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Have you ever lain awake at night stressing about the “right” answer to a tough decision? We’ve all been there. Especially when it comes to deciding what to do with your career, a lot of big questions come up that can feel hard to answer. Here are three questions to help you get unstuck.

1. Do I need to make this decision?

I know on the surface it might seem like the obvious answer is yes, but I see so many clients trying to make decisions that they don’t need to (and actually really can’t) make right now.

  • Are you trying to decide what your answer is to a job offer you haven’t gotten yet?
  • Or worrying about how you’ll find a new job in a year or two if you take some time off now to be with your baby?
  • Or stressing about how you’ll manage it all if your parents face health problems down the road and you need to take care of them?

Before you invest your energy into trying to make a decision, ask yourself if it’s a REAL decision. Are you are living in the future, trying to make a decision about something that hasn’t happened yet or about something that might not EVER happen?

Trying to make a decision that you can’t or don’t need to make right now is not only really hard, it’s also a huge drain on your energy. Who knows what might change that could affect your answer? Or if you’ll ever need to make this decision at al

I’m not suggesting you put off something you do need to face, but just take some time to check in and ask yourself: do I need to decide this now or is there a good reason to wait?

2. Do I know enough to make this decision?

Another place I see clients get stuck is in trying to make a decision without the information they need to make it. In other words, have you done your homework?

If you’re debating about changing careers but you’ve never talked to anyone who does that thing you think you might want to do it’s going to be a lot harder to know if it’s a good fit for you.

If you’re worrying about whether you should quit your job because you’re scared you’ll run out of money but you don’t really know how much you need to live on or how it feels to live on a budget you are likely to spend a lot of time just agonizing about it without getting any clearer.

Doing your homework is a balance because it’s also easy to get stuck by information overload and to do so much research that it becomes a form of procrastination.

One key difference I’ve found between research that moves you forward and research that keeps you stuck is whether you’re taking ACTION (vs. doing something passive and staying stuck in your head).

Reading company websites or surfing job descriptions is a lot different from talking to ten people who have jobs you think you might like to have.

Reading about how to make a budget is a lot different from creating one and trying to live on it for a month so you can test it out before you quit your job.

So ask yourself – what actions could I take to make sure I have all the information I need to actually make this decision? How could I get out of my own head and take action or experience something that would help me get a sense for how this new thing might FEEL?

3. What do I want?

This might also sound like an obvious question to ask yourself when you’re making a tough decision, but I mean it. What do you REALLY want?

Not what you think you SHOULD do.

Or what your mom or partner or boss or best friend or something other important person thinks would be best for you.

What do YOU want?

And honestly, although this question sounds obvious, sometimes it can feel really hard to know what you want. I’ve been there. I remember times in my life when I’d done what I thought I “should” do for so many years that I didn’t even know anymore what I really wanted or what made me happy.

If you’re struggling to connect with what you really want, check in with your values.

  • Are you considering a new job that involves long hours and travel because it would be good for your resume when what you really value is freedom?
  • Are you telling yourself you should quit your day job and go all in with starting your dream business (because that’s how “real” entrepreneurs do it) when what you really value is security?

Knowing your values and asking yourself how a decision honors, or fails to honor, them will help you make decisions more quickly and more easily.

A version of this post appeared originally on juliehoughton.com


ABOUT JULIE

Julie Houghton is the mom to two girls and a life and career coach who specializes in helping women find the courage to do work they love. As your coach she’s your confidante, visionary, cheerleader, and mentor. Get more tips from Julie and learn about working with her.

Après is a career resource for women returning to work after a career break or transitioning within the workforce. Reconnect with you professional self by searching job opportunities, getting inspired and finding resources, and refreshing your skills.

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