Recently I was immersed in both decision making and a frustrating lack of being able to decide. When actions were out of my control, I had to be annoyingly patient. When they were in my control, the decisions were life-altering.

Early last summer, my husband received notification that his large company was closing its operations in New Jersey.

The following month we went on FIVE vacations.

When a BIG decision is beyond your control, focus on the little decisions for a short time

Lucky for us, the decision to go on those vacations had already been made. We just followed our plane reservations, hotel bookings and camping plans. As we absorbed the idea that we may have to move again (we’d only been in New Jersey for three years, so moving was still fresh), we also relaxed in St. Baarth’s, and rode roller coasters in Hershey, PA. We saw the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, and stayed with friends down the Jersey Shore. Finally, we drove for the last time up to the Muskoka Lakes in Ontario to visit cousins and siblings.

Let easy decisions stay easy

Decisions while on vacation are easy, and exactly what we needed. Do we grill a steak or go out for dinner? Do we have enough sunscreen and beach towels? Every decision is a good decision!

However, our vacations also gave us something important: They gave us time and perspective  from the  initial bombshell of pending unemployment.

Once we returned from our escapes, it was easier to process our reality. Our emotions were more stable, and we could be objective with some of our decisions.

Make big decisions when emotions aren’t high

It is always wise to take time away from big emotions before making a decision. Unless it is an immediate crisis, such as a hurricane (which we experienced months later), then take a time out from decisions. After the business closure, Paul still had full employment for months to give us time to make the right decision.

One decision was easy: Paul immediately (in fact, in between our vacations) reached out to his business connections in search of another rewarding job.

One decision was difficult: Should I look for a job too? Afterall, we didn’t know what our future held. I’d been actively volunteering and writing while being able to stay home with our kids. Was it time to get serious again about contributing to family income? And where would I look?

How do you make the big decision?

I made a decision based on our bottom line, and our basic needs. We needed income in our future, and both Paul and I could earn it. As well, with both of us reaching out to old colleagues, the pressure wasn’t just on one of us. We doubled our efforts, and increased potential results.

What those results would be, we didn’t know. With big decisions, it is important to:

Take things one step at a time.

For a couple months there was a strong possibility that I was going to move to Vancouver with the kids, while Paul would either follow, or relocate elsewhere for a short time. This wasn’t ideal, but we focused on each step, one at a time.

Still, we felt a lot of stress about this step. How were we going to manage if we were in two cities (and likely, two countries)? Would we be any farther ahead, with all the plane trips we knew we’d take, and if so… then ahead of what?

It is important to weigh financial, emotional, and intellectual decisions together.

We also knew we were strong enough as a couple to consider living apart for a time, and it was important to both of us to look to the future of our relationship. And with both of us in careers we loved, this option seemed workable.

Decisions can change quickly – be prepared.

Paul accepted a new job shortly before Hurricane Sandy.

Then Sandy hit. We went a week without power, and gas stations were closing for lack of fuel. But we were safe and spent most evenings with our friends and neighbors. We appreciated our relationship with each of them.

And Paul and I appreciated our time together.

Sandy gave us a renewed perspective, and put us in touch with emotional decisions. I realized I couldn’t – didn’t want to – live two years away from my husband in Vancouver. Even though I looked forward to new challenges with great colleagues, and close living to other family members, I couldn’t split our family.

Once we made this decision, I knew it was the right one. Maybe it seems obvious, but how did I feel it was right?

The right decision feels calm and clear, like a path opening up in your psyche.

Fast forward to the following spring. Paul is working in San Diego. We visited him for a week and he came out to see us.

Then onto our next decision: which offer to accept on our New Jersey house?

One step at a time…

Which area to move?

One step at a time… And we did. And we are happy with our decisions.

It isn’t always easy to make a decision, so take time away from the stress to get a new perspective, and follow the decisions that create clarity and calm.

Not all our days were easy, even the last one. We followed a housing frenzy in San Diego, and threw three house purchase offers into the ring before …surprise, surprise…we decided to take a step back to gain perspective.

With the calm that followed, we knew we made the right decision. While our decisions are not always perfect, we know when we are make the right ones, and are grateful we follow the right path.

What decisions do you have to make? Where do you feel the stress and where do you feel clarity? Do you give yourself time to step back before making a big decision? Have you experienced the rewards of the right decision and what does that feel like?

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