How to make your next big decision

As I’ve been settling into my new life on a new coast and (another!) new job–I’m not yet one year in to either of these transitions–I tend to think a lot about the future transitions that I’ve yet to make. These transitions–career based, location based, personal life related–result from decisions. What choices I’ll have along these lines, I do not know. But I know they’ll be coming up soon.

Today I found a fantastic essay today via  The Muse that addresses this very issue–how to make the big, potentially life-changing decisions. (This article originally appeared in Inc.)

To quote the section of the Inc. essay referenced in The Muse essay:

“Instead of thinking what you want to do, think about who you want to be. Picture how your identity will change as the result of your decision. Are you the type of person who works for a casual, laid-back company, or the type of person who makes more money and wears a suit every day? In a way, our decisions construct our identities, so use this strategy to help you figure out who you want to be.”

Who do you want to be?

That’s a tricky one; Muse author Adrian Granzella Larssen (who also happens to be editor-in-chief of the pub) recommends readers use this question as a prompt to freewrite, picturing themselves in the future and what sort of life this other You would be living. I love this advice.

I’ve noticed that adopting a process of elimination style of thought can help address this type of question. Rather than only ask “Who do you want to be?” consider “Who do I not want to be?” Forget about the “why?” question and just brainstorm.

For me:

  • I don’t want to be the type of person who feels too busy to go on vacation.
  • While I don’t mind the idea of staying with an organization for a long period of time, I don’t want to stay in a single position for more than five years.
  • Double negative alert: I never want to not be scared about having to do something at work. (“I want a challenge” is not specific enough of a statement for the life I want to have–I want to feel fearful of something, anything, and then do what I need to anyway–at every stage of my career.)

After making a variety of career-related choices in my twenties while anticipating the many more decisions that will be made in years to come, I absolutely do not have a solid picture as to what sort of life I’ll be living in 20, 30, 40 years. But I have an idea as to what life I don’t want to have. And that’s a start any of us can make.

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