A big decision is looming on the horizon. You feel the tremor, you hear the footsteps off in the distance. Many of us don't like pulling a lever and opening a door to a new endeavor, mostly because we can't predict the future or know if anything will work out. And some of the steps you might take to make the decision--like making a pro-con list--don't help that much. In my experience, it's better to ask yourself these four tough questions.
1. Will it challenge me?
The easy decision is not always the best decision. When I first decided to be a writer in 2001, it wasn't without a lot of restless nights, wrestling with the idea of abandoning my corporate career. Other than being one of the best decisions I've ever made, the part that hooked me is that I needed a new challenge. Finding another job would have been difficult, but starting a writing career from ground zero is much more challenging (and, for me, rewarding). Challenges stretch us, make us better--they push us to greater things.
2. Will I become an example to others?
Your kids, your friends--a colleague who sits next to you. You can be an example to them of what it's like to act decisively and without regret. If you're a mother or father, sometimes a tough decision might linger for a while, but if you charge ahead, it can help your kids see what conviction to a cause looks like. I'm not saying to become a doormat who makes decisions only for the benefit of others. I am saying there are people watching what you do. Make sure it is the right decision, but act without constant hesitation and analysis.
3. Is it slightly dangerous?
Most of us like the safe route. It's just...safer. For someone who is choosing between two good job offers, or making a life decision like who to marry or whether to have kids, or even when you are planning a vacation and deciding where to go, it can be hard to know which good thing is the best thing. One piece of advice? Try picking something that's a little dangerous and even risky. Go ahead and marry that person! Pick the job that involves travel to China. Buy that plane ticket to Ecuador and head out on a mountain trail. The safe route sometimes leads to boredom...and a lot less excitement in life.
4. In five years, will I play the what-if game?
I'm not a fan of the pro-con list for big decisions, mostly because we usually know what we like or don't like. We tend to pad the results. Yet, other than analyzing and evaluating all of the variables, think hard about how this decision will impact your life. Say it's a new job. You have to leave your current job, move to a new area, and maybe even find new friends. There are pros and cons, but in the end, you don't have to figure out if you will have regrets about making the new decision. You have to figure out if you will regret not making the decision. Project out a few years--will your future self still play the what-if game?