“It’s not an old-fashioned if you leave out the bitters.”
I’ve always been terrible at making decisions. As a child, I frequently consulted my omnipotent Magic 8 Ball to determine what clothes to wear, what snacks to eat, whether or not to attend a friend’s slumber party—the list never ends.
Many years have passed since my days of relying on an inanimate object to determine my life’s path. However, the situation hasn’t entirely improved. I’m now tormented by a slew of adult decisions that are way less exciting than deciding what kind of candy to buy with my chore money.
Take, for instance, the very adult decision I recently made to ditch my job and move to Alaska for a temporary position. Even as I write this piece, the ghost of indecision reads over my shoulder, taunting me. “Did you make the right choice? Are you ruining your entire life?” she menacingly asks. My only tool I’ve found that effectively silences her and eases me through times of uncertainty is meditation.
Up to this point, my life followed a mostly clear path. I spent a few years teaching, then applied that experience to my work at a non-profit focused on boosting educational equity across the United States. Things had been mostly fine at the office; I enjoyed the work and got along well with coworkers. However, about a year into my current position, I started to get antsy. While my job was great for the meantime, there was no real room for future growth within the organization. It started to feel stagnant. My personal life was shaky at best. Lack of affordable housing in my area kept me in a toxic living situation while most friendships felt superficial and exhausting. I was depressed and too emotionally tired to do anything about it.
The call came during an afternoon meeting. The voice on the other line offered something I’d wanted for years: the opportunity to live and work in Denali National Park for the summer. I submitted applications every summer while teaching since it coincided with student vacation, but was always waitlisted. I’d finally gotten in, but I wasn’t teaching anymore—I was in the midst of managing a major multi-year collaborative project and juggling multiple workstreams and had just received a raise. There never seems to be a good time to quit a job. But as a used car salesman might say, this offer wouldn’t last long. I gave myself one week to decide.
Questions haunted me day and night. Should I pack my whole life into boxes for a temporary position with no plan afterward? Did I have enough money to cover my crushing student loan debt while floating between permanent living situations? How would my co-workers react? What about my family? There were so many factors to consider. Daily meditation sessions helped prioritize and organize my thoughts. I shut out all the noise and paralyzing distractions. When I was truly alone with my thoughts, the decision was easy. I had to go to Alaska. I admitted to myself that I’d become stagnant in my current situation. I had to learn to face uncertainty head on in order to grow as a person.
Meditation empowered me to make my decision to move approximately 4,000 miles outside my comfort zone and trust my internal compass. It turned a situation that had been downright agonizing into a shorter and more bearable process. This practice has been a great resource in all types of decision-making for me, both big choices like moving and small things like how to prioritize household chores (which unfortunately have continued into adulthood).
Meditation brings so much clarity to a situation. It strips away all of the distractions and background noise. You’re simply left to analyze your options as best you can and make the most informed decision possible. It allows time to process and ultimately move forward with confidence in your choice—no matter how big or small. It’s the one lifesaver that has continually saved me from getting sucked into the quicksand of indecision and allowed me to move forward with my life, trusting that I’ll able to sort out whatever obstacles might pop up along the way.
The author of this post is an editorial contributor to Headspace. These are their views, experiences and results and theirs alone. This contributor was paid for their writing.