When trying to make a tough decision you have two choices: you can either spend your time worrying about what other people want and trying to please them, or you can bravely follow your own desires and dreams.
If you’ve been following my work-life balance series ‘Jan’s Work-Life Balance Diary’ you’ll know that one of my goals is for my husband and I to live and work at least half of our time in Spain, with the remaining months living and working in the UK. However, since our children have flown the nest and are now living interesting and exciting lives of their own in various locations around the world, we had decided that now was the time to sell the family home in the UK and move to Spain full time. It had seemed a fairly easy decision to make as we had been planning the move to Spain for some time and had in fact even undertaken a mini trial of working in Spain for one month, in June of last year, which worked out really well.
However, since making the decision to sell our house and move to Spain, our family and friends have come forward to express their feelings and opinions on the matter and although each has a slightly different idea about what we should do (my dad wants us to stay in the village close to him, and my son wants us to move to New Zealand), the general consensus is that we should not move to Spain! So, what started out as an easy decision to make, involving just my husband and I, has now turned into a mammoth decision-making task involving several family members and friends. The simple fact is that whatever we decide we will not be able to make everyone happy.
Do you feel like you’re being pulled from pillar to post sometimes?
A couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with a young person, who was experiencing a similar situation to us. The young person, I’ll call Simon for this post, was finding it really difficult to decide which university he should attend in the forthcoming academic year because his family and friends all wanted him to go to a different university. Simon was very clear about which university he wanted to attend; it was a good university, around 4 hours from home, in a lively, vibrant city and offered a course that he particularly wanted to do.
However, his girlfriend wanted him to remain living at home and to choose one of the four universities on offer locally, even though they didn’t offer Simon the exact course that he was interested in studying. His parents on the other hand had taken it upon themselves to do some research in order to find the best universities in terms of quality of degree and future employment opportunities and they had put a short-list together of a number of universities the closest being 3 hours away, but none of which interested Simon at all. Finally, Simon’s best friend was also putting pressure on him to apply to the university that he was currently at, tempting him with images of great times ahead, while at the same time conveying to his best friend the need for his support in terms of helping out with the rent.
Although Simon felt as if he was being pulled in different directions, his inclination was to take the path of least resistance and choose one of the universities that his parents had selected as they were offering to support him financially. It was also a decision that could potentially reduce the tension that was being felt between himself and his girlfriend and best friend as he could say that without his parent’s support he would not be able to go to university therefore he must keep them happy. Problem solved! Or perhaps not; as it seemed to me that Simon had taken the decision to remove his own wishes from the equation, which he could live to regret.
It can be incredibly difficult to make a tough decision, especially if the outcome impacts on the lives of the people that are closest to you. People are bound to want to have their say, try to give you their advice, and try to convince you that their idea or opinion is right and the one that you should take. So how can such decisions ever be made successfully?
Take the path of least resistance? Look at the obstacles, weigh the significance of each one, then choose the path that seems to give the least problems. For Simon, as discussed above, this might be to go with his parent’s choice of university as they’re helping him financially, his girlfriend and best friends would understand why he made the decision to do this.
Try to please everyone? Of course you don’t want to upset the people in your life that you care about, the people you value the most and who bring you the most happiness, therefore you should look at your options carefully and try, as much as is possible, to compromise such that everyone is partly satisfied even if you are not.
However, trying to please everyone can be emotionally draining, exhausting even, and the stress that is caused by delaying the decision could be bad for your health and sanity! Try as you might, the outcome of tough decisions will rarely please everyone, and the more you try to please everyone, the more watered down your decision will be.
If you’re trying to please everyone, you’ll also probably also find yourself procrastinating for fear of upsetting someone however putting off making a decision in this way could potentially jeopardise your chances of getting what you want.
Finally, don’t push yourself, your hopes and dreams, aside for the sake of saying what someone else wants to hear. You have to live with your decision therefore it has to be what you want.
Refuse to compromise? It’s your life, your choice. By adopting a no compromise frame of mind when making a tough decision, you’ll probably discover that the decision isn’t so tough after all. If you put yourself and your wishes first and if family and friends care about you as much as they say they do then they should honour your decision and support you in that. After all they want you to be happy don’t they?
If you feel that you’re being pulled from pillar to post at the moment you might like to try these 4 steps:
1. Assess your values
Begin by asking yourself ‘What do I value?’ ‘Is family and friendship the most important thing to me?’ ‘Is making family or friends happy more important than my own happiness?’ Or, ‘is achieving my dreams and personal goals the most important thing?’
2. Work through your options.
In turn, work through each option (those proposed by other people in your life, such as family and friends and what you would like to do) and visualise each scenario. Take time to think about what the result of each option would mean to you. Consider the ramifications of each scenario and who will be affected? What will be the impact of each decision on the important people in your life? Is there any way that you could make the impact less intense?
3. Talk it over with family and friends
Talk through your options with family and friends, (if possible get them together all at the same time) and tell them that although you really value their opinion and do not want to upset them, it is important that you make the final decision yourself and make the decision that you feel is right for you. Hopefully, they will respect your wishes and back off a little.
4. Don’t apologise.
Once you’ve made your decision, do not apologise, or change your mind. Any weakening at this point will only serve to invite others to continue trying to convince you to do something different as they will see that you are not fully committed to your decision. When you’ve made your decision OWN it! and then move on.
Over to you. Are you trying to make a tough decision at the moment but feel as if you’re being pulled in different directions? Or perhaps you’ve found a strategy that ensures that you get what you want, or maybe you’re good at fighting your corner and refuse to compromise, either way please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.