This is a story about the most embarrassing time period in my life.
After several years of traveling the world and living life as a vagabond, I returned to the United States with plans to pick a city in which to live and set down roots.
But having spent so much time traveling, I no longer had a place I could call home! My family and friends were spread throughout the United States.
I visited various cities that I thought might appeal to me, but I couldn’t find a place that felt just right—somewhere that felt like my future home. I tried and tried, but I was unable to make a decision.
I was stuck.
During this period, I spent time living with my parents, my sister and sometimes even living in a hotel room. Yet, no matter where I was, I just couldn’t choose a place to live. I agonized over my decision, longing to make the right decision for my future.
I actually feel embarrassed now, by how stuck I was and how long it took me to make a decision! I wasted several months of my life—time that could have been spent working toward more important life goals.
Reflecting back on that time in my life, I see now how I could have made things much easier on myself. In doing so, I’ve developed a three-step process for getting unstuck!
I want to share this process, in the hopes that others never have to go through what I went through!
This process can be used for any situation in which one is feeling stuck and finding it difficult to make an important decision.
We need to figure out why we feel stuck.
Most of the time when we feel stuck, it’s because we’re afraid of losing something.
We may be afraid of losing something that we already have, or we may be afraid of losing something that we hope to gain in the future.
In order to identify what we are afraid of losing, let’s start by asking ourselves this question: What am I afraid of losing if I choose this option?
We must do this for every option we are currently considering! Spend some time with the question and don’t just accept the first answer that comes up! Dig deep and repeatedly ask: Why am I afraid of losing this?
We must reduce our fears.
Once we’ve figured out what we’re afraid of losing and why, we must work to actively reduce our fears. There are a couple ways we can do this:
One option is to focus on what we have to gain.
Instead of making a traditional “pros and cons” list, I suggest making a list of pros only! The rationale being that we’ll never get unstuck by focusing on cons, fears or potential losses.
Make a list of potential gains from each option. Then imagine yourself experiencing those various positive outcomes!
Actively focus on how wonderful it would feel to have those positive things in your life. Repeat this exercise daily, or even several times a day, as needed!
Another option to help reduce our fears is to gain perspective on the decision.
There are many different ways to gain perspective on the decision that we’re struggling with. Here are a few questions that we can ask ourselves:
In the grand scheme of things (life, the world, the Universe), how important is this decision?
What if it turns out that what we think is an important decision, is really a minor, inconsequential decision? How might that change things?
What are the chances that our worst fear will actually happen? And even if it does happen, is it possible that we might be able to handle it?
Additionally, we don’t need to completely eliminate our fears in order to get unstuck and move forward! We just need to create enough space—enough of a gap—so we can feel comfortable making a decision and moving forward from there.
Make a decision.
Once we’ve reduced our fears, we still need to actually make a decision!
Here are 3 methods we can utilize for making a decision. We can choose the one that resonates the most, or even use all three to see if we arrive at the same answer!
1. Choose using our list of pros.
That list of pros we made earlier might hold the key to making a decision! Look back over the list and ask the following questions:
Is there one option which offers more pros than the others?
Is there one that offers a stronger possibility of building the type of life that is desired?
Is there an option that seems to resonate more strongly with you?
The decision may become obvious once we’ve taken the time to answer these questions!
2. Choose based on one’s core values.
Start by asking the following question: What do I most value in life?
Write down the first five-10 things that come to mind.
Once we have our initial list of five-10 values, next narrow it down to the one to three things that are most important to us in life. (It may be difficult to narrow the list to so few items, but it’s an important step in the process!)
Now look back over the options you’re considering, keeping in mind those 1-3 most important values. Then ask the following question: Which of these options gives me the best opportunity to live my most important values?
Now, sometimes we find ourselves stuck choosing between two or more things that we value.
If this is the case, just keep in mind that ultimately the choice will be something important to us. This is a wonderful thing, because no matter what is chosen, the selection will be one of value!
3. Choose based on what you can control.
There are so many facets of life that are outside of our control!
Look back over that list of options—does one of the options offer more control over the potential outcomes?
If so, then we may be better off choosing that option, rather than choosing an option where the potential outcomes creates circumstances outside of our control.
Getting stuck while making an important decision is normal!
I once read about a professor who spent months agonizing over whether to stay at his current university or to take a job at a different university. The irony of the situation is that he was a professor of Decision Sciences!
I hope that with the help of process outlined above, we can spend more of our lives actually living, and less precious time feeling stuck.
Some final thoughts.
Something I’ve learned is that making any decision is better than being stuck.
Ultimately, I decided not to live in the United States, and instead I moved to Bogota, Colombia. I still have no idea if that was the “right decision”—whatever that even means!
I do know that making a decision, and moving forward with my other life goals, has been a hundred times better than driving myself crazy trying to make a decision!
At a certain point, we all just need to embrace the unknown.
Take a chance and dance with the mystery of life! Accept that we’ll never have all the answers.
Just say: I don’t know where this choice will take me, but I’ll bet it’s going to be wonderful!
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Ed Herzog
Apprentice Editor: Yoli Ramazzina/ Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock
Photo: Krzysztof Poltorak/FotoCommunity