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5 Steps to Clarity When Making Big Decisions

I will never win the award for the world’s most decisive person. For me, the world has always been filled with endless choices. This can be good and bad. Twenty flavors of ice cream are good. Five choices for your next assignment are bad. In college alone, I changed my major four times and I’m still not convinced I got it right.

Military life means making big decisions.

Some of them are made for us and others provide a little more wiggle room. We get to decide if we should stay in or get out of the military. We decide which schools our kids will attend, whether to live on or off base and what assignment to put in for next.

It makes me tired just thinking about all that deciding.

So if you struggle with decision fatigue like I do or find yourself googling random sentences like, “Which military base is best for families?” maybe it’s time to take a time out and step back from the decision to get some much-needed clarity.

Over the years, I’ve created some decision-making guidelines for myself based on hard lessons and wise advice from others. Here’s what I can offer to you:

  1. Sit with it

My husband makes this fantastic roast chicken. Because it smells so good right out of the oven, the kids always want to eat it immediately. Every time he makes it, I can hear him declaring that it has to rest so all the flavors meld together and it will taste even better. Big decisions can be like that.

Sometimes our first gut reaction isn’t necessarily the right reaction. Big decisions require space and time to sort out our thoughts and feelings. Take the time to sit with a decision and let it rest before you decide what to do next.

  1. Learn to discern your own voice

One thing we learned quickly during our first assignment is that when it comes to your career, everyone will have an opinion.

While I’m not suggesting you ignore everyone’s advice or avoid seeking out counsel and mentors, be careful that you don’t become so accustomed to listening to other voices that you forget to acknowledge your own.

There is no one right path for every family. Sometimes when something doesn’t sit right with you, you have to follow or make your own path even if it seems unconventional or ill-advised. Many families (ours included) make “career breaker” decisions that are the best path in the long run.

Get out of your head and listen to your gut.

  1. Put fear in its proper place

I never react to big change positively. Ever. I need at least 24 hours for something to settle in my soul before I am remotely capable of talking about how I feel. Some people process things right away, and other people need time. That’s why making a big decision often requires gaining a different perspective.

Don’t let fear boss you around. Discuss your hopes and dreams continually so you are mentally prepared to make decisions.

Knowing what you want can keep you from panicking at the last minute. Always approach making big decisions from a place of wholeness and bravery instead of desperation and fear.

  1. ABT-always be talking

When my husband left active duty and joined the reserves, we built a home where we were living and planned to stay forever. About 7 years into the journey, both of us began to feel a bit unsettled like there was something else out there for us. The only problem was it took us 6 months to say anything to each other about how we were feeling. What a relief it was to admit that something that was working before suddenly didn’t feel right. Over the course of a military career, our wants and desires change. Change is nothing to fear, but being afraid to admit what you really want can be dangerous and isolating.

Be honest with yourself and your spouse when you are feeling a shift or when you’ve changed your mind about something so you can forge a path forward together.

  1. Remember, most decisions can be changed

Two years ago, we were struggling to decide if it made sense or not to move to our current home. There were many factors involved, and it was our first move outside of the military.

You would think all that freedom would feel, well freeing, but it was super overwhelming.

A wise friend pointed out that we could make the move, and if it didn’t work out, we could move back. I had never even imagined that possibility, and it gave me a lot of comfort going forward. Yes, changing or reversing a big decision can cost you financially or mentally, but it’s usually not the end of the world. Sometimes making a big decision can paralyze us. Even if you make a big decision and it ends up not working out as you’d hoped, you can probably adjust and learn something along the way. Nothing is really wasted.

Take your time. Listen to yourself. Be brave. Keep being honest. Understand that very few things in life are permanent and make the best decision with the information you have.

What would you add to this list? How do you find clarity when making a big decision?

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