In the last few months of 2007, I needed to make a difficult decision. It was difficult because the options had equal risks and benefits. Furthermore, the decision greatly affected how my career would do in the years to come. Taking the wrong decisions means I would spend years of precious time in mediocrity.
Essentially, the options are between:
1. choosing a commonly-followed way, or
2. pursuing my own dream.
At a glance, it seems clear that I should pursue my own dream. But, after considering the risk, it was not that easy to make a decision. The risk was obvious: If I followed my dream and fail, I would lose the opportunity of having a good, “guaranteed” lifestyle, and end up with an under-average life.
After struggling for months, I finally made a decision: I would take the risk and pursue my dream. It was a difficult decision to make, but I learned a great deal about how to make such decisions in life.
Here are the lessons I learned on making difficult decisions:
1. Tune out outside noise
One of the main reasons it was difficult for me to decide was people’s opinions. Not surprisingly, most of them advised me to follow the “proven” way. Of course, they did it sincerely to help me, but it made me difficult to listen to my own heart.
While we should always be open to people’s advice, at the end we should follow our own heart. To do that, first of all we should tune out outside noise. Don’t let what other people say confuse you.
2. Go where your passions unify
One sign of the right way to follow is the unification of our passions. While we know that we should follow our passions, sometimes we come into situations where different passions conflict with each other and make it difficult to decide.
In such cases, we should go where our passions unify. Think of your passions as streams of river. Rather than thinking about which stream to follow, why don’t you follow the big river that unify those streams? It takes time to find what the big river is, but it is worth the effort. For career-related decisions, my post on career tips might be helpful here.
This lesson helped me make my decision. By pursuing my dream, I have many passions of mine involved, while if I choose the other option, I have only a few passions involved.
3. Connect the dots
One other way to know where to go is by connecting the dots in your life. Look at the events in your life, especially the recent ones. Can you see certain patterns in the events? Can you see where they are pointing to?
The events that happen in your life often give you clues of the way to go. By connecting the dots, you can see what the right way is.
4. Seize opportunities
Seize any opportunity, or anything that looks like opportunity. They are rare, much rarer than you think… Nassim Nicholas Thaleb in The Black Swan
Continuing the lesson on connecting the dots, sometimes the events in our life give us a unique opportunity. They may open a door which normally wouldn’t. As Nassim Thaleb said above, opportunities are precious. So, if you find such opportunities, go and seize them.
5. Stay true to your heart
At the end, it all comes back to your heart. Which way do you think will make you stay true to your heart? Our mind often rationalizes things, but our heart can’t be tricked. If a choice makes you feel that you miss or deny something, there’s a good chance that it is the wrong way to follow.
Sometimes you already know which way to go, but you have doubts to actually choose and follow it. There is always fear of the unknown, and it’s not easy to overcome it. Here are some tips to help you:
- Remember that your time is limited
Our time on earth is limited. So don’t waste the precious time by doing the wrong things, especially if you do that to meet other people’s expectations.
- The regret is in not doing
The regret is not in failing, but in not doing. You might fail, but the important thing is to give it a try. You can always learn from failure.
- Don’t wait until the situation is perfect
Perfect situation will never come. There will always be something that makes you want to wait again. As I said above, your time is limited, so don’t waste it with not doing.
- Don’t be afraid to take risk and be different
People who dare to take risk and be different are those who will change the world. They are the history makers. There is quote I love by George Bernard Shaw:
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
Photo by Ben McLeod