What’s the Opportunity Here? Making Difficult Decisions

Every day presents us with a new batch of decisions. Some of them are innocuous: paper or plastic; regular or decaf; fries or chips. But, occasionally, we are faced with an important decision; one that will have a lasting impact. One that will reverberate throughout our future, sending ripples across the pond of our life story.

inspection career decision

At the time, we may not think much of these situations. Often, they look just like all of the hundreds of other decisions that we make every day. But there they are; waiting for us. Our very own black swan event, lying in wait, ready to set off a chain of events that we’ll one day look back on as a turning point in our lives. And as we grow older, we may one day fondly recall the event that forever changed our life for the better, or we will curse the day that everything fell apart.

From one extreme to the other: great or catastrophic. But either way, there it is. Right in front of you, patiently waiting on your move. Fate, poised like a grand master, sitting across the chess board, firmly in charge of the game. You’re hopelessly out-matched and she knows it. But she’s not smugly content; she’s just there. No emotion; no smirk rising from her lips. She’s just there, waiting for your next move. Just waiting.

Waiting on you.

What will you do? What move do you make? You can’t help but think “If I only had a crystal ball, this would be all so simple.” If you only knew what comes next. If I do this, what happens then? What about that? If only you could wave that magic wand.

But no, there is no crystal ball, no magic wand, no fortune teller to ease your fears. No playbook for you to follow. Only you. Only your experience, insight and luck.

Just you.

Sure, you can ask for advice. You can look to friends, family and mentors for guidance. But, in the end, it’s only you.

All you.

You.

So, you think, what if I do nothing? Paralysis by analysis, they call it. You can’t decide the best path forward, so you rebel. You simply wait. Do nothing and see what happens. Well, that’s still doing something, isn’t it? You’re still making a choice on your future; still moving the needle. You’re just not the one pulling the strings. You’re relying on someone or something else to move you forward. Or is it backward? Do nothing and like it. Or don’t. Just make a choice, will you!

But, in the end, you’ve got to do something. Doing nothing fells like a cop out. Only losers do nothing. You think “Damn it, at least make a choice!” So, you do.

You decide.

You.

But, what’s the choice? How do you decide? What is the opportunity? Is it to grow; to move ahead? Or maybe it’s to pull back and regroup the troops, doing a deeper assessment of the situation and the new suite of options you face.

It’s rare that we know the real implications of our decisions. There is no crystal ball, only our thoughts and expectations. We can only image the future; we can’t predict it. And until someone does invent a crystal ball, our ideas and our imagination are all that we have to work with.

So, what the hell are we supposed to do in these situations? I wish I had an answer for you (and me); I really do. Unfortunately, even the smartest people in the world can’t predict the future.

So, what’s left? The best we can do is to follow the pattern laid out by the brightest minds of history. Gather as much information as you (reasonably) can and make an informed decision.

Do the research. Examine the options. Seek the advice of a mentor.

Then make a decision.

It may not be a perfect plan, but, really, there never is a perfect plan, is there?

Just do something and see what happens. You can always make adjustments later.

Just do something.

Do nothing, and nothing happens. Life is about decisions. You either make them or they’re made for you, but you can’t avoid them.

Mhairi McFarlane
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