One of my biggest life lessons, and one that I only learned very recently and that I’m still working on internalising, is around making the right decisions. I used to always excuse myself with the astrological reasoning that “I’m a Libra” and so I couldn’t make decisions. More than that, though, I was the eternal “good girl” who did as she was told and always tried to live up to other people’s expectations.
As children, we were told by our parents when we were good and when we had done something wrong. At school, our teachers and their dreaded red biros told us if we got it right or wrong. At first, we’d get gold stars and then we’d start getting alphabetical grades and exact percentage scores to tell us how right (or wrong) we were. When we did science experiments, we always knew the correct results ahead of time – and when the dots didn’t line up along that diagonal line, we adjusted the data to make it fit. There was always a right answer, and our job was to find it.
The problems start when we go out into the real world. We look for the right job in the right company. In our personal lives, we look for the right partner and the right time to settle down and have children. We try to decide on the right place to live, in the right city or even country.
1. Well, first of all, you don’t even know what ‘right’ is. There’s no teacher or parent to tell you any more, no textbook or manual – so how are you ever going to know if and when you find it? And, if you do look to others to tell you the right answer, then you’re effectively giving up both the responsibility and the freedom to make your own choices.
2. Second, you will never have 100% of the information that you need to be able to compare one possible answer to all the other options that are out there. We travel so much these days, we meet so many different people – how can we know that *this* is the right answer and not one of all those other possibilities that are still to come?
3. Finally, and this is the clincher: THERE IS NO RIGHT ANSWER. It doesn’t exist. There’s no such thing! People may act as if there is an answer, your peers around you and society as a whole may imply that there is a right way to live your life – but this can only ever be one way, not the way. You’re the one who’s going to live this particular life, and only you can decide how to do that.
The fact that there is no right answer means that the pressure is off! There’s no need to agonise over your choices and there’s no need to look for external validation from other people. The reality is that there may be a number of different answers that could each be equally ‘right’ for you – so you get to decide which one!
You get to try things and see what you think, you get to change your mind if it’s not what you thought, and you get to decide what is and isn’t right for you.
Even better, human beings are very adaptable and, as it turns out, we are very good at post-rationalising so that we feel better about our choices. We’ll create a story as to why this particular choice was the right one for us and, ultimately, we’ll make it the right one.
Well, if you’ve been looking for the right answer – when it comes to your career, your family, your love life – then I hereby give you permission to stop right now. Instead, take a moment, pause, and ask yourself:
What am I really looking for here?
How does this job / partner / choice fit into that picture?
How do I feel about this decision?
That last one is really key: Having been brought up in that ‘good girl’ / gold star education system, we tend to be very rational and intellectual in the way in which we make decisions. Since, as we’ve seen, we can never have complete information to make such a logical decision, it’s actually much more effective to trust to your intuition – your heart, your gut feeling, or whatever you want to call it. So ask yourself how you feel, and I’m sure that, deep down, the right answer for you will become clear.
Remember that good little girl that I told you about, who was always looking for the gold star? Well, she finally learned that lesson. It may have taken more than 30 years – and, as I said at the start, I’m still learning this – but these days, I’m making my own answers. In fact, I’m even asking my own questions!
So if I can give you one incredibly empowering thought for next year, it’s this: There is no right answer. So go out there and explore, get curious, open your eyes and your heart – and see what answer you’re going to create for yourself!
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