How To Make A Big Decision Without Regret


Every day we have decisions to make — what to wear, what to eat, how to spend our time.

Some decisions are no-brainers. You make your choice, and even if it’s not the best decision, the potential consequences are rarely worth breaking a sweat.

Then there are the BIG decisions.

  • Should I move?
  • Which job offer will be best?
  • Am I in the right relationship?
  • Should I proceed with the surgery?


Sometimes the elements and possible consequences of a big decision are so complicated your brain gets muddled, and confusion and indecision grip you like a vice. You become frozen like a deer in headlights.

The more you ponder the decision, the more confused and stuck you feel.You just want a voice from the heavens to shout down instructions and tell you what path to take. “Hey you, take that job in Miami. You’ll be much happier!”
This confusion is so uncomfortable that we tend to avoid these big decisions altogether. Of course this does nothing but stoke a low-level sense of anxiety and frustration about ourselves and our circumstances. Avoidance has never been a great strategy for life success and happiness.

Over-thinking and compulsively analyzing a decision doesn’t help much either. Trying to predict the future is an impossible task, regardless of how certain you may feel about a desired outcome. Life is too unpredictable to know with certainty that you are making the “right” decision. Ultimately, any decision involves a leap of faith.
When I’ve had to make big life decisions, I’ve learned to take several practical steps infused with a big dose of emotional guidance. In other words, I start with my head but also listen to my heart.

Here are some keys on how to make a decision without regret.

1. Have a Life Vision

A life vision should be the foundation and reference point for every decision you make. In your deepest dreams, how do you envision your life in all areas — career, relationships, finances, lifestyle, etc.  What core values define this vision for you? Make a point of writing down your vision and the values that define it. Refine the vision over time as necessary. Then when a big decision comes along, you can use this vision as a guide.  If you deviate too far from the vision, it will cause you eventual pain and regret. Evaluate your choices based on your vision. Which one is in closest alignment with your vision?

2. Evaluate the Pros and the Cons

Consider the possible positive and negative aspects or consequences of your decision. Write down a list of pros and cons for each possible alternative. Then prioritize these points with the most important considerations at the top of the list. What are the possible implications of the cons? Do they outweigh the pros? Can you live with the potential negative fallout or consequences? What could you do to mitigate the fallout?

3. Phone a Friend

Carefully select two or three trusted friends whose opinion and judgment you value. Tell them about your life vision, show them your list of pros and cons and ask for their input about your decision. Someone who is removed from the turmoil of the decision and who has a different perspective can help you see things in a clearer light. A personal coach also can help you gain clarity around your decision by asking you pointed questions related to your motivations, feelings, and desires.

4. Invoke a Higher Power

Go to a quiet place. Breathe deeply. Close your eyes. Go within. Pray or meditate (or whatever feels right to you) and ask for guidance. Your own inner wisdom and intuition will often rise to your conscious mind when you calm the mental chaos of over-thinking your decision. Imagine yourself in all of the possible outcomes and pay attention to how you feel. Keep a pen and paper handy to make notes about your feelings after reflection. Give it a few days. You may be surprised that the answer presents itself unexpectedly.

5. Try the Coin Trick

I love this idea because it puts you in touch with you real desires. Grab a quarter and assign one decision choice to heads and the other to tails. Flip the coin and before it lands, pay attention to side you hope it lands on. If there are more than two choices, balance each choice against another using the same trick. More than likely, this immediate reaction is what you truly want to do. Something in your heart is pulling you in that direction. Examine this result carefully, because even if the choice conflicts with all of the practical considerations, you may be dishonoring your deepest desires.

6. Research and Experiment

Do the work to gain as much knowledge as possible about the options. Research, ask questions, talk with people who have experienced each scenario. If possible, experiment with the alternative outcomes. If you are considering a move, spend a good amount of time in the city you are contemplating. If you are exploring a job opportunity, ask to spend a day or two shadowing someone in the office. If you are thinking of ending a relationship, test some time apart before you make your decision.

7. Don’t Look Back

If you have done the work, honored your vision, examined the pros and cons, sought guidance, done your due diligence, and connected with your intuition, then make your choice, take the leap and don’t look back. There are millions of paths we can take in a lifetime, all leading to different opportunities and potential consequences. You won’t have a guarantee, but you don’t need one. Uncertainty is part of the adventure of life. Once you are on this new adventure, have confidence that you made the best decision with the information available, and move forward with a spring in your step. There is something good to be learned on every path we follow.

The ability to make a decision is the fuel for personal and professional growth. If you enter a decision with the knowledge that uncertainty is inevitable, and you accept you must decide in spite of uncertainty, then you will never get stuck.  By taking the steps outlined, you empower yourself to make an informed and thoughtful choice, leaving little room for future regret.

What have you done to make a big decision in the past? How have you minimized the possibility of regret?

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Comments

  1. Great post, thank you for sharing, making a big life decision is probably the biggest life challenge we can ever experience. I like your approach, trying to make the “right” decision would be vain as we can’t figure out what it would consist in at the time we’re making the decision, but at least I’ve always tried to make a decision that wouldn’t lead to regrets

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Clay,
      So glad you liked it. Many times, there isn’t a “right” decision. It is simply a choice between one path and another.

  2. I do the coin trick too! It’s my favorite way to make a decision when I’ve got too many thoughts going on in my head. It really helps me hone in on my deepest feelings. I also have a life vision that I revise as my priorities change.

  3. Thanks Barrie,

    I have used a coin for years to help me decide. When I know I want to go to out of three flips or am happy with the winning side I have my answer.

    Over they years I have learned to follow what I call the cosmic breadcrumbs – those little subtle signs from the universe. It could be the orange that falls out of the bin as I walk by at the grocery shop or the friend I bump into at Starbucks. Follow your heart never fails to produce magic and miracles. And as you say there really are no WRONG decisions!
    I always love your posts, Thanks for taking the time to write them.
    Susan

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Susan,
      I love that expression — “cosmic breadcrumbs”! You have reminded me to pay attention to them. I’m so glad you love my posts because I love your comments and positive spirit. Thank you Susan.

  4. that last bit about the inevitability of uncertainty really sticks out. no matter how much we analyze, and procrastinate, uncertainty will always be there. really nice post, Barrie

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Kola,
      Yes, no matter how hard we try to figure it out, life remains unpredictable. So glad you liked the post.

  5. Great post Barrie. I often remind myself that no matter what we do, the unknown is always greater than the known; the uncertain is always greater than the certain – there’s almost no point in worrying about it.

    The coin trick does work. I have a similar thing – a book called “The book of answers”. If often helps my clients (and my kids) to decide on something. They think of the question, then open on a random page. If they like the answer AND if they don’t like the answer – they still know what they want…

    Well done.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Kirsten,
      I haven’t heard of that book, but I will check it out. That’s a great idea!

  6. I’m at a point of transition at the moment and little steps like this really help to make the big choices and have confidence. Thank you 🙂

    Sweet Apple Lifestyle

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Katie,
      It’s always the little steps that lead to the big changes. I’m so glad it helped you!

  7. Dear Barrie
    I feel when I read your posts you are really talkng to me personally. In the last 5 postings in particular specific issues you have written was exactly what I was thinking of and what I needed for assistance.
    Thank you so much

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      I am so glad the posts have come to you at the right time Fawzi. Thank you for your kind words.

  8. Fine thoughts here Barrie. Having a Life Vision is rightly at the top of the tree. Thankyou.
    be good to yourself
    David

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Thanks David! So glad you liked it. 🙂

      • I just switched job and everything in my old job looks great now after I left and everything seems to be a lot better and I regret it.. Can you help me,please?

        • Look back to #7. Sometimes, what we feel are the worst choices in life, end up being the best choices. Think positive and positive things will come.

  9. What came in the final step is AMAZING. Once you’ve done all the calculating, thought about the pros and cons, slept over it, heard your inner voice propel you to go for it, do not look back. Just do it. I did that once, the looking back and it is health wrecking.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Maram,
      Yep — you just have to take the leap and keep moving forward. All big decisions include some amount of risk.

  10. Awesome article! Thank you so much for this..this is one I’ll be back to reread,:-)
    I love the Don’t Look Back step – I tend to go over, analyze and edit everything I did once it’s done, the revisits are endless, really need to stop that because it makes me doubt everything I do.
    Thank you:-)

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Cheyenne,
      That over-analyzing is really a tortuous cycle. Just keep moving forward with a spring in your step. 🙂

  11. Hi Barrie
    i do lots of pray when its come to make some tough decision and it always help .

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Ahmed,
      That is wonderful. Prayer and meditation are both great ways to get in touch with your deepest desires.

  12. Hi Barrie, I just discovered your site and have really enjoyed your insightful articles.
    I am a highly sensitive person HSP, your post on that really described me (and my wife) incredibly well. I am currently having to make a huge life decision that will affect my small family and have discussed it here:
    http://www.city-data.com/forum/non-romantic-relationships/1779929-move-not-move-away-family.html

    Would you be so kind as to read the original post and tell me your thoughts on this?

    Thank you. I have subscribed to your feed because I think you are sharing valuable information. I will also share it with my wife and family.

    Capam

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Capam,

      You must do what is best for you, your wife, and child. Your extended family is important, and it’s wonderful to have them near you. But if you need a job and one you like is being offered, then it seems like you should take it — unless the lifestyle near your family is so compelling you are willing to remain in financial hardship. Guilt should never be a motivator for a decision. You can always move again if you wish. No decision is irreversible. Your primary allegiance is to your primary family — your wife and child.

      • Thank you Barrie,
        I think I have known this all along but my personality trait of trying to please everyone made this difficult. I want to change this trait where I put my needs and wants aside to please others, especially now that I have a family.
        Thank you again for our advice and your site.

  13. This is a great post – thank you. Last week I had to choose between three job offers in three different countries. The one I chose isn’t the one that looks the best on paper from a third-party point of view, but it’s the one that felt “right” to me. The problem is that now everyone seems to have an opinion on the choice I made (friends, parents, etc.) and it’s hard to not let their comments plant seeds of doubt in my mind. I hear everything from “You should have chosen Offer A because that would further your career the most” to “You should have chosen Offer B because the weather is better there” and “I’m surprised you chose Offer C….as long as you’re happy…..”

    I should be excited and eager about the new opportunity I’ve taken on, but instead I find myself thinking perhaps I’ve made a horrible mistake and not only will I be moving to a place where I will be very lonely at first but it will derail my career forever… Crazy, I know, especially because this was the option that my gut told me was best. But still, it’s hard to not doubt yourself when it seems that everyone around you has a differing opinion!

    • Hi Drh….I came upon this article because I am also trying to choose between jobs. How did it work out trusting your gut? To be honest, I can’t seem to figure out what my gut is really telling me yet. Thanks!!

      • Hi Jennifer. I’ve now been in my new job (and new country) for three months, and to be honest things have been challenging…the adjustment has been hard, and the job is a disappointment. However, I am happy to report that I have no regrets about my decision!! I actually don’t even think about the two offers I turned down for this, and even though things aren’t exactly as I expected, I think I made the right decision. Am I exactly where I want to be career-wise and personally? No. But is there somewhere else is rather be? No, actually…all the challenges I’m facing right now will be good for me, and for some reason I feel confident they will lead me to something new and better down the road. So to sum it up, I’m happy I listened to my gut and not other people, and I’m sure you will be, too. Best of luck with your decision – let me know how it works out!

        • Thanks for the quick reply, Drh! That is great to hear that it was the right move after all. Yours was a much bigger decision given the HUGE geographic consideration. I’m flipping and flopping every which way with it. But I can’t seem to be able to figure it out just yet. 🙁

          You’re very lucky and wise to be able to foresee the benefits of the choice you’ve made and how it will likely impact the future. I wish you the best!

  14. Hey Barrie! This post really helped me. My parents have always told me not to make the wrong choice and always make the right choice. We were( my brother and I) raised to be perfect which means no mistakes. Now I am nineteen and faced with the oppurtunity to move out. Your post totally taught me there is never apways a “right choice” and that I should follow my heart. Even though it seems like all the adults around me are telling me not to move out, it is defintley time to break free. No turning back now 🙂

  15. This seems overall like a very selfish way to make decisions in some cases. I think there is a certain level of responsibility that we need to take for our current circumstances and not just do whatever we want whenever we want no matter who it affects. Some of you steps sound like decent advice, but others seem idealistic and impulse laden which is dangerous in my opinion.

  16. Hello Barrie, I keep going in circles with a decision to leave my 8 year old relationship. I feel I am always the one who dedicate in fixing this relationship and keeping it together, but it’s now weighting too much on me. I am tired and I know that if I don’t accept his ways and stay firm on my beliefs, as an extremely selfish man, he will not humble himself in any way. It’s sad and I am tired of even thinking about. I have a great life from the outside. Travels around the world, life style etc…but I can’t get the deep connection I would like and believe to be important in a relationship. I have tried, crying, screaming, talking, being tough, being soft and giving and I simply can not reach out to him. He ignores my feelings, needs and requests. He has the money and I don’t. I feel I should just leave, but I am afraid what awaits me and my future, specially living without him. God help me, or maybe YOU! 😉 Thank you

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Roseli,
      I promise, you are worth far more than this. And much more awaits you in life. Our time is limited on this Earth. Don’t waste it with someone who doesn’t appreciate what you have to offer in a relationship. Be brave. Reclaim your happiness.

      • Thank you Barry, I do appreciate your response. I know that it’s wrong to be treated this way. Imagine that even after he’s been indifferent towards me, paying attention to his friend (who is staying with us for the past 3 months), insinuated that I was going to go with him oversees for the Soccer World Cup,( as I always go) being held in Brazil. I, very nicely, said thank you, but I am not going. I think he was shocked, but he is so arrogant that didn’t ask why or anything. Probably because he knows how bad he is behaving in our relationship. I am a bit afraid, and I know I shouldn’t be. I need to read something that will help me further with this transition. He will be at the event for about 5 weeks. I will not contact him. Don’t really know what he will do. We’ll see…

  17. oh my Goodness .. this is something interesting ..

  18. Dear Barrie,
    I’m really in dilemma right now. I need to choose between a prefect or class assistant.
    My heart is like to be a class assistant but at the same time i’m scared if i will regret about the prefect 😟
    Can you help me??

  19. Sivanathan says:

    Dear Barrie,
    I’m so happy that I stumbled upon your article. I’m days away from starting my new job and I have serious doubt. I would get paid less than what I was getting paid now but still I went ahead and decided to take this job offer because it’s a reputed and big company. So down the road I might get something bigger. But since I signed the paper works for the new job I’ve lost my sleep. I’m really frightened and paranoid. My mind keeps going back in time and to the future about all the circumstances. Sometimes I wish there was a pill that can numb my mind for hours so that I can get some sleep and be happy with my family and kids. But when I read your article it calms me down a little bit. Unless I try it I wouldn’t know what was on hold for me by this universe. I even messed a little bit on this interview and still I got the job so looks like the universe wants me to have this job for some reason. I’m hoping for everything to go smoothly. Thanks a million for helping people like me have peace of mind. Thanks a lot. God bless you.

    • Hi Sivanathan.
      I stumbled upon this article because I too have to make a similar decision and Im hoping you’re feeling better about the decision you’ve made. One thing I will say is that sometimes in life we may feel like we’ve made the wrong choices, but its not a bad thing because from those experiences we learn a lot. A job will always add transferable skills and experiences to your CV so you’re not at a loss. This job will also give you clarity of future career options, so don’t worry yourself or think about alternative choices you could’ve made. Make the most of this opportunity…I’m sure you’ll do well and if worst comes to worse…you can always move in 12months. The economy we are in now, employers are used to people moving to up skill etc. I’ll leave you with the quote below. All the best and God bless you ! 🙂

      “But failure has to be an option in art and in exploration – because it’s a leap of faith. And no important endeavor that required innovation was done without risk. You have to be willing to take those risks….” ~James Cameron

      – See more at: http://liveboldandbloom.com/01/self-confidence/25-self-confidence-quotes#sthash.r32ozWTB.dpuf

  20. Karl Dietrich says:

    I find one of the biggest challenges alot of us tend to make is overwhelming ourselves with too many goals basically jumping from A/Z right away and too many unrealistic ideas and i find lots of us tend to sell ourselves short like and having the wrong additude going into it.Im 24 years male and ive realised with everything ive done from culinary to health and wellness i understamd i want my own buisness however owning your own buisness is a big risk and start up and i didnt come from money so im finding myself lost with that because i know it takes money to make it so what do u do lost isnt fun.Id like to talk about it with you Barrie maybe there is more to me to unlock then i know im not sure whT to do in my life.

  21. Princess says:

    Hi,I’ve been having a tough time trying to take a decision concerning my relationship.I’m in a relationship which might not end in marriage.I came across another guy for a while now who has been doing those things missing in our relationship.But I’m scared of the unknown because this guy is financially secure and all I hope he won’t see it that I came into the relationship because of money.And pls how do you know if your relationship would end in marriage?

  22. Hey barrie,my girlfriend and I came up with a dicision of getting our own place and move together,wich is what I’d like to do but because of the person I am..I’m always afraid to make up my mind when it comes to cases like this because I don’t want do something that will someday bite my tongue off in the near future and I don’t know how to approuch my parents about this incident,all in all I do wanna move in with her that I know but I just don’t know if it be the right dicision to make,please help

  23. There’s tens of thousands of articles regarding the topic of difficult decision making. This is by far the most practical and helpful of the lot. Thanks!

  24. Hi,
    Loved ur article. But one thing wanna ask ??? What to do when there is a war between head and heart.??? It becomes extremely difficult to take a decision.And I normally regret to whatever I decide. Please help!!!!!!

    • Also overthinking has led me to a state where I have forgotten what my head and heart wants…No clear vision at all..help !!!!