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How to Make a Hard Decision (Without Convulsing, Crying or Going Crazy)

In: Finding Your Voice

A lot of disgusting things happen when you’re a human. (And I’m not talking about chin hairs, though they definitely qualify.)

And some of those things will require you, at some point, to make some really hard decisions. The kind of decisions that feel impossible to make. The kind that drag race through your large intestine. The kind that cause you to reconsider your position on Xanax. (Right after you learned it was sneakily spelled with an X.)

A lot of people will tell you the same thing: You’ll know what to do when the time comes. But you know what? Those people are either drinking too much, or they’re talking about other kinds of decisions. Like whether you should claim spearmint or cinnamon as your signature gum, or if you should get a puppy. Because—fun fact—when it comes to the big stuff, you will not always know.

And most of the time, other people won’t know, either—they’ll just say something to fill the silence. They'll repeat the things people always say to one another, as if there were a loop button on the inside of their cheek:

“He’s in a better place.”
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
“Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”
“Shit or get off the pot.”

That last one was mine. I enjoy the imagery.

Bottom line: Nobody really knows what they’re talking about, and their guess is as good as yours.

So, what do you do when you’re face down in a pile of sauerkraut and have to make a hard decision with no clear obvious answer?  What do you do when both options could be good…or they could be bad? What do you do when you don’t always know what “the logical thing” is?

I’ve had to make some hard business decisions the past couple of years—decisions that most of you will never have to make, I hope—and it’s almost never easy, or obvious, or simple. Because people are almost never easy, obvious or simple—including yourself. And that’s the wild card. Things like money, facts, and logistics are the easy parts. It’s the human in all of us that makes things unpredictable.

And while that seems like it could royally screw things up, I’ve found that it’s also the human in all of us that makes hard decisions…a little bit easier. Because when nothing is cut and dry, then you can stop looking for the cut and dry answer. Because, maybe there isn’t one.

But you know what there is instead?

The truth. 

And while you might not know what to do, you know what the truth is. You always know, no matter how many people you ask for their opinion. You aren’t looking for their opinion; you’re looking for them to validate you.

Forget validation. You look for validation when you need a short-term ego boost to your psyche. But when you’re faced with a big decision, the last thing you should be thinking about is short-term.

And that, right there, is the key.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the moment. The hot-blooded, pulse of emotion. The ego. The pride. What will make you feel good now.

Forget all of that.

Focus on what really matters: What your decision will mean later.

Which one won’t matter in ten years…and which one will? 
Which one will make you feel proud in ten years…and which one petty? 
And, which one will cost you the most, not financially, but in terms of your integrity?

Integrity is important, and it shouldn’t be confused with ego.

Integrity means doing the right thing. Ego means doing the wrong thing and parading it around as the right thing.

Have the courage to push pause on your ego, and do a sound check for your integrity.

Sometimes, what would feel good now is not the same as what will be good later. Are the long-term consequences worth the short-term high? In most cases, it probably isn’t. So, how can you outsmart your own ego? Because you must.

Short-term is for the people who don’t have the foresight to see beyond themselves.

And not only can that lead to foolish decisions, but dangerous ones.

Fortunately, while you might not always know what the logical decision is, you can, at the very least?

Know which one isn’t.

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