Making choices

This week I was speaking to a colleague who has made a significant life choice in respect to her job: she’s following a new path and will take a brief sabbatical before starting on her new direction.

It’s actually an old direction: she’s going back to the work she loves. She’s been working for years at a very lucrative job, but it’s not the work that she aspired to many years ago.

“You can’t imagine how relieved I felt when I resigned,” she said. “I thought I would feel a little scared as I don’t have a new job yet, but I have only been happy since I resigned.”

“Did it take you a long time to decide to do this?” I asked.

“Yes, several months. When the idea first popped into my head, I didn’t take it seriously. Over time, I realized I had a choice to make.”

This conversation reminded me of how I felt six years ago when I left my job. I was exhausted, and overwhelmed every day. Simple day-to-day activities seemed to take Herculean effort. But once I had made the decision to leave my job—once I had made a choice—I felt better, even though I didn’t have a new job in the pipeline.

I am a big fan of making a decision, even if it’s difficult. It was great to be reminded that choosing is better than waiting: very few decisions improve by waiting. Now, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take the time that you need to carefully consider important life decisions. But once you’ve done this, I have found that waiting to decide something is never helpful. I think that people wait on big decisions because they’re afraid of making a bad decision. Years ago, I gave myself permission to accept that not every decision I made would be the best decision in the end. I believe that you make the best decision you can at the time with the information you have. If you have new information later that changes your decision, then change your decision. I can’t emphasize this enough: don’t beat yourself up for the earlier decision; you made the best decision you could at the time, with the information you had.

Decisions are about choices and I have learned that you can choose to be happy. You can choose to make decisions that make you happy. This is a great choice.

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2 Responses to “Making choices”

  1. hvc says:

    Denice,

    I came back to your site because I was seeking some inspiration. This post really struck a chord “choosing happiness”. Could you elaborate a bit further about your decision to leave. Once you decided, ok things get better (This I agree, the power of choice and mentally committing), but once you actually left how did you feel?

    I often feel conflicted, having a success within my career, yet I know I am not following a path leading to greater happiness. Success in the eyes of my boss and colleagues doesn’t = success, I can feel it in the pit of my stomach. I’m not happy. How much effort did you spend working to make the situation at work more bearable and ‘happier’ before deciding to take a break. What was the main driver for choosing to take a break, was it to seek out what would make you happy or to get away from what was making you unhappy? (I just bought your book, so I am going to learn more of your story)

    I am conflicted because I know I’m unhappy but I feel as though I’m giving up! I feel obligated to perform and to deliver, but one of the main reasons I have difficulty sleeping at night is because I’m not being true to myself. How hard was it to let go of these feelings of guilt when making the decision to leave and how did you keep good standing with the organization before leaving?

    I owe it to myself and my family to have a happier life! I am just used to always having a plan and not everything in life is so logical! I’m afraid of not really knowing where I would end up. It takes guts to take your path and I found more strength and inspiration, so Thanks! I look forward to jumping into your book.

  2. admin says:

    First, let me say thank you for sharing your thoughtful words.

    I immediately a little felt better, mostly calmer, when I decided to leave, even though I did not actually leave for 7 more months. I was also scared–I was leaving without a plan about how to get through the upcoming months. I thought just sleeping more would be enough!

    The best thing I learned while i was off, and it really changed my whole outlook, was that “trying to do my best” was good enough–I learned that I did not always have to do my best every minute. This realization helped me accept that much of the pressure I felt before I left my job was from a sense of obligation, as you write in your comment. I felt obliged to always do my best, even if it was nearly impossible.

    I would say that I left my job because I was running away from being so unhappy, and I came back to it running to the things I realized I valued and loved, and needed.

    I wish you much luck on your journey.

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