Ever worry about choosing the “best” option for yourself? The best job offer? The best project? When it comes to big choices in our lives and careers, there are an infinite number of ways to measure “best.” That’s because choices are based on individual values, priorities, and goals that are different for everyone. As counter-intuitive as it may seem at first, shifting from objective to subjective reasoning can make decisions like these much easier.
I recently worked through this process with my client V, who came to me with a choice between two objectively desirable job offers. After describing the merits of each one, I asked her to forget about them for a moment and think about what she wanted next in her work life in general? She listed three priorities:
“I want to get smarter! I want to expand my technical knowledge in ways I wouldn’t be able to on my own. Also, I want to work less, and be able to go on vacation. Lastly, I’d really like to have more customer interaction.
Once we had articulated these subjective metrics, it was easier to see which option aligned with them most closely, and allowed her to harmonize her intuition with her logical reasoning so that the decision felt like a “no brainer.” Having these three priorities in mind also gave her concrete questions to ask as she confirmed the expectations of her new role. Here are a few things she had to say about working with a coach:
“It’s really powerful to have someone who’s just looking out for you and nothing else. They’re not concerned with what the company might want, or what your family or society might think is best.”
Everyone has bias – that’s one reason empowerment coaches rarely give “advice.” If your highest good is inherently subjective, then “good” can only be accurately determined by you. The coach’s role is to ask strategic questions that help you verbalize your priorities and see them more clearly. Here’s V again:
“To have someone reflect your thoughts back to you is a lot more powerful than I thought! It’s easy to forget to ask yourself what you really want because you’re so focused on choosing one option over the other. But what [the coach] is doing is saying, ‘hey, choose YOU first, and then see how these two options fit with what you want for yourself.’”
When we’re presented with a limited number of options, the thinking brain will automatically start evaluating them against one another, rather than stop to ask what you really want in general, or what you may have wanted before you were aware of those options in the first place. Think of the classic parenting trick for young children: “Do you want broccoli or carrots?” It’s an easy way to take “ice cream” off the table, at least in the short term!
As adults, we also sometimes let others artificially narrow the options, usually without realizing we’re doing it, and lose sight of our own wider vision. I asked V to reflect on the subjective vision-based model of decision-making:
“Before coming to [coaching], I talked to two people about this. One said make a pros and cons list. But doing that didn’t really make me feel committed one way or another even though I saw the reasons itemized. How do I connect to that? Is it a pro because society says it’s a pro? Is that really a pro for me? I’m not sure. The other advice was just meditate on it and go with your gut. I could do that, but it doesn’t really satisfy my analytical mind. But this process is like a marriage of both that you can really stand behind afterward.”
Pros and cons can seem arbitrary because the left brain will always make up more justifications for either. If you don’t have a clear metric, the decision process can feel very confusing. But as soon as you identify your own priorities, desires, and values, decisions start to become clearer. And because it’s an integrated process, you feel whole afterward no matter what the decision is. Even if you decide to wait on a decision, you’ve brought the body and the mind together around what’s important to you, so you can never be “wrong.” After she made her decision, V wrote:
“The process reinforces what you have chosen for yourself. Instead of doubting, I understand why this choice supports me and my personal goals. I know why I am choosing it and that makes it easier to express those same things to others and to bring the energy and excitement of that into my team.”
Have you been struggling with a decision? Try expanding your view and listing some of your larger dreams or goals. If you’d like support in the process, send me a note to schedule a free 20-minute coach consultation!