Some decisions feel so big that they can be hard to navigate. Here’s a framework to help you get unstuck.
You will never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.
The Choices We Make
We make hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions daily. We don’t think much about most of these choices. We don’t make a pro/con list when deciding what to eat for dinner or what socks to wear (at least I hope not).
For ease of reference, let’s call this category choice, to differentiate it from another category of decisions.
The second category of decisions are those that loom large. The “capital-D Decisions.” When you’re contemplating a big move, such whether to buy or sell your home, or leave your job, suddenly you find yourself drawing a line down the center of a page and writing lists of things on both sides as if that will illuminate the magic answer (hint: it never does).
What elevates something from a choice to the level of “big decision”?
What is the crucial difference between the choice of what to have for dinner or where to go on vacation, on one hand, and the decision about whether to change your job or buy or sell your home, on the other?
The difference is that the big decisions feel like crossing the ocean.
When you’re at a fork in the road, either way you go is still solid ground. We view the shore as safe. Even choices that push our comfort zones often feel relatively safe, when compared to the big decisions.
Big decisions feel like crossing an ocean. We can’t see the other side from where we stand. It feels vast and imposing.
How will we know where we are? What if we never get to the other side?
The Known vs The Unknown
In a Decision, we are presented with a tension between the known and the great unknown. We stand on the shore, the solid ground beneath our feet. We look out at the vast ocean, and it feels impossibly large and foreboding.
But what if that tension is an illusion?
The truth is, we only think we are choosing between the known and the unknown.
How to Make Big Life-Changing Decisions
When you’re caught up in one of these big Decisions, here’s a simple question to ask yourself:
What if everything you think you know is wrong?
More often than not, it is.
What if the shore is not the safe option? What if it’s not the certain option? What if it’s not the known entity?
The truth is that it isn’t certain. It only appears that way. You know the shore today. You know how it is now. And that is all you know. That is all you can know.
How it is now, in this moment, is not how it will be tomorrow or next week or next year. And there is no way to know how it will be in any moment other than now.
All predictions are stories that we make up.
Evidence supports a story about what happened in the past. It doesn’t predict the future.
Your Big Decision
You are standing on the shore, looking out at the infinite possibility. Your hesitation is based on an illusion that you are standing on firm ground.
The reality is that you are standing on a big sphere that is spinning in the middle of a vast universe. Everything changes every day. No ground is firm. No future is certain.
The ground that feels firm to you today might be under water tomorrow.
If you’re going to end up in the water anyway, why not dive in and start swimming?