3 things you can do to make better decisions

Whether you’re contemplating going back to school, trying to pick the right program to enroll in, or pinpointing your next career move, making important decisions can be a stressful experience. With so many possibilities to explore, it may feel impossible to figure out the best way forward. You might even get so overwhelmed that you give up on thinking things through and choose at random (coin toss, anyone?). If you’re feeling frazzled, don’t worry — there are three things you can do to weigh your options carefully and make more well-informed decisions.


1. Consider your whole self

In order to make sound choices that will benefit you in the future, it’s important to be honest with yourself about your situation, abilities, and needs. Try to be realistic when thinking through each of your options, keeping in mind that each one won’t necessarily align with the amount of time and resources you currently have available. That’s not to say you shouldn’t challenge yourself, but you should acknowledge whether or not a challenge is actually doable depending on your circumstances. To figure out what’s realistic for you, it can help to consider yourself holistically in terms of your past, present, and future self.


Your past self

You can learn a lot from the versions of you that existed in your youth, early adulthood, and even just last week! When reflecting on your past, think about situations where you’ve excelled and situations that didn’t go so well. How might those instances factor into the decision at hand? For example, let’s say you’re choosing between an accounting degree and a marketing degree, but you were terrible at math in school and have relied heavily on calculators ever since. You can use what you know from your past experience with math to make a wise decision and go with the marketing program. 


Your future self

Where do you see yourself in five, 10, or even 20 years? It’s a question we get asked a lot in job interviews or when getting to know someone — and for good reason. While none of us can predict exactly where we’ll end up long-term, figuring out what you’d like your future to look like can help you determine the steps you need to take in the present to get there. You probably don’t want to invest a lot of hard work into something that won’t be helpful to you in the future, so when you’re caught between two or more choices, try to picture what each of them might offer you in the long run.


Your present self

When making a decision, it’s important to recognize not only what you want in the future, but also what you need and are capable of in the present. Maybe you’re feeling restless in your current job and are ready to take a risk and try something new, or maybe life is feeling pretty shaky right now and you just need to do something that will guarantee your safety and security. Evaluate all aspects of your current self — your physical, emotional, and mental well-being — in order to make a choice that will help you thrive.


2. Seek out honest advice

While taking stock of yourself is a vital part of the decision-making process, it’s also important to gather advice from people you trust. Discuss your options with close friends, family members, or your significant other. The people who know you best will likely be able to give you the best advice since they can recognize areas of concern you might have overlooked or point out opportunities you may not have considered. Ask your loved ones to be frank with you — their honesty is key, and sugarcoating their opinions isn’t going to help you. Remember, though, that not all advice is good advice, and just because you’re asking for it doesn’t mean you have to take it. Regardless of whether or not you act on the advice offered to you, you’ll at least gain a valuable new perspective to mull over.


3. Conduct thorough research

Research comes in all shapes and sizes, and there are plenty of resources available to help you make your decision. Following are just a few actions you can take to collect the info you need to make an informed choice.


Do some googling

This may be the most obvious and simplest form of research you can do, but when you need info, conducting a Google search is often a great place to start. Come up with as many questions as you can about each of your options, write them down, then search accordingly.


Ask questions

Struggling to find answers to some of your questions? You may need to reach out to people directly to get the details you need. Talk to your manager about open roles you’re curious about, or reach out to a Guild coach to discuss programs you’re interested in. Chances are, you’ll get more detailed and accurate information over the phone or in person than you will by reading a website.


Connect with experienced peers

What better way to get honest info about a program, course, or job than to talk to people who have already been through it? For school and career questions, join a Guild Facebook group to connect with others who may be able to give you some advice and information. You might also talk to coworkers who are in a program or role that you’re interested in.


No matter what decision you make, remember: there’s not always one “right” answer. It’s very possible that every option you have is a good one — they’ll each just lead you to a different place in life. So try not to worry too much about making the perfect decision; instead, check in with your needs, ask for advice, do your research, and trust yourself to make the best decision you can in this moment.

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