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  • Writer's pictureCommon Good Company

How to make a difficult career decision


While choice and opportunities are a good thing, at times we will all face difficult career decisions. Do you leave your family and friends for an exciting promotion thousands of miles away? Do you take a leap and leave a secure job you’ve put years into to join an exciting new start up? Some dilemmas can feel impossible to navigate. Here is a process you can use not only in your career decision making, but for any difficult life decisions. 1. Accept that you may not find the answer immediately. Don’t struggle against indecision. Let the indecision be there.

2. Do a cost benefit analysis. Sit and write down the pros and cons of each option. You may find seeing it all on paper guides your decision.

3. Remind yourself that there is no perfect solution (otherwise it wouldn’t be a difficult decision). Know that whatever choice you make your mind is likely to tell you it may be the wrong decision. There is likely to be an anxiety around whichever choice you make, so it can help to recognise that and name it.

4. Recognise that even by sticking with the status quo you are making a choice – not to leave, not to ask for a promotion etc. There’s no option to avoid a decision.

5. Play with a given decision for a finite period. For example, ‘for the next 24 hours I will be staying in my current job’. (If that feels too long, make it the next hour). See how it feels to embody the decision.


6. Given that, consider how you want to be in that time - what are the values you want to live by, what is the kind of employee or leader you want to be while you are making this decision.

7. Set aside time to reflect mindfully on the decision. When we feel stuck in a dilemma it can occupy much of our day to day thinking. But often the nature of our reflection is unconstructive, judgemental and circular. Don’t beat yourself up, but recognise when this is happening. Practice noticing when your mind gets pulled around and re-focus on where you want your attention to be. 8. It’s likely that feelings of uncertainty and anxiety will come up – fear of making the wrong decision, fear of the unknown. Remind yourself that it’s ok to feel like this – allow the feelings to be there and acknowledge them. Say to yourself ‘it’s totally normal to feel like this, this is a challenging situation with an unknown outcome.’ 9. Leading on from this and perhaps most importantly of all, be kind to yourself. It’s ok not to know. Some decisions are just really difficult! Speak to yourself as you would a friend and practice self compassion. We hope this helps in the process of navigating a tough decision, whatever it is you are facing. We’ve adapted this process from Russ Harris’s ‘Dilemmas, Hard Decisions & Tough Choices - The Happiness Trap.’

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