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Making difficult decisions

Making difficult decisions

I’m writing my first blog back after two week’s holiday in the UK and I’m peak jet-lag with zero awareness of whereabouts in the world my body feels like it is right now, so I will be sure to do an extra spell-check before uploading it!  Yesterday, or maybe it was the day before, (whenever Friday morning was in the UK) I had a really interesting conversation with a taxi driver who was taking me from my parents’ house in Cambridge, to Heathrow airport at a very unpleasant hour of the day.  I’m not sure if it’s my face, or maybe because of what I do for a living, but in these sorts of situations I usually end up finding out about people’s whole life stories (ask me about the Tesla-driving Uber driver I had when I went to the Gold Coast recently for a conference presentation!!) and the drive took about 1.5 hours so we had plenty of time to cover all the subjects.

Anyway, this chap was unfortunate soul who got to pick up the crying girl who had just said goodbye to her parents (again) so that she could travel to her home on the other side of the world.  Turns out I couldn’t have hoped for a more understanding taxi driver, and we got into a super interesting conversation about how difficult it is making the choice to live on the other side of the world from your family.  You see my taxi driver was from Bangladesh and had moved to Manchester (way up in the north of England) years ago before moving down to Cambridge a couple of years ago.  He was telling me how many people have told him that he’s got a great life being able to live in the UK, able to earn good money compared to the opportunities he had open to him in Bangladesh – the assumption being he is living the proverbial dream. We got into this whole conversation about how moving away from family is never straightforward (he missed the last weeks with his Dad last year before he died because of the challenges of travelling at short notice all that way) and always comes with some significant costs / compromises. Which got me thinking about making difficult decisions and how we struggle to make them.

Some choices in life are really tough.  What makes those decisions hard to make isn’t so much about the decision itself but what the decision means to the decision maker (and their perceived perspective on what it means for others who it impacts).  A decision might be hard because:

  • It matters (to the decision maker) – the stakes are particularly high
  • There are two or more options that feel equally important
  • The decision might be connected to past events / traumas and therefore has complex associated fears attached to it

So, decisions are complex in part because the relationship between conflicting choices is inherently complex, but also because human beings are inherently complex!

When we’re faced with making difficult decisions, we often get stuck in a messy procrastinating state whereby not making a decision feels like the only option.  Not only does this just postpone the pain for a future day, but it also does little to clarify the situation as usually our choices become less clear over time as alongside procrastination comes its bed-fellow rumination. So here is a little list of different ways to navigate making difficult decisions:

  1. Accept that if it were an easy decision you’d have already made it, so making room for acceptance helps reduce the struggle.
  2. If you can, identify that different parts of you want very different things. Figuring out which part is responsible for the resistance (and why) might just help unlock the decision-making process.
  3. Recognise there is no perfect solution – whichever option you choose you’ll likely feel some degree of discomfort. If you’re waiting for no anxiety / discomfort around your choice you might be waiting forever!
  4. Run an experiment – imagine you’ve made one of the two decisions and live with that for a week. Then spend the following week living as if you’ve made the other decision.  See what if feels like and whether either of the two resonated more strongly.
  5. Avoiding making a decision is making a decision. If you’re wondering whether to emigrate from England to Australia (for example), for every day you don’t make the decision to move to Australia, you are actually choosing to stay in England. This perspective can help shift the procrastination struggle.
  6. More on the body – sometimes tuning in to how your body responds when you consider each option can provide you with insight that your analytical brain isn’t able to. What is your gut telling you?
  7. Ask others for help and insight. Sometimes friends / family can provide a perspective you hadn’t considered but sitting down with a qualified therapist is also a really great way to be objectively supported with your decision (I’d be a rubbish therapist if I didn’t say that!)



If you’d like to explore your mental health and would like a space to talk about the difficult decisions you’re navigating right now, please get in touch with us: / / 03 9077 8194.