Do you often find yourself second (or third or fourth) guessing your decisions? Do you find yourself constantly re-tooling the vision for your life? If so, your indecisiveness may not be solely on you, but also on the advice you take from those around you. If left unchecked, this can seriously shake your self-confidence and lead to symptoms of anxiety. So, the question actually becomes, who’s really making the decisions here?
Ok, story time. Once upon a time… ah, never mind, I’ll just get right to the point. When I was in grad school, I was there with a purpose. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a psychotherapist. I also envisioned myself working in the community to help those in need, which is why I chose the path of social work. I wanted to do both. But my main goal was psychotherapy. And this wasn’t a new goal. I’d wanted to be a therapist since my first Psychology class in 12th grade. My undergrad degree is in Psychology. It’s my passion, my calling. So, here’s the twist. I actually began doubting my decision to pursue the clinical path and get licensed as a therapist. Why? Because of the “advice” I was receiving from multiple people.
I can’t tell you how many people told me I should forget about clinical social work and instead go for the job security of a government agency. And when I was actually offered a position at the government agency that I did an internship with, not only the people I knew and loved told me to take it, but people I barely knew started throwing in their 2 cents as well. I literally had someone- who I had all of 1.5 conversations with throughout my entire internship- tell me that I was only hurting myself by not taking the position there.
I was only mildly irritated by the unsolicited advice of those I barely knew. However, the suggestion that I veer off the path I had set for myself from those I loved and respected was harder to swallow. Like I said, I respected their input, their advice meant something to me, and at the end of the day, I didn’t want to disappoint them. But I didn’t want to disappoint myself either. See the conflict here? I had been waiting a long time to actually start my “real” career in this field. And even though it was scary, and I was terrified of being a huge disappointment, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I let go of my dream and ended up stuck in a job that I hated. So, I sat with the uncomfortable, and moved forward with my vision.
And it was great! I felt content and happy with what I was doing. Then, it happened again. When I decided to start my own private practice, someone that I saw as a mentor discouraged me from doing so. Again, I was told that I should work in an agency with more security. And as for my desire to move to a cash-pay practice, I was told that just wasn’t possible in the area I live in. But this time, I was prepared and armed with much more self-confidence. I immediately thought to myself, “Well, I guess I’ll just have to prove you wrong”. I thanked her for her unsolicited advice, collected my belongings and left.
What’s the point of the story? I almost let other people decide the path my life would take for me. Some of them had the best intentions, while others may have simply been describing their own fears and pushing them onto me. Whatever the reason, the point is YOU are the author of your own story. You are ultimately responsible for the decisions you make and the path you take. In essence, you are responsible for your own happiness.
Had I taken the advice I had been given I wouldn’t be happy. Why? Because I wouldn’t have been true to myself. Now, let me point out, this in no way is meant to negate good advice. However, I’ve found the first test of “good” advice is whether or not you ask for the advice in the first place. In my experience, usually when people provide their unsolicited opinions, it’s often a defense mechanism that provides THEM with some form of relief. I don’t believe this is intentional, or malicious, it just is what it is. But remember, we’re not talking about deciding on what to eat for dinner that night. We’re talking BIG LIFE DECISIONS. So, if you’re finding yourself feeling indecisive about a major decision you have to make, here are a few tips to help you through the process:
Try to find the root of your indecision-- Are you afraid? Is there a major consequence if you make the “wrong” choice? Have others told you your plan was crazy? Do you not trust yourself? Once you figure out the root cause, you can tackle it. Indecisiveness is probably a symptom of something deeper.
Think about the spirit of the advice you’ve received-- Was it from someone you deeply trust or someone you barely know? Did you ask for advice or did they randomly volunteer their opinion? Does the advice speak to your specific situation? Remember, it’s difficult to see things from someone else’s perspective. If you’re the sole breadwinner of your family for instance, your thought process when it comes to career stuff is going to be totally different from that of someone that doesn’t really have to work. If the person providing advice has a totally different lifestyle than you, take that into account before acting based on their advice.
Weigh risks vs. rewards-- This is something only you can decide. It’s great to talk it out with others, but at the end of the day, you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of your situation. Generally speaking, one of two things will happen. There will be a clear answer, yea or nay and you’ll go with it, OR there’ll still be a clear answer, but you may feel a pull in the opposite direction, which leads to my final tip…
Trust your instincts-- It may sound cheesy, but what is your gut telling you? We have instincts for a reason. They protect us from danger and lead us toward the things that will make us happiest in life. So, trust them.
At the end of the day, with any decision you make, you are responsible. Make sure you can live with whatever the aftermath of your choice is, good or bad. What’s the worst that can happen? And do you have a plan if the worst does happen? Bottom line, if you find yourself constantly questioning yourself and plagued with indecisiveness, it may be time to work on building your self-confidence and learn some coping skills for anxiety. And if you feel you need help with that, well, give me a call or drop me a line; I’m here to help you live your best life!
So how do you deal with making major life decisions? Leave a comment below and tell us what works for you!
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