The first big decision I had to make was choosing a course for college. Between high school graduation and the opening of classes, I had less than three months to pick one ( if you’re wondering why, it’s because I never gave it a thought until I had to) and my whole life ahead depended on my making the right choice.
Looking back, I can’t really say. It did pave the way to a relatively well-paying job, but my heart wasn’t in it. I wasn’t cut out for taking care of sick strangers. Today, if I could talk to my younger self, one piece of advice I’d give her is to learn how to tell if she’s made the right choice.
But first, how do you know it’s the right one? There’s no fool-proof method invented yet, and often, only time will tell. The most obvious confirmation of an almost-perfect decision is if, over time, you’re more happy than unhappy with it, because even the best choices will not bring 100% happiness. Except for my choice to have dogs (I had to say that, in fairness to them.)
Life is full of choices, from the time we were given the option as kids (should I pick the red M&M or the yellow one?) to our manner of dying if we’re lucky enough (will I sign a do-not-resuscitate order?.) But it’s the significant choices that have the power to alter our lives.
Choosing your partner for life, your career path or job, buying a house, a financial product for investment or retirement, and getting the type of medical treatments for a critical illness are common circumstances where making the right choice is significant.
Hence, it’s worth the effort to know how to determine if the decision you make is one that you won’t regret in a long time. Here is some advice that might help.
How to tell if you’ve made the right choice
Listen to your gut instinct.
It was Gerd Gigerenzer, director for the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, who revealed that intuition is the highest form of intelligence. But even our ancestors knew that. When they chose their spouses, they didn’t do the math.
Your gut instinct comes from a collection of information that your brain processes and forms into a hunch. You’re not consciously aware of it happening, yet most of the time, your intuition will prove you right.
So, when faced with an issue where you must make a choice, listen to your instinct if 1) you don’t have the luxury of time because a decision must be made immediately, and 2) you’ve had similar past experiences where you trusted your intuition.
Write down everything.
Still not sure? Your instinct says one thing, but your logical mind vehemently disagrees. One way of solving this dilemma which we’ve all encountered at one time or another is to write everything down.
Looking at the specifics of all alternatives on paper helps you organize your thoughts so that they become clearer, whereas just thinking about them in your head results in more confusion and indecision.
What are the most-wanted results you are looking for?
Ask yourself this question to help you come up with the best or right choice. Knowing what you want to get from your plan of action helps you narrow down your choices to the best or right one.
List all the options available to you.
Go beyond the most obvious and include the seemingly crazy options. Use your creativity. Think unconventional. Sometimes it’s amazing what you come up with that you never thought possible.
Consider the pros and cons of each choice.
Each choice will have its own advantages and drawbacks. List as many as you can; even the littlest ones may matter. You’ll be surprised at how the selection process is made so much easier when you see the pros and cons of each option written down.
Think of the worst-case scenarios for each option.
What’s the worst that can happen if I choose this over that? Knowing the worst-case results of your choice opens your mind to the knowledge that even if they happen, you have the option to change your mind and do something or find a solution. Look for another job, relocate to a different place, get a divorce.
Consider who else will be affected by your choice.
Think of the impact of your choice on others. Ultimately, it’s for you to decide. But be considerate of the effect it will have on others, without putting at risk your own happiness and goals. This is quite tricky, especially in major decisions. But done with care, you can make your choice and maintain good relationships with family, kids, coworkers, and friends.