CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Just do it!

By Joanne Collins
Special to The Sun

"A true vision takes on a life of its own." -- Greg Anderson

As a career counsellor, I have discovered that the hardest part of the journey towards career satisfaction is the act of making decisions.

I've seen many clients agonize over seemingly small career decisions. However, once they get over the hurdle of deciding and they start to take action, they feel great, and they usually meet with much success. So, why do we have so much trouble making decisions?

Most of us have little trouble deciding what cereal to eat and what television program to watch, so we must be skilled at decision making, right? If only it were so simple.

For better or worse

Although we have the ability to make small decisions on a daily basis, it's the big decisions that make us recoil with doubt and trepidation. It's not unusual to procrastinate when making big decisions that can alter the course of our lives. We fear that once they're made, certain resolutions can turn our lives upside down -- for better or for worse. That is why career decision making can be extremely stressful.

Career decisions are packed with substance and consequence. What job should you accept? The lower paying entry-level position in the field you have always dreamed of working in, or the higher paying job in an industry you are not as keen about?

Do you accept the first job to come along, or do you continue your job search and hold out for the perfect fit?

Should you return to school to get further training, or should you continue working at your present educational level?

How many times have we heard our parents or friends encourage us to "keep our options open"? How many times has the phrase "don't close any doors" been uttered to you? Decision making is an inherent responsibility of freedom. A free person has many options, and therefore has the right to choose. But when living in the land of opportunity, and faced with so much choice, making a decision can be a daunting task. When faced with life's tasty buffet, it is hard to know what to eat, and what to leave behind -- we cannot possibly eat everything on the buffet table!

There is an upside to decision making, and it is this: once the decision is made, you're free! That's right, you're in the clear. Now all you must do is follow an action plan. Acting is the easy part. The challenge behind decision making lies in the fear that once a decision is made, some of our doors close and many options are eliminated. We find comfort in a world full of pure potentiality, where possibilities seem endless. We're a society that thrives on possibilities.

So what techniques can help us? One technique that I have found useful with my clients is the decision-making grid. In this activity, you write your career possibilities/options on a horizontal axis and your values, goals and passions on a vertical axis. You then proceed to rank your options according how they fulfill your criteria, and then examine the overall picture to see if a decision emerges.

Carol Adrienne, author of The Purpose of Your Life, suggests another approach to making decisions: "Usually when we are presented with a crossroads and are required to make a decision -- enrolling in college or joining the Navy or choosing one job over another, we give an inordinate amount of attention to figuring out what is the best course of action. We tend to stay in our heads ... making decisions intuitively requires that we become attuned to our energy body. I have found that one of the best questions to ask myself when trying to make a decision is 'Does this decision make me feel more open and expanded, or does it make me feel slightly shut down or contracted?' "

Remember, the beauty of making a decision is that you will be able to devise an action plan. You will be free from the imprisoning chains of thought, and free to get out of your head into concrete steps. And trust me, action feels better than internal stressing!

Finally, the important thing to remember is that no decision is totally final. The beauty of making a decision is that we are free because it pushes us forward. And, even though we may commit ourselves to a specific course of action, we can always adjust our sails accordingly.

To avoid feeling overwhelmed, look at your decision in a larger context -- what difference is it really going to make 10 or 20 years down the road?

So make that decision and commit yourself! Get skilled and comfortable with the process of decision making and I guarantee that you will get more done and you will experience greater career satisfaction. Who knows, you may decide that you enjoy decision making after all!

-- Joanne Collins is a career consultant and founder of Career Spark.

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