Find Your Why

Decisions. You are hit with a million of them every day. Some are straightforward but others are fraught with challenge and seemingly impossible solution.

“What’s for supper tonight?”

“Which daycare will provide the best experience for my kids?”

“Can I see myself building a life with this person?”

“What do I really want to be when I grow up?”

Regardless of the question, it seems that everyone around you has an opinion about your decision. Chances are, your kids won’t be thrilled about your decision to make broccoli cheese soup and ham sandwiches for supper. Your in-laws may feel that the new daycare location is too far from their house. Although you can clearly picture a fantastic future with the person you’re dating, your sister loudly objects to basically everything about them. Every single person in your life asks how you will possibly make money with your chosen college major.

Sound familiar? Teaching your kids to expand their palate is an area of resistance that if you’ve been a parent for any length of time, I’m guessing you expected. Despite their protests, your decision to proceed with the dinner of your choice is completely unswayed. But what about your sister’s protests about your dating choices? Or the career field you choose to devote your passion, time, and energy into? How do you navigate decisions with larger ramifications without feeling like you’re settling or giving up a piece of yourself in the process?

My previous post outlined the impact opinions can have on your self-esteem but the other piece of the equation is having a solid foundation in your “why.” In other words, you need to spend time clarifying the motivation behind a particular decision. If you don’t have a grasp on the “why” behind your decisions, it is much easier to doubt yourself and give in to the endless array of opinions.

Keep in mind that not every decision is worth putting the extra time, effort, and energy into clarifying. Reserve your brain power for decisions which may cause controversy and inner doubt. The very biggest decisions which have the power to propel your life in one direction or another. Decisions such as whether to confront your fears and chase after your biggest dreams or live with the regret of not trying.

And my advice for the other decisions? Those smaller ones which truly have no bearing on who you are or your goals? Practice letting them go. For example … you’ve been working all day and are completely physically and emotionally exhausted. Dinnertime is right around the corner and the hamburger you bought at the beginning of the week has gone bad. Stopping at the grocery store at this point in your day would push you over the edge of whatever remaining sanity you have.

Takeout. Mac & cheese. Spaghettios. Whatever your go-to quick fix dinner which requires no crazy 5 pm grocery store lines entails. Unless of course you are one of those people who finds relaxation in the act of grocery shopping. Then by all means, shop away. Or maybe you revel in the opportunity to concoct a meal from a random assortment of pantry items. Whatever your jam, this type of decision will have no bearing on your life five minutes after finishing your meal so do yourself a favor and make the decision which fits best into your evening.

But when faced with a potentially life-altering decision, you’re going to need a better “why” than justifying takout after a long, hard day. You’re going to need a “why” which motivates you during the tough times and inspires confidence under even the toughest scrutiny. Figuring out your “why” up-front fills in gaps about the overall importance of this decision to you personally, useful information when faced with confrontation.

Spend time reflecting upon not only the decision but also your own core values. What are the qualities you feel are integral to making you, you? Will this decision violate your core values? Self-reflection looks different for everybody. Maybe it involves journaling. Or maybe you think better during your morning commute. I do some of my best thinking on the treadmill before anyone else in my house is even awake. Give yourself the space and time to truly dig into the pros and cons of the decision you’re facing and to determine your feelings on the subject.

Figure out the motivation behind your decision. Is your decision motivated by passion, love, and a deeper sense of purpose? Or is it motivated by insecurity, self-doubt, and a complete lack of confidence in the existence of other options? If your motivations are the former, I’m willing to bet that you’ve reached a solid decision with a strong “why.” If, on the other hand, you feel your motivations are out of self-doubt and insecurity, it’s time to re-examine the “why” to ensure it actually serves you and the person you aspire to be.

Decisions are never easy. At the end of the day, not everyone in your life will agree with your decisions. But if you have put in the time to thoughtfully consider the various aspects of the decision, your own core values, and the motivations behind them, you can rest assured that you have arrived at an airtight “why” which will serve you when the going gets tough.

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