Everyone needs to know how to make a decision when they’re conflicted. Making decisions is often hard, difficult, and tough especially when the result of that decision brings long-lasting ramifications.
One of the harsh realities of adulthood is decision making. We have to make all sorts of decisions for ourselves from how we’ll spend our time to how to what career path we’ll pursue and everything in between like who we should use as our car insurance provider. It’s these “adulting” moments that many of us hate. They really aren’t very fun.
While we make everyday decisions about what clothes to wear and what time to go to bed, they aren’t the really difficult decisions to make.
During adulthood we’ll face real, tough decisions like who to date, who to marry, where to move, when to have a baby, whether or not to go back to school or accept a new position or leave a job, what medical treatment is the best option for us, if we should start a new business, what church to join, which house to buy, and what to major in at college.
These important life decisions bring consequences that affect us longer than a day or two.
Your decision of marriage partner will forever affect your life, your happiness, your children, your friendships, and future choices.
Your decision of where to live will determine who you’ll meet, the natural disasters you may face, the school districts your children will attend, and your safety.
Your decision to have a child, or another child, affects you forever with all that comes with pregnancy, birth, and parenting a new, unique set of DNA from conception through adulthood. You will forever have a relationship with this child and be invested in them.
Every time it’s stressful and often overwhelming with all the potential “what if’s?” We do not have a Magic 8 Ball or crystal ball that will spell out exactly what will happen if we choose Path A over Path B.
Decisions making often paralyzes us with fear of the unknown. We don’t want to screw up our lives or the lives of our friends and family by making the wrong choice and taking the wrong path. We desperately seek the right way, the best way, of knowing how to make a decision.
That’s why you need a solid decision making process that will lead you to the correct, best, right path every time, so that you don’t live with regret or doubt.
How to Make a Decision You Won’t Regret
With every major life decision my husband and I have made, we’re become better at making them.
Like we do every year as our apartment’s lease comes up for renewal, we question whether or not we should move. This year we toyed with the idea of finally leaving the apartment complexes behind and moving into a rental home, one preferrably with a fenced back yard, garage, and a designated office space for me to work in.
We really want to move into a rental house, but of course we weren’t sure if it was what is best for our family, our finances, or our future.
The first thing my husband and I did was scope out the rental housing market in the area. We looked at rental house options – the costs, the locations, the size, the yards, etc – to get a good picture of what is available in this area and at what prices.
Then we did what we always do when decisions making: we made a pros and cons list.
Make a Pros and Cons List for Making Decisions
It is so easy to endlessly talk and talk about all the different possibilities this decision or the other will bring. Taking the time to make a pros and cons list with your spouse is helpful for a myriad of reasons.
We have found that great benefit of a pros and cons list when making decisions is that it helps establish the true and most important benefits and negatives of your potential decision. Once you write it all down and discuss the decision together, you see that, while all the little things are nice (or not), there is at least one major pro and one major con.
For our moving discussion, we realized the #1 reason we wanted to move into a rental home was space. We are a family of six living in a three bedroom apartment, without a garage or storage shed, without a fenced backyard, without a proper office space for me to work in and for our kids to do their homeschool in.
The major con of moving was the expense. It’s almost always our negative. Renting a house is more expensive than staying in our current apartment. A rental house means paying $350-500 more in rent each month, as well as paying for water, sewer, and trash in addition to electricity (which is the only utility we pay now) and coming up with a huge rental deposit which most rental homes ask for (usually the deposits are as much as one month’s rent). It’s not easy to part with a large sum of money for a deposit and not see it for at least a year.
Over the course of a year, the additional hundreds in rent adds up to a lot of money, money that could go toward paying off student loans, paying my husband’s tuition, savings, or simply toward fun stuff for the kids, ourselves, or giving back.
Weigh the major pro vs the major con when you make decisions. Sometimes it is glaringly obviously which path is best (at least on paper). Other times we still aren’t sure, which is why we move onto the next step and most important step: prayer.
Pray to Know How to Make a Decision
Before, during, and after my husband and I go over the pros and cons of a major decision, we pray.
Chances are we’ve already prayed about the issue at hand already, but not as a couple. When we go over our pros and cons we come together, as a couple, get on our knees, and ask for the Lord’s guidance, seeking His will, asking if our decision is right.
Sometimes we get an immediate impression, a gut feeling that it is or isn’t right to move forward with a decision.
Other times we have to do a little more work. If our prayer seems to go unanswered yet, we sometimes do the following:
What to do when God doesn’t answer right away
1.) Seek more info
We may not have all the facts straight. Sometimes it’s a matter of looking closer into things like crime rates, sex offender registry, commute times, access to this or that, which help us better understand our dilemma. With more details, the bigger picture becomes unfolded before us.
2.) Test the waters
Sometimes our prayers go unanswered, where no impressions or feelings of peace come while on your knees. It doesn’t mean God doesn’t hear your prayers. Often it means we need to do a little more work on our part first. God gave us talents and abilities and expects us to use them!
When it comes to decision making, it means we need to get off our knees and start making steps forward.
In the case of moving it can mean putting in an application for an apartment or rental home and seeing if you get approved. If you aren’t, that can be your answer.
If you apply for a specific major or job or school, but are denied that will be your answer. Even if you are accepted here or there, it’s sometimes easier to feel the promptings and guidance of the Holy Spirit when you’ve moved forward with faith and a prayer constantly on your mind than simply praying before taking any action at all.
Sometimes it is by taking the wrong road that we discover the correct road quicker, with more reassurance, with some understanding, and now without a doubt as the first road proved incorrect. It helps us know with certainty and conviction that the other path is right.
If the decision and choice is too large or difficult, it is time to increase your connection with God by fasting.
Fasting is difficult, as you give up food and drinks for roughly 24 hours, but if done with a prayer and a purpose, it can bring additional spiritual insight.
4.) Attend the Temple
My husband and I are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and when making life decisions, we attend an LDS temple for additional spiritual guidance. If nothing else, it usually brings us a sense of peace, calming our anxiety and stress over the decision making we are facing.
5.) Ask your question a different way
Sometimes God doesn’t answer because we’re asking the wrong questions. Asking “Should I move” is not a great question. Asking “Should I move into the house on 11th avenue in the really great neighborhood?” may be a better question to ask. It may not be the right house in the end, but it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t move at all, but perhaps that that house wasn’t right. Sometimes we foolishly ask for God to simply give us exactly what we want, even if it isn’t right. We aren’t praying for His will, or asking with the Spirit, or asking in faith. Sometimes we aren’t even really believing He will answer us or give us what we desire.
And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” – 1 John 5:14-15
Make sure you are praying in such a way that you are aligning your will to His. If you need help doing so, see this post.
6.) Make a decision anyway
Finally, if no strong inspiration comes before the deadline for the decision comes, make a choice anyway. It has been my experience that if God doesn’t directly guide you to an answer, that he will then sustain you in whatever choice you do make. He’s leaving it up to you and will support you in your course of action. Brigham Young said:
If I do not know the will of my Father, and what He requires of me in a certain transaction, if I ask Him to give me wisdom concerning any requirement in life, or in regard to my own course, or that of my friends, my family, my children, or those that I preside over, and get no answer from Him, and then do the very best that my judgment will teach me, He is bound to own and honor that transaction, and He will do so to all intents and purposes.
Sometimes our dilemma feels enormous and all important, but that in reality won’t affect our lives like we think it will.
Heavenly Father is very invested in us and our lives, but sometimes the decision we’re stressing about and wonder how to make, is really not that important in the grand scheme of life and the eternities, so God lets us choose on our own. He gave us free agency and He expects us to use it! He cannot guide us in every little decision and His plan was that He wouldn’t.
We have many amazing tools to help us know how to make a decision here in mortality; we are expected to use them.
I firmly believe that if you do your part in the decision making process and then bring it, with faith and humility, before the Lord that making decisions will become easier. Wondering how to make a decision about something truly important is stressful and hard. But, if you do the above, you won’t regret the choice you make.
How do you make a major decision in your life?
**Please join me next Wednesday June 1, 2016 at 11am Central Time on my Facebook page for a Facebook LIVE event! I will be sharing my VERY favorite scripture. And it has a lot to do with what I discussed in this post.**
Kathryn H. says
This is super advice, Katelyn. Thanks for the reminders. I have found these things to be helpful in past decision-making. Sometimes, when I feel stuck, I’m doing some but not all of these. Working through all of them is helpful for getting “unstuck.” God wants us to find His will for our lives; He will help us, even if we don’t see it all at once.
This is a beautiful post. Something that I try to keep in mind is that most decisions can be altered. If you make that move and then decide it was a mistake, you’re not stuck there forever. If you take that job and then discover it was the wrong job for you, you can find another one. Very few decisions are set in stone once they are made.
After 12 years of employment – 9 of them spent not really liking my job, but afraid of what was next – my work situation became untenable. I was faced with the decision of staying there and behaving immorally, or walking away. I left. And it was scary and hard; but now that the dust has settled I think, ‘To think that I stayed at a job I didn’t even like for all those years, just because I was scared of what would come next!’ What has come next hasn’t all been roses; but it’s allowed my husband to pursue his dreams; it’s allowed me to go back to grad school; it’s also allowed me to be there for a family member who has had to undergo gruelling cancer treatment and to spend more time with our children. Having faith to step into the abyss is hard; but I do feel that angels have been there to catch me and carry me to safety. I should be finished with grad school by October (assuming I pass everything!) and I am still not sure about what will come next; but I’m learning to trust God and lean in.
Melinda Mitchell says
This is wonderful advice!! I love that you said pray! Especially as a couple!!
Then fasting! I haven’t done that in years, which is wrong.
Janelle Smith says
I’m teaching RS on Sunday from Elder Rasband’s talk “By Divine Design”. I didn’t have any great reason for picking this talk but I’m amazed at how the Lord just worked through that talk in my life to lead me to this blog post. My husband and I have some major decisions to make and have been struggling doing so. This spoke so much peace to my heart on how to proceed. I believe it was By Divine Design that I was led here-there aren’t coincidences ?. Thank you for being inspired to write this in 2016 for me today!
Katelyn Fagan says
Thank you for sharing this with me! I really appreciate knowing that it helped you personally and will hopefully help guide your lesson tomorrow. God is good! <3