Every person faces countless choices every day. What time to get up in the morning. What to have for breakfast. What to wear. What music to put on your mp3 player. Whether to go to work or call in sick so you can spend a day relaxing for a change.
Some aren’t all that important. If you have toast instead of cereal for breakfast, it’s not going to have that big an impact on your day, let alone your life. You dither and faff around and only decide at the absolute last minute, it won’t bother you after five seconds have passed.
Some decisions, though, last forever. Or they can seem like they do. If you have to pick something to study – whether you’ve just started your GCSEs or if you’re considering a third doctorate – whatever you choose is going to consume your life for at least the next few years, and almost certainly have an effect on what you do afterwards.
Tattoos last forever. Piercings are more easily hidden. Anything you have to sign a contract for – whether it’s a new mobile phone or a new house – is going to shape some aspects of your life for as long as the contract lasts. That could be six months or five years.
Things that might seem fun at the time, like naming your baby Sugarpie or Ikea, end up looking silly once you’ve got over the novelty of doing it.
And while it’s great to be spontaneous and adventurous, some things always require a little forethought.
So how do you know what to do? How can tell, before you’ve lived it, whether or not it’ll be right for you?
TRY IT ONCE
It’s why new jobs have trial shifts – not just to see if they like you, but to see if you like the work. If you have the option to try a small dose of it first, do it. See if you can handle it at all before you take it on full time. Offer to babysit before you have your own kid. Spend a few weekends with your partner before moving permanently into the same room. Get a small, discreet tattoo before you opt for a neck-to-ankle coat. It’ll give you a chance to weigh it up and see if it’s the kind of thing you would like to commit to on a larger scale.
IMAGINE ALL THE CONSEQUENCES
Think ahead. You can only use your imagination here, but use your previous experiences and your creative ability to estimate how things will pan out once you’ve made your decision. Think about why you would choose this, where you want it to take you – what else you’ll need to do to get there after this first step. Play out all possible scenarios in your head. Don’t just think about what could go right, but what could go wrong. Think about whether you’d be willing to risk the potential misfortune for the hope of the potential fortune.
LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU
If you’re really struggling to commit to a choice, talk to the people who care about you. Remember that the people closest to you are affected by the things you do. Try to see things from their sides, from any other angle. Incorporate their advice into your decision-making process. Don’t just blindly accept their orders, but know that their opinions are based how much they care for you.
If you weren’t so close to the action and the emotion, what would you think about your situation? If someone else was facing this decision, what advice would you give them? That’s what you really think. Do that.