How to make a big decision

Waking up to twenty WhatsApp messages from a friend in need is how I woke up this morning. Promptly followed by an emergency FaceTime session. Said friend has labelled me "the wise one" - a wholly unjustified title for being her go-to sounding board. An ear to chew off. I love that my friends come to me for advice, after all, who doesn't love to help out a loved one and, as the saying goes, two heads are better than one. 

I realise that amongst my girlfriends, we have all made rather big decisions lately; accepting proposals, moving abroad, buying a house, changing careers, going travelling - to name a few! Some decisions are instinctive and take a split second to make - like for me atop Bath Abbey when Mr A surprised the hell out of me by going down on one knee - but other times I can't for the life of me make my mind up, frequently revolving around what to have for dinner more than anything!
But if you've read my post Living in New York, you will know I* have made a rather big decision recently having been at a crossroad of whether to stay in New York for another year or move back to London. It wasn't an easy decision or one that was taken lightly so I have some recent experience of deciphering various factors, battling my head vs. my heart, and also dealing with people who like to project their opinion on you without asking for it. Always a delight.

In the words of Carrie Bradshaw, “it got me to thinking...” How do you make a big decision? 

Over the years I have come to rely on a few mechanics to help me work out what to do. I'm sure most of it should be credited to motherly advice. My Mum is the ultimate "wise one" and is there for me on a daily basis as well as setting up her own Life Coaching business to extend her talent to more than just her daughters! But here goes with my unprofessional, yet friendly, advice for helping you make that decision and being happy with the one you make.

Playing to my love of stationary, pass me a notebook and let me draw up a 'Pros' and 'Cons' list. I'm a visual person so this can really help see how both sides of the argument weigh up against each other. Getting all those whirling thoughts written down in black and white can really help un-muddle your head. But it's not just a case of the side with the most items wins. With everything in writing, you can sort through each point on the paper and tackle the negatives to determine if they are deal-breakers. To pull on a light-hearted reference, do you remember in F.R.I.E.N.D.S. when Ross is torn between Rachel and Julie and, with Chandler and Joey's [terrible judgement and] encouragment, writes a list but all he can write under Julie's column is, 'She's not Rachel' (or 'Rachem' as the true scene plays out owing to Chandler's poor typing skills).

"What would you do if you were me?" It's one thing to talk things through with a third party for an outsider's perspective but it's a very different thing to ask them to tell you what to do. That's a dangerous question to ask and usually it's never that simple for anyone to answer. Sometimes, even if opinions are given, I suggest you hunt out a mirror and ask yourself. Being honest with yourself face to face with your reflection will act as a filter for any bullsh*t - if you can't hold your own eye contact or you get a niggling feeling when you do (more on that later), you'll often find the answer staring you right in the face. It's a lesson I learnt as a teenager: if you can look yourself in the eye and know you are being honest then that's being true to yourself. Other people might not like your answer or agree with your decision, but if you can sit comfortably with the reflection in the mirror, you know you are on the right path.

We've all heard the saying, "Go with your gut" - the clue is in the title here and the answer lies in your stomach. Sometimes butterflies can flit around in there and other times it can feel like your stomach is lined with lead - these are pretty clear physical indications of how your body feels one way or the other. I've tried in the past saying out loud different answers and seeing how my body responds - is it heavy with dread or fizzing with excitement? I spoke to a friend of mine about this when she went wedding dress shopping and found herself torn between two dresses - I said put one of them on, close your eyes and see if you can envisage yourself walking down the aisle towards your Groom and wait for the feeling in the pit if your stomach. Then switch dresses and repeat. The result was a purchase and a very happy Bride.

Sometimes you can feel like you're going around in circles - some days feeling certain that Answer A is the right decision and the next day you can do a complete 180! I've even spoken to friends about doing this when they've been in an unhappy relationship; at the end of each day, reflect on whether it was a good day or a bad day. Set yourself a date in the future and keep a log of ticks and crosses, happy or sad faces, sunshine or moons, whatever the symbol you get the idea! On that future date you work out if the positive or negative results take the majority. Life is too short to be unhappy. Similarly, when making a big decision such as deciding to change careers or move away, make a note of which decision you're veering towards on a daily basis and then take a look back at the general consensus.

To put all of these into context, when we were contemplating staying in New York, between us we could only write down three reasons to stay vs. the tens of reasons to move home and none of them could stack up against the pull of friends and family. I tried talking myself into staying of an evening whilst taking off my make-up in the mirror but I couldn't believe my reflection. Plus, the prospect of moving home literally filled me with excitement. Whilst my head told me to stick it out for another year, over a three week period, there were more ❎ against life in New York than ✅ and how could I sign up to a year full of more  than ? There was no surefire way of making that decision, we were both on a roller coaster - sometimes stopping at the same destination, other times making loop-the-loops in different directions but once we had verbally said to each other the case is strong for heading home, we started to feel at peace with it and the pendulum swinging came to a halt - that was the right decision for us.

Of course, these aren't foolproof mechanics for everyone or indeed every situation, but these have worked for me over the years and recent months. If you or someone you know is currently weighing up a big decision along the lines of whether to switch careers, relocate or dust off the backpack for an adventure or two, I hope this post may be of some help. If only it was always so simple as ‘Should I buy that pair of shoes?’ - that answer then is, of course, always YES!

*Funnily enough Mr A to B also plays a part in our decision making. That's one of the fun qualities of marriage but as the blog is called Mrs A to B, I like to pretend in this little corner of the Internet that I wear the trousers and call all of the shots around here.


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