How Setting Goals Can Help You Make Tough Decisions

Deanne Kaar

When faced with a tough decision, it is common to sometimes feel stuck and not know how to move forward. Whether you are thinking about changing jobs, starting a new hobby, or branching out from your social circle, it can be uncomfortable to try new things.

At times when I’ve had to make a tough decision, I have found myself not knowing how to get to where I want to go. I was scared of making a mistake: What if I leave a good job for one that doesn’t turn out to be a good fit? What if I join a volleyball team where I don’t know anyone and they don’t like me (or I can’t play at their level!)? What if I put lots of energy, time, and money into something that I end up hating? Let’s face it, life has some unavoidable risks – even maintaining the status quo can be a risk!

Here are some tips that have helped me get organized when I have to make a tough decision:

1. Make an achievable goal

If you know what you want to change, then plan for what you want and make this goal achievable. Focus on what skills you have, what you want to learn, and where you fit in. A goal can either build on your strengths or weaknesses to make them stronger. Make sure you can articulate your goal to others so that you are clear on what you want.

2. Do a good job at what you are already doing

If those around you see that you consistently work hard and put energy into what you’re doing, they will want to be around you. This is the same concept if you are looking to make new friends or get a promotion. Doing a good job now will be good practice for what you need to show others when they let you try something new.

Be patient and flexible with yourself to fumble along the way and question what you want.

3. Get help

Start to notice people who have what you want and reach out to them. When I was an addictions counsellor helping people quit smoking, a client asked me, “How do you know how to help them if you’ve never been a smoker?” I replied, “I have the skills that you want. I’ve been able to cope with life without a cigarette – if you want to quit smoking, you need those skills!”

If you want to lose weight, ask someone who has done it what worked for them. If you want a promotion, ask leaders how they got to their position and for suggestions on how you can do the same. If you want to take up crocheting, ask someone who knows what is involved. Most people have had someone help them along the way, so don’t be afraid to gather knowledge to help you set those goals.

4. Make decisions that will lead you closer to your goal

Goals can be short- or long-term, but we need to make conscious decisions to work toward them. Accept the extra project at work even without extra pay as it could increase your skills and your reputation which could benefit you later. Sign up for a new team, book the time in your schedule and show up so that you give yourself a chance to succeed. Your daily decisions can take you one step closer to your goals, but you need to set yourself up for success.

Remember that we make the best decisions with the information we have at hand. If you make a goal and later find that it just isn’t a fit anymore, you can change it! Goals are good to keep, but don’t get so stuck on one that maybe isn’t achievable right now. Be patient and flexible with yourself to fumble along the way and question what you want, as this growth can lead you to new ideas. Stand by what is important to you and be proud of small accomplishments. Change is hard, so be prepared!


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Author: Deanne Kaar
Trainer, ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership

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