4 Mental Kicks to Make a Decision

Do it already!

Alison Acheson
Apr 24 · 5 min read
photo: Raquel Martinez for Unsplash

What is stopping you? What is at stake? Is this reversible? irreversible?

How much are you loathing the limbo of not making a decision? Can you live with it? Are you forcing others to live in your limbo with you? Can you free them and do this on your own, and your own time? Or does your entire life feel to be on hold? Or even just too big a part of your life?

1. Basic Pros and Cons

Maybe you’ve done this already, listed the positives and potential negatives that will come of your decision. I say “basic” because this is a starting point, the least and most obvious of what you can do to guide making up your mind.

Set aside time for decision-making, on your own, with minimal distraction. Maybe a mug of tea or glass of wine. Something that relaxes and opens thinking pathways. Or, for a bigger decision, you might have to go somewhere for a time. List side by side so you can mentally compare.

Give yourself time to “grow” the lists, and sit with them, take more time to ponder, and jot notes. Then put aside, as time allows, and pull out, review.

Consider sharing this process with a trusted friend, one with sound judgement. Consider what you would tell a friend, if they showed you this same list.

2. Set a Deadline

What is a reasonable amount of time? I’ll share with you the time-line of a decision that took me four years to come to! The pace and reality of your life does come into account. But will setting aside a weekend or a day do it?

Look at the scope of the decision. What should it take. (Again, consider: if this was someone else’s decision, what would you — as an outsider — think. Of course, this can be a most humbling exercise; next time you see a friend grappling with such a problem, you might feel very differently!)

For a decision that seems likely to be made in short order, consider even setting a timer. An hour? Ten minutes?

The advantage to setting a particular time forces you to focus on the matter. If it’s something that needs to be done “today,” consider having a nap. If tomorrow, resolve to “sleep” on it. But write out that list first, and review it before you sleep so that it is on your mind; let your sleeping mind process.

3. Look Ahead

One of my sons was offered an opportunity. It meant adding a couple more years to being away from friends and home. It meant doing a degree he had not considered before. But it was an opportunity.

And he thought ahead. “In eight months from now, I don’t want to be somewhere wishing I’d done this — I need to say yes.”

Can you look ahead, and consider how you might see this decision in retrospect? Imagine yourselves in a year’s time… in five years’ time…

4. And Behind: 20/20 Hindsight

Have you made a decision before now, about something like the one on the table? Take a moment to think: it might not look the same. But we do so often have patterns to our lives. If we can recognize them. What happened last time you made a similar decision?

Last year, I chose to stay in my day job. This year, I’ve chosen to walk away. In part, because I made the other choice last round… and I’m not going to do that again! (I’ve worked with 12 month contracts, renewed year to year.)

In my case this decision, from beginning to end, has taken over four years. (Some “mental kicks” take awhile to get up into the air and find their target!)

A quick rundown: when I first began to consider leaving my job, I still enjoyed the actual work, even if there was bullying in the workplace and interpersonal issues; also, and significant, I knew I would not be able to replace the salary anywhere else, and I was not in an emotional space to have the strength to make a move.

Where you are at in your life plays a role in any decision, and that baseline changes over time; whatever decision you might be making might be very different when you are in a different place — mentally, emotionally, physically.

The following year, the actual work that I was doing had lost a lot of joy for me, which left me with a whole lot of tics in the “cons” column.

Year three, I was ready to leave, but still could not afford to do so.

And now, final year, I’ve worked hard to build up other resources, and income types (motivated by the thought to leave, and part of my deciding), and am at the point of knowing that the workplace and salary is just not enough to hold me. Time to go. With hindsight, I could say, “I should have done this a year ago,” but readiness is KEY. Recognize that some decisions take time and planning.

Final Note

In the photo, the shopper appears to be choosing between two identical apples. But surely these are the most difficult decisions to make.

In the book about screenwriting, Story, Robert McKee says to set up characters having to decide between two negatives or two positives — it makes for a more dramatic story. And in real life, it makes it just hard.

Don’t ignore, don’t put off. Put dedicated time and thought into what is your path. Another hindsight piece is remembering how much better you do feel once you’ve come to a decision.

Know yourself. Be decisive. Even if it takes four years.

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Mind Cafe

Relaxed, inspiring essays about happiness.

Alison Acheson

Written by

My latest book is a caregiving memoir, Dance Me to the End: Ten Months and Ten Days With ALS. I am now on Substack with The Unschool for Writers: a DIY MFA.

Mind Cafe

Mind Cafe

Relaxed, inspiring essays about happiness.

Alison Acheson

Written by

My latest book is a caregiving memoir, Dance Me to the End: Ten Months and Ten Days With ALS. I am now on Substack with The Unschool for Writers: a DIY MFA.

Mind Cafe

Mind Cafe

Relaxed, inspiring essays about happiness.

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