The deciding factor

Five strategies for making tough life choices 

As far as insignificant decisions go, deciding what to wear or what restaurant to go to isn’t going to majorly affect your future. 

However, there are choices you make that will have a meaningful effect on your journey through life; some of which will cause stress and uncertainties. That’s why it’s important to have a plan of action when it comes to making these choices. 

Make lists 

When faced with tough decisions, making a pros and cons list is a valuable strategy. They can help you organize your thoughts, weigh the positives and negatives of a situation and visualize outcomes. 

Samanda Stroud, a 28-year-old editor, agrees with this sentiment. When pondering whether she should relocate from Toronto to her hometown of St. John’s, N.L., she utilized this strategy. 

“I started making lists. Pros and cons lists; lists of moving companies to ship our possessions halfway across the country; lists of available apartments in St. John’s; lists of things to keep, to get rid of, to lend, to donate,” she says. “In the end, staying organized helped immensely.” 

Shannon Dinn, a 29-year-old French teacher, made the difficult decision to change her career path, which involved moving to France from Montreal. The choice was a hard one as she didn’t have experience living independently or in a foreign country. 

Her pros list was much longer than the cons, ultimately giving her the push to change careers. 

One of the most prominent pros for Dinn was how accomplished she would feel once she entered France and embraced the direction her career was heading.

“Thoughts of how successful I would feel once it was over are what kept me going,” she says. 

Some cons were understanding that she would feel homesick and the culture shock of moving to a new continent, but she was willing to face those obstacles. 

Be flexible

It’s a good strategy to understand that extenuating circumstances can affect even the most solid decisions. Altering plans can still lead you in the direction you want to go in.

Stroud has always been a planner. However, throughout the years, she has learned that while things may go awry it doesn’t mean you’ve made the wrong decision. 

“For me, it’s; make a plan and then make at least two backup plans,” she says. “Expecting the unexpected is always important. I feel that plans and strategies are helpful to get the ball rolling to set the initial framework, but from there you should expect the plan to evolve continuously.”

Envision your future self

Imagining the person you hope to become can also help steer you in the right direction. When you’re on the fence about what to do, you should assess which choice is more likely to shape you into the person you want to be.

Dinn applied this strategy when she decided to change her career in a different country rather than stay in her comfort zone.

“For me, thinking of the long term seems to be a driving force for any big decision I make,” she says. 

Consult your support system

Your network of friends and family can help you make even the most difficult decisions. This can be especially useful if someone you know has made similar choices in the past.

For instance, Stroud knew that many of her friends had similar experiences of living in Toronto for a few years before deciding to move back home to Newfoundland. 

“After talking to enough people about their different experiences, it was much easier to decide whether or not it was even realistic to move back to Newfoundland at all,” she says. 

Support systems can also help guide you through life transitions by offering assistance. Knowing if your friends and family will be there for you can push you in a particular direction during the decision-making process. 

Stroud says her group of friends were key in reassuring her that she was making the right decision by providing a helping hand during her move. 

“My partner and I were also fortunate to have a strong support network—in both Newfoundland and Toronto,” she says. “Friends and family helped us move, lent us their vehicles, stored things for us, took care of our cat.”

Ask yourself questions

It’s impossible to predict what will happen in the future, but you can hypothesize and ask yourself questions, which can help you make decisions.

Sitting down to write these questions out with a pen and paper or on your computer and  answering them will help you learn as much as possible. Also, having tangible information you can reflect on when needed will help you organize your thoughts. 

Dinn asked herself critical questions before deciding to change her career. 

“I asked myself: What will I learn from it? Is the reward greater than the risk? And what are the chances I’ll feel happy I did it?” she says. 

Similarly, Stroud asked herself questions in regards to moving home to Newfoundland. 

“I asked myself: how hard was it to find [and] keep a job? What is the cost of living like these days? Has the accessibility of the city improved at all?” she says. 

Making tough choices is inevitable in life. The key is realizing it doesn’t have to be a chore—but an exciting necessity.  

About the author

Brittany is a reporter for Youth Mind. When she isn’t working hard to become a full-time writer, she can be found making a dinner reservation, rewatching her favourite movies, or reading about True Crime.

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