories, tossing out ideas that definitely will not work, making lists of things you need to do more research on (that you hadn’t thought of before until someone mentioned it or you stumbled across it on a website).
As you spend time sifting through the difficult decision and doing your research, things start to fall away, and become more clear. You begin ranking your potential options: I’d prefer E, but F could work as well, definitely don’t want A or B, but I’d choose C if I had to; I don’t think I want to propose moving in with my boyfriend just yet, because according to my research, we should probably talk about how we handle finances first; I don’t think that I should apply for another job, because the pay cut will be too drastic; I don’t think that I should look into purchasing a house, because the market is not favorable and I don’t have enough money saved up. After some reflection, you realize that Path A, B, and C probably would not work, but you would definitely pursue E or F; but, we could consider going to counseling so that we can discuss the financial issue, I might be able to share my concerns with the new management and finally move my office by a window; moving too far away would mean more money in gas, so we should probably find something close to where we are now.
And eventually, the meddling clears up, the confusion subsides, and, as if in a movie, a light becomes clear as to which is going to be the right path to take. It never falters–the right decision is always eventually presented despite the journey to obtain it.
Whenever I’m tasked with a difficult decision (picking a job, picking a significant other, picking a living situation, picking a car to purchase), it always goes this way, and it always ends up that, through the processing, I’m able to make the best decision. Of course, in order to make this best decision, the confusion and the meddling must happen. I must do my research, consult my mentors, weigh out the pro’s and con’s, and all of this will lead me towards that end.
I think this is one of the (many) reasons we are meant to undergo this suffering of making difficult decisions. It is through looking down different avenues, different possibilities, that when we land on the path we ultimately end up taking and we are solidified in our decision—we take no regrets, we stop seeking other options, and we feel confident in our outcome. We know that Choice A, B, or C would not have been a good situation, and we because we went with Choice F, we don’t ever consider the other options again.
But most importantly, what all of this leads to is a greater sense of self knowledge. As Oscar Wilde says, “loving yourself is the beginning of a lifelong romance”. When we initially brainstorm all of the choices, and then begin determining the benefits and drawbacks, we learn new things about ourselves—maybe I would not have liked that option, because I’m definitely a person who requires more freedom—maybe I would really like to do that, because I’m really good at finding creative solutions—maybe what I initially thought I wanted is not actually what I wanted after all.
But, we must go through this process of making the difficult decision. What fun would it be if we didn’t have to?