Let’s talk about making decisions and the thoughts surrounding what if.
How many times do you think What if? What if you didn’t say that, what if you did go to that event, what if you hadn’t missed your bus or what if you did remember your keys. I think there must be a never-ending amount of times we think What if. But what happens when those what ifs begin to linger in your mind or even start to haunt you. I always hear people say in hindsight they would have done things differently. The phrase ‘hindsight is a valuable thing’ is so very true and used by so many people on a regular basis. I’ve had quite a few moments where I think ‘if only I had known this before’. However, we can’t live our lives that way, as we would probably never get anything done. So, how do we deal with the feeling of what if, how do we accept that the decisions we’ve made are the right ones? We never really know what the correct thing to do is, we just have to hope for the best. I’ve learnt since being more independent, living on my own, that you have to learn to own your decisions. People have and will continue to question some of the decisions. However, I have realised that if I sit and constantly think what if I would have probably never made some really incredible and life changing decisions.
I’m sure a few, if not many of you, will be able to relate when I say I find it difficult to not overthink certain aspects of my life, such as the situation that include my family or friends. When it comes to them, I never want any of my decisions to affect them negatively. I tend to think about something for so long, I usually think or talk myself out of it. However, after making a few, slightly rash choices, that have actually turned out to be what I have needed, I’ve tried to stop over thinking and worrying quite so much. I have a few moments in my life that have caused me to think about those pesky what ifs. Some of the biggest of those moments have been me being at High School and deciding which A Levels to take, when I decided to change my course at University and when I decided to hand in my notice and travel for three months. I have also, more recently, made a few very personal decisions which have really tested my strength and ability to worry less about what if. I thought I would share these with you, in the hope that I can demonstrate that sometimes you have to remove those what ifs from your mind, stop worrying so much and jump.
I always remember choosing my A Levels. I honestly, didn’t feel too much pressure when it came to what subjects I wished to study. For me it was pretty straightforward, I would study the subjects I most enjoyed. Ticked them off on a piece of paper and signed a form. Done. But then the reality of that decision, one which I didn’t think required much thought, came with a ton of future what-ifs. I remember thinking, ‘I may enjoy these subjects, but what if I don’t get the grades’, ‘what if I actually don’t do well at the end of college’, ‘what if I don’t want to go to University’, ‘what if I fail in these subjects’. I mean the list of what ifs that circled my head was never-ending. From one decision I made rather flippantly, I was struck with a hundred and one what ifs. I had made a decision based on what I wanted to do and what I thought I would take the most pleasure out of. I wanted to study what I enjoyed learning about. At the time I should have realised, that if that meant not achieving certain grades, or being able to attend a University I had wanted, then so be it. I would have known that I had enjoyed what I was doing.
After my first year at University, I made the decision to change my course. Again, the hundred and one what ifs flew into my head. ‘What if I don’t like the new course’, ‘what if I don’t get a decent job because I’m steering away from the career plan I had’, ‘what if I’m rubbish at this course’, ‘what if it just doesn’t work out!’ I again started to listen to my inner voice, causing me to question myself, but then I reminded myself about being able to enjoy myself. I jumped with two feet and did it. Deciding to change my course made a huge difference to me. I loved each module, I gained so many brilliant skills, I learned so much and most importantly I now wouldn’t change it for the world.
The worst part about what if is the fear that comes with it. The fear of missing out, the fear of upsetting someone and the overall fear that you’ve just made the wrong decision. You’re stuck wondering about all the other choices we may have. All those possibilities and worries we then allow to stop us from deciding to jump with two feet.
Back in 2017, I decided to quit my job and take a solo trip, for three months, around Southern and Central America. I had always wanted to travel to that part of the world and always, always hoped to do it myself and in my own way. Although I had wished to do it for such a long time, the reality of actually doing it was a completely different kettle of fish. I could daydream about it, I could make a hypothetical plan, but after a day of thinking it over, I rapidly changed my mind and thought it was a ‘ridiculous idea’. Although it took me a considerable amount of time, I finally realised that I was not happy just making hypothetical plans or daydreaming. Consequently, I decided to take a leap of faith and stopped thinking about all those what ifs. Although I had, in the past and in other situations, been able to just push all those negative thoughts to one side, this was a little more difficult. Quitting my job, without another lined up, was probably one of the scariest things I have ever done. However, deciding to take control of my life more and pushing all those worries aside was one of the most rewarding and best decisions I have ever made.
I have spoken to so many people that have made decisions based on a final outcome, for instance choosing to study a course they thought would get them a brilliant and successful job. I mean heck, everyone wishes to be successful in some way, whether that be in their career, personal life, skill set etc. However, being able to enjoy the decision you have made and knowing that the journey along the way was worth it, should be at the top of the list of reasons you make a decision in the first place.
But what happens when the what-ifs become a bit deeper. I’m talking about those times you have to make a choice that doesn’t come as easily as it is based on your own enjoyment. Those decisions that you’re probably never going to forget. Those decisions that are going to be with you forever. Those difficult and often pa decisions you never really think you would ever have to make. Although I’ve spoken about decisions that have had an impact on my life and the direction in which I have travelled through it, these decisions, … in hindsight (there it is), seem like easy ones to make.
Being someone who is unable to not worry about others, or is usually incapable of being selfish, making decisions that are for my own sake rater than someone else’s, is rather tricky. Choosing to study Psychology, English, Sociology and Business at college, choosing to change my course at University didn’t really have any consequences to anyone around me. Even when I quit my job, aside from having to find a replacement there was no huge detrimental impact on anyone. More recently, however, this hasn’t been the case. I’ve had to make some difficult decisions which I know have affected other people, some people that were once quite close to me. Learning that what if, isn’t always enough to keep you from making a decision and sometimes those what-ifs need to be put into perspective. I out weighed the what ifs, in this case, with my own mental health and happiness. I still occasionally think what if. However, I feel happy and content with myself knowing that I have made the right decision for me.
I love the idea of positivity and the idea that we can make ourselves as happy as we wish to be. Therefore, if a what if or two pops into your head I’d suggest pondering them over, but try not to worry too much. Being able to make a decision about how we should act, behave or even what we should say, is never easy, especially when we know what consequences it may have. Over time I have realised that although worrying about what if, can’t be helped sometimes, it’s important to not judging yourself about the choices you have made. Because at the end of the day, it’s your choice, you know what is right for you and I bet that no matter what happens, you’ll be just peachy… because you’ve got this!
I really hope I have shed a little light into my life and managed to help you feel slightly less stressed or worried about making your own decisions.