Making Tough Decisions: Using Gut as your Guide
I woke up with that pit feeling in my stomach. I felt like Charlie Brown, “I know I should be happy, but I’m not”. I had recently graduated from an MBA program and was in the flurry of applying for jobs, sending resumes and cover letters out into the black void and trying to fully release all expectations about whether I’d get a response. I was on an intensive schedule of large ice coffees, HIIT classes and spreadsheets. Everyday my fingers hit the keyboard with a sense of urgency (and maybe, err, a tinge of desperation?)
Freaking student loans…
I was fortunate enough to start interviewing with a handful of interesting, mission-driven organizations. Ones that I got excited about researching just to prep for the interview. I had already received an offer for an international fellowship, but that didn’t start until August 2019 and the pay was… mehh. I was going through the cycles of prep/Skype interview/email thanks when I received an offer from a growing development organization based in DC. Pay? Beyond my expectations. Network? Massive. Flex hours and other nice perks? Check and check. Content of the work: mmm, left something to be desired. In fact, when I started to think about it, this really wouldn’t be exposing me to new skillsets or get me closer to my endgame of capacity building.
If I was being real with myself, I assumed that because of the large paycheck, ability to pay my loans and the life it would afford me (move to DC, brunch on the weekends, decorate an apartment and care for houseplants), that saying yes to this job must be a no-brainer. I was getting ready to tie up loose ends and prep for a move when I had a few conversations, ya know, the ones with myself.
Analyzing My Ass Off
Yup, this is the part where I go all Beautiful Mind and write massive, squiggly diagrams on whiteboards while Post-Its fly around me in a vortex… See, I made a chart (photo cred to myself). This is what my business, logic, lefty brain does. I analyze, I break things down. I prioritize and try to assign a weight, a logical ranking to different aspects of life quality. What was most important to me here? Financial stability? Community and connection? Future growth? None of these things felt simple to tally up on a pros and cons list. (PS: I hate those things, they never work for me).
Stop. Collaborate + Listen.
When I took time to meditate, I felt a heaviness coming up. Yes, I could do that job. I was capable. I could have thatlife. Plenty of my friends did, and I could picture it, insert myself into the scene. My business-savvy uncle had sent me an email with all the reasons supporting a move to DC.
But was it what I wanted? Did I want to spend my days in front of a computer? Far removed from impact? Would I apply what I’d learned over the past eighteen months? Was I saying yes because that’s what’s expected? Because it’s what people do? Because it makes logical sense?
These were harder questions to answer. My preference is to gather opinions, collect external info and use that to inform my decision. This required some inside work. Despite what my rationale brain was telling me, my heart knew what it wanted. It still yearned for that sense of adventure, for growth that comes with uncertainty and getting to know a new place, people and culture. I’d adapt in a new context, push myself to learn new things, assume new projects and responsibilities, and feel oh-so-alive in it all. I can’t run away from that. I can try and hide from it for a while: join a book club, buy $14 salads and new shoes, be the proud-owner of a monthly Metro card, but none of that will offer me fulfillment.
When the heart knows, it knows…
Do I feel fear about this new position? For sure.
Do I worry about whether it’s the ‘right’ financial move, if it’ll allow me to transition back to the US with security? Yup.
Do I wonder if I’ll be able to build a community of people and support? Of course.
Doubts still swirl in my head. I’ll never eliminate them fully. But I wouldn’t want to. Those questions are my warning signs that I need to check in with myself. Is this good fear, like you’re on the brink of awesomeness, or anxiety that comes up from lack of alignment, of doing something that’s just not me.
The fear of settling for something others wanted, of not listening to myself -
that is the scariest thing of all.
So here are some pointers to make sure you are tuned in and in your best headspace to make that big decision:
Slow down. Ask for more time from your potential employer. This is a reasonable request and if you have family or a partner to consider, give yourselves the opportunity to talk things over ‘con calma’.
Get grounded. I was coming off a red-eye flight and some relationship shit when I had to make this decision. Not ideal.
Listen up. Sit and meditate if that’s your jam. Do it even if it’s not part of your regular practice. You’d be amazed what some silence and stillness can tell you. You might feel tightness in your body or not be sleeping well- all of this is saying something.
Don’t look outside of you. There is no Consumer Reports write-up for the life game. There’s no one way of doing things either. No comparing. Just do you bubu.