Am I Making the Right Decision (for me)?

self awareness Apr 05, 2022

Identifying Overwhelm:

I had a life crisis moment about ten years ago when I was overwhelmed with so much work that never seemed to stop. As I read bedtime stories to my daughter, I would secretly hope that she would fall asleep quickly so I could get back to clearing out my inbox.

I felt guilty and disappointed in myself, because I knew this was not the parent I wanted to be. It hurt my heart to realize that I wasn’t fully (or even halfway) present as a mom. I also wasn’t making art or music or spending time with my friends or taking care of my body. Work had become the entirety of my life… and I was only 32. I frequently wondered, “Did I work that hard in school just to continue working so hard at my job? Is this all there is for me?”  

In addition to the mom-guilt, I felt bored, one-dimensional, and stuck. I wasn’t being me, and I wasn’t sure who that was anymore. I had lost my compass. How I moved through that stuckness is a longer and messier story, but it started with sitting in my guilt and stagnation, then using them as clues to get super clear about what actually did matter. Did I want to sit in those feelings? Definitely not. I was just overwhelmed to the point that I couldn’t avoid them any longer.

 

Why do we hate discomfort so much?

This type of internal discomfort is a necessary part of life. Discomfort is what pushes us towards change. There is no motivation to do anything differently if we’re totally comfortable, or if we tell ourselves we’re comfortable because we wish we were comfortable.

When we take time to sit in our unpleasant feelings, we can often distinguish between conflicting values or even values that have yet to be clearly defined. 

Looking back on that time in my life, I didn’t have a clear values-based foundation for making sense of those unpleasant feelings. Instead, I was spinning in circles trying to make the “right” choice versus understanding the right choice for me at that time in my life. My reference group for what was “right” was based on looking at those around me: fellow public health professors who all seemed to be making this lifestyle work for them. I felt ashamed and embarrassed that I couldn’t seem to make myself want what it seemed like I was supposed to want. 

Making decisions based on values changes the question from, “Is this the right decision?” to “Is this the right decision for me at this moment?” When you really know yourself and are able to value what your inner voice is saying, this is a much easier question to answer.

 

Questions to Ask Yourself When You’re Feeling Stuck

If you’re feeling a similar kind of stuckness, taking time to reflect on your own experiences can be a helpful starting point for identifying your values. Here are some questions I often discuss with clients as they are learning to hear their own voices:

  1. What are 2-3 recent situations that felt uncomfortable to you? What specific aspects of these situations felt most uncomfortable? Why? (Think about what others were doing and/or what you may have been asked to do.)
  2. When have you felt the most proud of yourself? What were you doing, and what was the specific source of pride?
  3. What words or themes do you see emerging from your responses so far? These words are a great foundation for thinking about your values.

In my Compass Within coaching program, we focus on making intentional career decisions based on understanding each person’s unique strengths and values. I’d love to chat more if you’re finding yourself at a similar crossroads in your professional life.

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