For most of my life, I’ve been terrible at decision making. As a child, I was perfectly content to lay back and let other people make my choices for me. I never participated in the “what should we have for dinner” arguments with my family, I let my friends choose our after school hang out destinations, and I rarely kicked up a fuss about what movies or TV shows we watched.
But that’s a hard attitude to keep up the older you get. Once I got into high school I realized I had to make a lot of decisions, and I couldn’t always rely on other people to make them for me. That’s also what the protagonists of Two Roads From Here realize as they’re faced with some pretty difficult situations. Brian, Allegra, Cole, Nikki, and Wiley all have complicated choices to make, and there’s no clear right or wrong answer for any of them. Of course, these five are lucky — they’re offered the rare opportunity to see how both of their choices play out. Most of us aren’t that lucky. Once I realized I’d have to actually make — and live with — difficult decisions, I decided to come up with a method for figuring out what the best course of action is. Here’s my handy guide to making tough choices, for all of you out there struggling with what path to take. Check it out — and then check out what happens to Brian, Allegra, Cole, Nikki, and Wiley in Two Roads From Here, available as an extended expert here on Riveted until July 31st!
1. MAKE A PRO/CON LIST
This one can seem useless because so often the positive and negatives of a situation weigh each other out, and you don’t wind up with one overwhelmingly positive “right” choice. But hear me out — it’s actually super helpful even if you wind up with the same number of pros and cons on your list! Writing out the pros and cons of your choice helps you actually think about the positive and negative ramifications of that choice. Plus, it can help you better understand what it is you’re deciding between. For instance, if once choice involves doing something you really love as a positive but spending a lot of money to do it as a negative, you can see that you’re deciding between your heart and your head. Even if it doesn’t get you closer to a decision, it’s helpful to really see what you’re trying to decide!
2. ASK SEVERAL DIFFERENT PEOPLE YOU TRUST FOR ADVICE
My go-to advice giver is my Mom, because she’s got great taste and is super smart. I also have a ton of friends who I often turn to when I’m in a jam. A lot of the times they don’t agree with each other — but that’s great! Just like with a pro/con list, it can be really helpful to hear different opinions to better understand the decision your making. Besides, sometimes your friends and family have a way of saying just exactly what you need to hear so that you realize just exactly what choice you should make. Trust your people!
3. SLEEP ON IT
It can be okay to make big decisions on a whim, but if you’re feeling conflicted or torn between two options, I definitely recommend sleeping on it. That gives you time to rest and recalibrate so you can approach the decision fresh in the future.
4. CONSIDER HOW IT FITS INTO YOUR FUTURE
I’m not always a big-picture type of person, but it’s a good idea when making tough decisions to really consider the long-term impacts of them. Sometimes your choices don’t have long-term impacts, which is still an important thing to know about them. Sometimes realizing what the long-term result of a choice can be makes the “right” choice easier to figure out.
5. IF ALL ELSE FAILS, FLIP A COIN
There’s an old trick — if you put Choice A on Heads and Choice B on Tails, when you flip the coin you’ll subconsciously think about which side you want the coin to land on. Boom! You just tricked yourself into figuring out what you really want to do.
6. REMEMBER: THERE ARE (ALMOST) NO REALLY BAD DECISIONS
Look, for the most part you’re not going to be able to make a truly wrong choice. There are exceptions to this rule — anything that could potentially hurt yourself or others, for instance, or anything that could get you or someone else into serious trouble. But for the most part a “wrong” choice is really just a “disappointing” choice. Spending money you meant to save on a concert, and then the concert turns out to not be super fun? Disappointing! But not the end of the world. And here’s a protip: if you think one of your choices could potentially be a truly bad decision, then maybe that’s not the one you should pick.
7. REMEMBER: MOST DECISIONS CAN BE UNDONE!
The biggest and toughest decision I’ve had to make in my life so far was which college I wanted to go to. I labored and I stressed and I cried — I was so torn between so many places. But then I talked to my Mom (see step two!) and she reminded me that I could always transfer — both her and my father transferred schools when they were in college. It was a great reminder that very rarely are choices permanent. But honestly, in my life I’ve found that I’ve never made an incredibly wrong choice when I sat and really thought about it. The answer to what you really want to do and what’s really best for you is inside you — you just need to think about it.