Decisions, Deadlines, and Doubt — Are You Ready to Face the Truth About Your Future?
The Great Resignation was only a sign of what’s to come!
Near the end of my senior year at Arizona State University, I was facing lots of decisions — most of them centered on the job market.
I was knee-deep in debt (due to my student loan), had exhausted my savings, and had no other financial resources beyond the two part-time jobs I worked between classes.
In short, I needed a job — a real one — that paid real money.
Fortunately, the job market for engineers was strong.
I’d received offers from several industry giants like Motorola, Texas Instruments, General Electric, and Westinghouse. Multiple offers meant leverage, and I spent lots of time comparing which company offered the better compensation package, better perks, and benefits, and which one presented the most opportunity for advancement.
It was all about making a decision.
And while I didn’t know it at the time, I was really deciding what I was going to do with my life.
At twenty-two, I was confident I would make the “right” choice.
The truth? I knew calculus, but I didn’t understand life. My education had left me handicapped. I was about to jump headlong into a world of deadlines, demanding bosses, mortgages, and car payments without having the slightest idea how to evaluate all the choices the future would throw at me.
With graduation only a month away, it was time to make a choice.
But now, I had a new problem.
I’d spent a day at each of my possible employers, touring the facilities and meeting some of my potential co-workers. And after each visit, I was left with a similar feeling: The work I would be doing seemed boring, repetitive, and monotonous.
At first, I’d dismissed it as a fluke. I told myself my first impressions had been tainted by “intrusion bias.” Instead of seeing the actual, real-world environment of a large-company engineering department, I’d witnessed the behavior of employees who were accommodating my interruption of their typical work day rather than concentrating on their assigned projects.
So I told myself I was being too critical, and too quick to judge a work environment I’d seen for only a few hours. After all, I was being offered a butt-load of money to work there, and making a few concessions was not only reasonable, but expected — especially for a new hire.
But there were times — just before I drifted off to sleep or in that first minute after waking up — that I realized the truth . . . I didn’t want to be an engineer.
Luckily, my situation was about to change. I received an offer from a Fortune 500 company called Cutler-Hammer, a soon-to-be division of Eaton Corporation. Instead of traditional engineering applicants, they were looking for technically-qualified salespeople.
I didn’t hesitate.
Over the next few years, I got a real education.
Not the kind I’d received in college, but knowledge about myself . . . discovering what mattered to me, and what would make a difference in my life — both in the present and in the future.
As my perspective and priorities began to change, I realized I wanted more control over my time and income.
Motivated to try something different, I asked a friend of mine — a general contractor — to teach me the construction business. Six months later, I built my first custom home. After living in it for a few months, I sold it and repeated the process.
Although I experienced as many setbacks as successes, it eventually confirmed what I’d always suspected about my initial career choice: I needed to change direction.
It’s the same sentiment I see expressed in the Great Resignation, the desire to do something personally meaningful and rewarding.
While it’s true that a part of achieving success is somewhat dependent upon an element of chance, what really counts — what makes the greatest impact in our lives — are the decisions we make.
There are no guarantees in life, only the importance of our decisions.
Regardless of your initial career and life decisions, there are going to be times when you feel lost and unsure of your direction. And looking back on your past decisions will make you question the choices you’ve made.
You’ll wonder if the other company’s offer was the better option. Or if you should have moved to San Diego, or Denver, or Austin, or waited to get married, or if having kids so soon eliminated the option to try something different, to start over.
Welcome to the club.
Everyone questions their past.
We all wonder what our life might have been like if we had taken the other job, married the other girl, or lived in a different part of the world.
So how do you make the big decisions? How do you handle the “what ifs,” the doubts and fears when you find yourself at one of life’s major crossroads?
There’s no fail-safe method to make the decision process any easier, but there are a few strategies to keep you honest — with yourself.
Listen carefully and ask questions if you don’t fully understand.
So many of our decisions involve communicating with others. Whether it’s a job recruiter, a friend, or your spouse, their honest input can be crucial to making a good decision. But too many times, we walk away asking ourselves, “I wonder what she meant by that? Was she really saying that, or did she mean something else?”
Make sure your conversations result in greater clarity and not more confusion.
Always weigh other people’s advice by what they have to gain or lose from your decision.
Everyone — your friends, family, and business associates — will offer their two cents worth. And that’s fine, just don’t live your life based on the priorities of others.
If you choose a path contrary to the wishes of friends and family, explain that you have more information than they do and, based on your long-term goals, you’ve made a decision that is most appropriate for you.
If possible, avoid taking action on the spur of the moment.
Sometimes, we’re asked to decide on a relatively important issue with little or no warning. Depending on what’s at stake, a situation with a looming deadline can fill us with anxiety. And that can make the decision more about relieving the apprehension than making the best choice.
To keep the stress at a manageable level, determine if the deadline is artificial. If not, determine the worst-case outcome if (a) you don’t make a decision by the deadline, or (b) you make the wrong decision. That will help you determine what’s at stake.
Next, try interrupting the emotional overload by considering alternatives to a strictly yes or no response. That might mean making a trial run instead of an irreversible commitment, or separating the decision into a series of smaller ones, reducing the risk with feedback and pre-planned damage control.
Does the option you’re considering pass the “Three Senses” test?
Does the option look good? How does it sound? How does it feel?
A positive response for all three is a good indication that, based on what you know, the option is a good choice. If you can’t see, hear, and feel your future self enjoying the rewards of your decision — being happier and more satisfied with the outcome — then the opportunity may simply be the wrong one.
Here’s the Takeaway . . .
Mid-course corrections are part of building a satisfying future.
Make no mistake: The years do pass, and the magic springboard of youth quickly turns into the anchor of middle age, leaving many to wonder, “Is it too late to change?”
If you’re unhappy in your career, marriage, or the place where you live, do something about it. Make it a point to periodically re-evaluate your options and choices.
Keep in mind that risk is part of any major decision. Yet, in the final phase of life, the majority of people say they regret the opportunities they didn’t pursue, rather than the ones they attempted and failed.
So weigh the pros and cons, check your gut with the three senses test, and if it seems to be the right fit, dive in.
“Don’t let the seasons pass.” — Jim Rohn
Thanks for reading,
Roger Reid | Success Point 360
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Roger A. Reid, Ph.D. is a certified NLP trainer with degrees in engineering and business. Roger is the author of Better Mondays and Speak Up, and host of Success Point 360 Podcast, offering tips and strategies for achieving higher levels of career success and personal fulfillment in the real world.
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