At this time of year, we tend to focus on our goals and future direction. We may feel motivated to make choices about where to go next in our careers and working lives.
Do you want to stay with your existing company or look for another employer? Is it time for a complete change of career, or to make the leap into self-employment?
Maybe you want to downshift to experience the lifestyle you really want, or aim for a promotion with more responsibility and financial rewards.
The range of choices available to us means that we can get stuck between different options. Sometimes we don’t know what would be the best step and it is easier not to make a change at all.
If you find yourself in this position, there are various methods that you can use to help you make great career choices. Here are some approaches that I have used successfully at various times in my life.
This is where you write down the pros and cons of each choice. This is simple but can be very effective. A good method is is to set up a page with three columns headed Advantages/Drawbacks/Interesting. Then brainstorm every aspect of your choice. The interesting column allows you to capture thoughts that arise during your brainstorm that are not either a pro or a con.
Do this for each of your choices, and see if clarity emerges as you look at your lists. It is important to write everything down in this exercise, as this gets the thoughts out of your head and onto paper, where you can assess them more rationally. Sometimes a small risk can feel out of proportion when it’s just a worry whirling around your head.
The second method is more intuitive, but can be effective when you are deciding between two options. Sit down and get relaxed. Hold your hands out in front of you, palms up and imagine that you are holding one choice in each hand.
Feel you choices as if there are things that you are weighing them up, one in each hand. Does one choice feel heavier and the other choice lighter? This can be a way of tapping into your intuition and generally the lighter choice is better.
Another way of tapping into your intuition is to ask yourself a question about the choice just before you go to sleep. Trust that your subconscious will work on the answer while you sleep, and the answer will be clear to you when you awaken.
This is a great method if you are someone who finds it easy to visualise. In this method you mentally project yourself into the future, and imagine how it would feel to inhabit two or more possible futures.
This exercise works well if you stand in a room or outside someone quiet, and imagine your future self standing several paces in front of where you are now. For each choice, see your future self in a different spot in front of you.
Then taking each option in turn, walk to the spot you have imagined for your future self and look back at yourself. What is your life like now? What does it feel like to have taken this option? Then walk back to your present self and take some notes.
Have a bit of a shake out, and then repeat the exercise by walk to the other future you, and imagine what that would be like. Make the picture as vivid as you can. Then walk back to the present and make notes.
Once you have a made a choice, then it is much more likely to be successful for you if you commit fully to it. I love the late Susan Jeffers’ “no lose decision making” model from her book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. Jeffers explains how we waste valuable energy in fearing that we’ve made the “wrong decision.” Instead of spending time thinking about how other options for our lives could have worked out, we can instead see each choice as a positive path towards “goodies” in our lives and always be focusing forwards. This doesn’t mean that we don’t continually review, adapt and adjust our path in life and work. But’s so much more productive to make a clear decision and then stay focused on moving forward, rather than pondering on what might have been.