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Decide – don’t agonise. How to make and own your career decisions

What is the right choice? How do we make the correct decisions in life? According to the authors of Designing Your Life, this is a misleading belief: there is no such thing as a right choice, only good choosing. And once we’ve made that choice, to let go and move on.

It’s quite a liberating viewpoint, when you think about it, as it frees us from the burden of agonising about our decision: time where we are basically stuck.


A very typical decision making process goes like this, say the authors:




When instead a much more healthy approach is:


Each of these steps (as set out in designing your life), are as follows:


Step 1: Gather and create options: These are the processes that are set out in most of Designing Your Life. They include thinking about and writing down your philosophies about life and work (your Workview and Lifeview), mind mapping, creating some potential visions for your life over the next five years (your “Odyssey Plans”), brainstorming, and then investigating and trying things out in the real world.


Step 2: Narrowing down the list: When you have too many options, you actually have none at all, say the authors, because you’re so overwhelmed by the choice that you end up doing nothing. Their advice is to list out the options and then cross options off. You’ll know if you have crossed off the wrong options, they say.


Step 3: Make a decision: Good decisions are made in a very old part of our brain: a part that communicates via feelings like gut reactions, hunches and emotions. Very often our response to making a decision is – I need more information. This isn’t helpful: it’s the more modern bit of our brain getting in the way of us making a choice. Instead, we need to get more in touch with our more intuitive, emotional selves. This is a skill like any other, and the authors recommend practicing this regularly, through technqiues such as journaling and meditation. What practices do you generally use to invest in your emotional intelligence? How do you generally separate between your emotional/instinctive and rational decision making processes?


Step 4: Agonise Let go and move on: Agonising, say the authors, looks like this:

  • Did I do the right thing?

  • Am I sure that this is the best decision

  • What if I’d chosen something else instead?

  • Can I go back and start again

There’s a lot of wise advice in the book about how to move on after making a decision. One of the best pieces in the chapter is this: We can’t know whether we have made the best choice, because we can’t know what the best choice was until we have tried all of the other options. And that’s not something that we can do – so all that agonising does is to lead us to being unhappy with the choice that we have made.


Imagined choices don’t actually exist, because they are not actionable

More than ever, in an age of the internet, there are so many ways of looking at all the possibilities that may have been great, but that we decided not to pursue, and so of torturing ourselves with the fantasies of what might have been.


Just remember: it’s rare that decisions have a “right” answer


What techniques do you use to own your decisions and move on?



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