Kenya 5 ー How to make a difficult life decision

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When was the last time you made a difficult decision? I am not talking about deciding what to wear or what to eat today, but the one which could change your life.

Recently, I had one. The difficult part was that I had several choices, each of which was totally different. It was like comparing and mango, pineapple, and banana, and choose only one (I love them all).

I believe everyone has to make a difficult life decision some times, so I will share some lessons and tips, hoping this will be helpful for others. In a nutshell, it is only you who makes the final call, but there are many different factors and processes that can facilitate the decision-making.

What is Decision-making

Decision-making is to choose something out of some options within a certain timeline (including doing nothing), and the more choices you have, the more energy you use to choose one (or multiple if possible). How many decisions do we make?

We actually make so many decisions on a daily basis (what to do/not to do, eat, wear, say, cook, which way to go, add “like” on Facebook or ignore, what we believe, who to hang out with, you name it). With the advent of more information, we face more options. According to the research, adults make about 35,000 decisions each day (as opposed to 3,000 a child makes). It seems to be too many (even on food alone, we make 226.7 decisions each day based on Cornell University).

Having said that, the focus of this entry is the one which could change our lives drastically, which does not happen frequently. Let me focus on that point from my experience.

My experience

My options were having job choices in different countries for both the same organization I work with and different organization.

Oónpci 1 Opción 2 Opción 3
Type of job Autonomy/generalist in a small island country One soldier/specialist  in a tough country One soldier in a gigantic group but on passion area
 Contract type Temporary Fixed Fixed
Timeline The offer came while ago so urgent to inform The offer is about to come Shortlisted

I had 4 choices: choosing any of 3 (and declining the rest) or not choosing any. The last one was not in my mind, so I wanted to choose 1 out of 3.

Let me share what I did, hoping this can be applied to other difficult decision-making processes.

Consultation (dialogue between you and others)

This can be a continuous process. I started consulting with people I thought could be the right fit to ask, based on their experience, belief, and how close I am to that person (e.g. I cannot reach Tony Robbins although he might be able to give great advice). No matter how useful the consultation is to organize your thought, however, you cannot depend too much on other persons. What’s important for effective consultation is that you explain your choices and what your values are, and prepare for questions you would like to pose).

At least I consulted to 10 persons, and everyone gave me great insights and advice. But again, it is you who makes a final decision, and nobody knows what will happen. One person I consulted told me something impactful:

“You can see what the other side of the river looks like, but you never know what it is until you cross the river”

External source (information from others)

In addition to talking to real persons, you can also review existing sources, such as video, presentation, books, etc.

For example, below TED talk “How to make hard choices” was helpful (which was recommended during one consultation). This highlights that it is a good opportunity to know yourself through a difficult process.

Another good source is a book. As I wrote in the previous entry (15 Lessons Learnt by Reading The Alchemist in Portuguese), during this decision-making period, I happened to have a chance to read The Alchemist in Portuguese (original language).

In addition to learning many life lessons, reading in another language is effective for decision-making, because different languages relate to a different vision in your brain, which facilitates access to the unconscious mind (when you speak different languages, your personality change, but both are parts of yourself).

Core value scoring sheet (You make criteria)

Although I am putting this at the last of this entry, it was the most important process, because no one else but you can/should make an important decision (it is worth repeating!). Other sources (consultation and external resources) will just compliment your thoughts and value. It has two folds of meaning: (1) data collection and (2) realizing your value.

So core value scoring sheet works as follows:

Put your options you have in the columns, and 10 core values in the rows, then score (1-10) for each option, which quantifies the total value. It is not scientific at all, and the weight of one value should differ from the other ones (e.g. for me, story and learning aspects are much more important so I put in the beginning in case different options have similar scores)

Core value  Option 1 (M) Option 2 (S) Option 3 (N)
 1. Story 8 7 5
 2. Learning 8 7 7
 3. Content for future 7 7 8
 4. Autonomy 8 6 6
 5. Creativity 7 6 6
 6. Environment (incl. boss) 7 5 6
 7. Life 6 5 7
 8. Job condition/security 6 7 8
 9. Link with EdD (study) 5 6 7
 10. Must be now 8 6 6
Total 70 62 66

After trying your best for data collection (consultation, resource review, reading) and asking yourself deeply within a limited time, just listen to your gut feeling and make a decision. You can go back and forth (core value sheet → consultation → Core value → External resources).

The most important thing is to cross the river you would never see otherwise. If the other side is not very positive, that would be another learning and story to tell.

What about my decision?

In the end, I chose the option (1), and I am very grateful to have people I could consult with, and rich external resources I could access. The reason why I put “Kenya” in this entry title is that because of this decision, I will be leaving this country I really liked. Let’s see the other side of the river then.

The learning of this time 

Life has full of decisions to make including few critical and difficult ones, which can be made based on consultation, external source and most importantly reflecting your core values.

Thank you for reading this article. If you like it, please don’t forget to subscribe. If you have any comments/questions, please feel free to leave. Have great learning!



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