How do you make difficult career decisions?
Do you weigh the pros and cons? Do you labor over each choice endlessly tossing them back and forth in your head? Or perhaps you ask your friends and family members hoping someone else will make the decision for you?
When faced with a fork in the road we all struggle.
Traditionally, I’ve use the pros and cons method. I like to get all my ideas on paper and weigh my options carefully. I like to dissect every aspect of a decision. However, by the end of my ‘pros and cons’ analysis, I tend to put myself in such a mental pretzel that no decision is made.
This type of decision making paralysis can be frustrating and even risky. If you’re in a competitive situation, such as choosing to interview for a new position, other people may act faster and gain an advantage once the process begins.
On top of this, making decisions using your mind alone can be a mistake. By using your analytical mind only you are ignoring the rest of your body. You’re ignoring your emotions and your intuition.
What if instead of asking yourself “what do I think about this choice?” you asked yourself “how will I feel once I’ve made this choice?”
By taking a more holistic approach and listening to your deeper emotions when making a decision, you can gain a better understanding as to which decision is truly right for you. Today’s exercise, which I’ve dubbed, The Fork in The Road Method, will help you make decisions by listening to what your entire body believes is right.
The Fork in The Road Method
This method is designed to help you to break free from your unproductive mental process and to tap into deeper emotions to make a decision. This will help you gain more clarity around the choices you make in your career and point you on a path that’s right for you.
Here are the steps to make it work:
Step 1: Picture the Fork in the Road
Ask yourself, what decision needs to be made? What are my options? Write down each distinct choice as clear paths that you can take.
Step 2: Look Out Three Years in One Direction
Pick one of your choices and look out three years from today. Close your eyes and pretend you are actually there living that life.
Tell yourself “I am here. I am living this life.” Take a few deep breaths to get yourself to this new place and then wait.
Then ask yourself, “how do I feel?” Notice the emotions that come up. List them on the piece of paper under the choice you’re looking into. Flesh out all the emotions and even take note of your body language. Spend 2-3 minutes doing this.
Step 3: Repeat Step Two for Each Possible Choice
After you look down one path, you’ll want to take a moment to reset. Then identify another possible choice and do the exact same exercise. Write down your notes on your emotions and body language. Repeat this until all choices have been looked into.
Step 4: Reflect on Your Results
Now that you’ve gone down each path and had the opportunity to step into each situation, it’s time to reflect on your results. Look at the emotions and other notes you wrote down under each choice. Which produced positive emotions? Which choice just “didn’t feel right”?
Circle the choice that produced the most positive emotions and cross out the rest.
Step 5: Make Your Choice
Look at your circled choice and do one more test. Ask yourself, “does this absolutely feel right?” If it does, then your decision is all but made. This is the choice that is most in tune with your whole body, not just with the rational mind.
Step 6: The Path Forward
It’s likely that the path you chose is a difficult one. There are going to be many challenges that you foresee in going down this path. And you might be afraid. At this point it’s natural to want to turn back and to choose an easier way. But don’t do it!
You can get help as you move down this path. You can lean into the obstacles rather than running from them. It’s during trying times like these that you can turn to a coach or mentor to help you move forward and reach new heights.
Ultimately, it’s critical that you are able to go beyond your mind when making big decisions in your career. Your mind cannot see your true path and often will shield you from it. You’re going to have to go deeper to make the best choices for you and this is one exercise to help get you there.
I am a coach and if you’re interested in working through this exercise over a call or in person you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.