Dropping out of school was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, but it also turned out to be one of my best decisions. I came from a high achieving school where going to university was the only option, so dropping out of school was unheard of. At the time, I hadn’t got my diagnosis of M.E., but I knew in my gut that something was seriously wrong; I was struggling to make it through each day and my grades were rapidly dropping. When I dropped out of school, initially the plan was to return and retake the final year, but within a month of leaving my health immediately went spiralling downhill. If anything, it was a relief to know it wasn’t just the “stress” of school making me ill and that there was something more seriously wrong. I then finally received my diagnosis of M.E., and then later fibromyalgia. Looking back, the biggest lesson I learnt from this is to trust your gut instinct. Although I’m sad that I will never get to finish school because I am too unwell, I am also proud of myself for making the bravest decision I’ve ever made.
We all make decisions every day, and sometimes we have to face really difficult decisions, such as choosing to leave your job, delaying important exams due to ill health, dropping out of school or university, moving cities, deciding whether to end a relationship, or changing career paths. If you have a big decision to make, it may seem very daunting right now, but remember this is completely normal. Although there are no straight forward answers or an easy formula for making the right decision, there are ways which can help you. I have put together a list of 10 key points which I hope will guide you through whatever difficult decision you need to make:
- Listen to your gut instinct – The saying, “go with your gut”, is age-old advice for a reason: your gut instinct is usually right. It is important to listen to your gut instinct rather than your head, because your gut instinct doesn’t consider external factors such as money, popularity, or other people’s opinions, it is solely based on what is best for you and your happiness. For example, say you have been offered two jobs; one pays a lot more money than the other, but the other job is something you really want to do. Your head is probably saying pick the job with more money, but your gut is telling you to do the job that would make you happier. By trusting your gut instinct, you are more likely to feel satisfied with your decision and will be much less likely to regret it in the future.
- Be brave – Often the reason we struggle making decisions is because we are afraid we will make the wrong one. It may be because we are afraid of what the outcome might be, so we choose the easy way out. For example, my decision to leave school was an extremely frightening prospect because I didn’t know what would happen after, so for a long time my fear stopped me from making the decision, which only made my illness worse. Sometimes you just need to be brave and choose the scary option if you know that’s the right one for you, and remember each time you do choose the scary option, the easier it will be to make difficult decisions in the future. Sometimes the hardest decisions are the bravest.
- The answers lie within – We often worry too much about what others think about us, and are too concerned with how our decision will look or whether people will be critical of our decision. Although others can support you and listen, and maybe even offer suggestions, at the end of the day you have to be comfortable with the decision you make. You are the only one who can truly make the final decision, and if you are happy with your decision by being true to yourself, you won’t care what others will think!
- Best and worst case scenario – It is often useful to look at the two extremes of the potential outcome of your decision. For example, some people who have fallen ill during or before university might find it hard to decide whether to take a year out or not. By looking at the worst-case scenario of taking a year out, it may mean you are a year behind your peers and you will miss out on the social life they are enjoying. By looking at the best-case scenario, it could mean you are able to sort out your health and have a year to gain full recovery. Sometimes you just need to ask yourself, “Is the worst-case scenario really so bad?” Often this can help put things into perspective.
- Look at the bigger picture – Sometimes we’re so caught up in the decision and over analysing everything in our head that we lose perspective. For example, say you were really looking forward to going to a friend’s party, but you are feeling too unwell to go. You might feel you are really going to miss out if you don’t go or you won’t get invited to the next party, but by looking at the bigger picture, you will be able to see there will be plenty of opportunities to go to parties in the future, and it is much wiser decision to sit this one out and get better. Plus, if you are feeling unwell, it is unlikely you will truly be able to enjoy the party!
- Take a step back – If you are finding yourself overwhelmed with making a decision about something, remind yourself to take a step back. Sometimes you just need to sleep on it or take a short walk around the block to clear your head. Always take your time when deciding and make sure to only decide when you are in a calm state of mind, as this will help you see things more clearly. Furthermore, you might then see things differently and notice other choices that you might not have considered before, had you not taken a moment to pause.
- There’s always a choice – Sometimes you might tell yourself or others that you had no choice, you had to choose that option! But the thing is you will always have a choice. Even if it is hard to see, there is always more than one option, and once you become aware of this, you will allow yourself to stay open to all possibilities.
- Stay positive – If you are in a negative state of mind when deciding on something then the only option you will see is doom and gloom. It is like your vision becomes a tunnel, and there’s only one way down that tunnel, and at the end of the tunnel it’s the end of the world and no good can possibly come out of it. By keeping a positive, open mind, you can remove that tunnel vision and open your eyes to all the different options and possible outcomes, and you will probably find the situation is not as bad as it initially seemed.
- There’s no such thing as the “wrong” choice – The truth is no one can possibly make the right decision every single time. There will be times when you mess up, but instead of beating yourself up over it, learn something from it. Ask yourself, what was good about the decision I made? What was bad about it? What can I learn from it so I can make a better decision next time? By doing this each time you will be more likely to make right decisions in the future.
- Don’t be afraid of the unknown – If you are having to make a big decision you might become overwhelmed with anxiety about what will happen in the future. For example, we are often taught that there is only one career pathway in life – GCSE’s, A levels, university, graduate job, promotion, and then before you know it, retirement! But there are SO many other pathways you can take in life. Instead of constantly worrying, trust that things will fall into place, and that sometimes only when you step into the unknown will further options and choices be available which you would not have considered before. This is important to remember for all walks in life.
I hope you have found this post useful and it can help you with whatever decision you are making. Always remember that no matter what decision you do make, life will always present you with endless possibilities and opportunities, even if you can’t see them right now.
Metta, E xx