How to make BIG decisions
How to make BIG decisions
Should I? But what if…? Maybe if I….? Or I could wait a bit….?
These questions and a thousand more were whirling around in my brain, often at completely inappropriate times like at 3:00 am. I was mulling over what felt like a MASSIVE decision to make, and that was whether I should sell my house…or not.
OUR house that is….the beautiful home where Norbert and I lived for only 2 years prior to his death. It holds so many poignant memories and dreams because it was going to be our base for a wonderful retirement life. But…(and it’s a big BUT)….the upkeep and maintenance has been getting me down, and I know it will become more difficult as the years progress.
Oh, what to do!!!! Why can’t I come to a decision!!! [much hair-pulling at this point]
Well, it’s been tough but I HAVE finally made my decision. As for the decision-making process, I did lots wrong but somewhere along the way I figured out a way to make super-tough decisions. Here’s what I did…..
I have a tendency to over-think and over-analyse (thank you, Type-A personality!) and I was terrified of making the wrong decision i.e. one that I would seriously regret. As a fairly analytical person (not to mention a serial list-maker!) my first idea to get all my thoughts in order was…you guessed it….to make a list.
I drew a line down the middle of a sheet of paper and put ‘Pros’ on one side, and ‘Cons’ on the other. It didn’t help. After trying the Pros/Cons list I found that my list was so long that it just added to my confusion and fear.
Next strategy I tried was a a Decision Tree….something we used back in my ‘work days’.
“A decision tree is a decision support tool that uses a tree-like model of decisions and their possible consequences…”Wikipedia
There are many blank templates available but I have to admit, it didn’t help me much either.
For a while I floundered and felt I was drowning in a multitude of lists and flowcharts, trying to plot the correct course of action based on facts and thoughts and a thousand bits of information.
“It’s often good to think through your decisions. But don’t overdo it. Research can reach a point of diminishing returns, confusing more than clarifying.”Psyche Central
Yep…that’s exactly where I was. Then, to make matters worse I realised that NOT making this decision was, in fact, making a decision…but maybe not the right one. Aaaargh!!! What should I do!!
I was at a crossroads and I sooooo wished Norbert was here so that we could toss around our thoughts and ideas and decide together.
Toss around some thoughts? Hmmm …good idea Marlene….what you need is a sounding-board. It isn’t possible to replicate the same circumstances as a discussion with your loved one as you both have an equal stake in the outcomes. Second best though, is talking with those who care about your happiness and security.
This was a positive direction as after discussions with family and friends, I realised that I actually had my two options askew. I thought I was deciding whether or not to sell the house, but I finally came to the conclusion that the actual decision I needed to make was whether to sell my house now….or in the future.
I was progressing as at least I was now feeling clear about my options. I still couldn’t make the decision though. But then….it was sometime in the wee small hours that something that felt like a bolt of understanding suddenly hit me! (Or maybe it was Norbert shouting at me 😁)
I was so caught up in figuring out what was the RIGHT decision, that I was overlooking the crucial point that there wasn’t one…..they were just DIFFERENT decisions. Neither was right or wrong. They were just different roads that would lead me down different paths.
Anyone remember the movie Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow? Yep, like that.
I’ve done a lot of talking on this blog about thinking positive, being your own friend and talking to yourself, and learning to trust yourself. So I asked myself (out loud, of course), “Marlene, have you ever led yourself astray? Made a decision so wrong that it really messed up your life?”
When I thought back I realised that I’ve made some pretty big decisions in my life before, which included leaving my first husband, going back to study, applying for a job that terrified me but lead to my professional career…..and marrying Norbert. If I could go back in time, would I change any of them now?
That would be a big NO for all of them! 🙂 I took some risks when I made those decisions, but I feel good about myself now. They were the right decisions for me.
So I said to myself (again, out loud and in an encouraging tone)…“Good job! You go girl! You made those decisions even though they were hard. Well done!”
At the time I had trusted my gut and my inner wisdom, so now I simply needed to do the same. I had an extra thing to trust now too – my own life experiences.
During this whole process of self-talk, something occurred to me. I had been addressing this decision from a purely LOGICAL stance ( inside my head), completely ignoring the EMOTIONAL perspective (from my heart).
Side note: I prefer the guided meditations as otherwise, left to my own devices, I end up thinking about everything other than what I’m supposed to be focusing on!
Anyway, here’s the general gist of it, described exactly how the scenes played out for me in my imagination.
[Cue sound of relaxing music] 🎵
I am standing at a crossroads, with different roads in front of me. For this decision I imagined 2 paths. Which way do I go? What is at the end of each path?
I first looked to the left and saw a sign saying ‘SELL NOW’. I visualised myself walking down that road, thinking about what would happen next and letting it play out like a film reel. I watched myself actually doing what would need to be done.
I pictured myself calling a real estate agent… walking around my house with him/her, discussing prices and what needs to be done…. having strangers come to see my home…. accepting an offer…. packing up my belongings….. finding a new home… moving in…. unpacking…. etc etc.
I tried to imagine all this in vivid detail, and while I was doing this the Meditation Guide asked me to notice how I was feeling “Is this easy or difficult? Does it feel right…or really, really wrong? What are the positives of going down this road?”
Next I imagined myself standing back at the beginning of the crossroads, but this time I walked down the path on the right – the sign said ‘SELL LATER’.
This time I watched myself settling back to everyday life in my home…. inviting friends over…. keeping everything how it was and living my comfortable life. But I also watched myself continuing to struggle with the maintenance…. the garden work… cleaning the pool… mowing the extensive lawns….
I watched myself getting older and my dodgy knee continuing to make things hard. Finally, I watched an older me having to make the decision to sell the house anyway.
At the end of this path I asked myself the same questions as before, but this time I also had to ask myself “Did this feel different to the first road? Did it feel better or worse? What is my gut telling me?”
It was an eye-opening exercise! No lists and no facts….only feelings.
I described all this to a friend and she laughed and said “All you had to do was toss a coin. If you feel disappointed with the outcome, then you know that is the wrong decision.”
Yeah….I guess it’s the same thing. It’s all about seeing which decision feels the ‘rightest’ (I made that word up but you know what I mean). 😋
Actually imagining myself walking down both paths helped a lot, mainly because it became very clear to me that if I chose path number 2, at the end of it I would be coming back to walk path number 1 anyway, but I’d be a lot older when I did that. Now is the better time.
There was just one more aspect to think about, and that was money. Would I be financially better off if I waited?
This was comparatively easy to think through because all I had to consider was my overall purpose in life. What is my intention? What truly matters to me?
“An intention is the legacy you leave when you find what is most important to you and start living in accordance with that value.”Guide to Finding your Intention
I want to do a lot of things including help others, stay positive, bring joy and happiness, and continue to work on a better version of myself. Making lots of money is not on the list though, so providing the sale of the house is a sensible enough decision that won’t leave me destitute, then the money is not what is important here. My happiness is.
One day I will be living in my new little house, and I will come back and read what I have written here. I feel fairly confident that I’ll say to myself (out loud, of course)…
“Yes, another good decision Marlene. Well done.” 😋
Have you ever had to make a really big decision? How did you go about it? Please share your thoughts and strategies via a comment below, so that others can perhaps be helped by our experiences.
UPDATE: Want to skip ahead and find out how things turned out? Read my post Moving house and surviving. Spoiler alert…it was the right decision. 🙂
Marlene is an Australian widow who has written about all the good, bad and ugly stuff that happened after her husband Norbert died tragically. Marlene responds to all comments.