Something that’s always been hard for me, is making big, life-changing decisions. It took me 5 years of public school before I decided to homeschool my son. It took me 8 years to finish an undergrad degree before pursuing a masters in education. It took me 10 years of teaching to realize I love teaching kids, but hate testing, of any kind. Not all ADHDers are the same, but all of us have had to make a big decision at one point or another. Here are some tips I use to make big decisions.
No Mission: Impossible
Big decisions are especially hard to make if you don’t have a life vision, mission, or goal. If you need a place to start, here is a great blog post. Dave Ramsey discusses building a life mission, similar to business missions. Just as business goals align with the business’ overarching mission, your life goals should align with your personal, “life mission.”
Once you’ve written a life mission, you can use it to help make important decisions. Simply run your “question” or options through your mission statement(s). If the final decision is aligned with your mission, then go for it!
Here’s an example from my pre-child life. When I graduated with my Spanish Lit degree I was looking ahead to law school. As an immigration lawyer, I could change the world! My mission statement was something like: Use my skills, love of culture and language gifts to help others.
Then, my fiancé and I became pregnant with our first child. Even with strong pre-LSAT scores, and Spanish and Portuguese language skills, I started investigating other career options. I knew I wanted to raise my child(ren) without full-time help. My mission statement changed, as it should when your life changes. Spending time with family by physically being with my baby from the very beginning of his life was part of my updated life’s mission. That made it easy to forgo law school.
Besides your life mission statement, here are 3 other tools I use to make decisions.
Pros and Cons List
When you’re making this list, don’t think. Just “brain dump” every outcome that enters your mind. Sometimes it’s easier to write first, then reorganize the information as a “pro” or a “con” using sticky notes.
Here is one I made about moving earlier than planned. It includes a specific location.
Relationships are one of my values. As you can see, human beings came up on my list in a few places. If a life mission is overwhelming, just make a pros and cons list. The reoccurring themes in your list will help you shape a mission statement, eventually. If you’d like to pursue one.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but using a planner for personal GOALS, not just events or meetings, really helps me when making decisions. When someone asks for my help, or to take on a project, I can look at my planner to see what’s coming up.
Now, this means you have TO WRITE THINGS DOWN, in said planner. If you’re more of an apps person, Cozi or the Google calendar is a great place to start. Most smart phones will sync up locations, reoccurring meetings and other details so your plans sync automatically with maps for driving times, warnings for being double booked, etc.
When you write personal goals in your planner, break them up into small parts (I like 30 min intervals) and block off the space on your calendar.
Breaking up a Large Goal
We can use exercise as an example. I know weight bearing exercise helps an ADHD brain. My goal this summer is to deadlift 100 lbs. And bench 80. I’d also like to squat 175 on the smith machine. It will take more than 1 workout to reach these goals, but I can write in my 30 min intervals which take up space right along with my upcoming events. It takes at least 2 workouts a week to make progress. So I add two 30-min basement gym sessions to my planner.
This can work with social goals, as well. Maybe you’d like to see your girlfriends, more often. Block off 15 minutes in your calendar for a phone call, perhaps every other weekend, or start a group chat. Add a Happy Hour to your calendar, even before confirmation, just to ensure you hit your goal of more socializing with friends.
By having personal goals mapped out in my planner, plus events, meetings and date nights, I know how much of me is really available. This way, it’s clear to see if you have the bandwidth to take on something else.
Finally, periodically cross-reference your week’s “plans” with your mission statement. I like to do this on Sunday evenings. If I find have too much scheduled in the same week, perhaps I can drop something that really doesn’t line up with my mission.
A Trusted “Council”
When I’m ruminating over a decision and I feel I need a completely new perspective, I talk to a trusted council member. If you don’t have a council, then maybe you talk things over with a close friend, your mom or your partner. We all have someone close to us with a different perspective.
My “council” includes 2 older moms who have raised special needs children now in their late 20’s, as well as my own mom. My good friend and my father are both more ‘religious” so I discuss spiritual things with them. For decisions like refinancing my house, I might talk to a friend who is also a CPA, or my stepfather who knows a lot about finance, as well.
I also reach out to bloggers, not directly, but by searching their sites for articles. For homeschool I read articles by two amazing entrepreneur-moms who also homeschool their 3 and 6 children families. Don’t make the “internet” your council, but if you have a blogger or podcaster you trust, see what they’ve written on the topic. Your values are close to theirs if you’ve chosen to follow them and be a part of their audience. There is a reason their writing resonates with you.
Ask yourself the question before you go to sleep. Whatever answer “pops” into your head in the morning, is probably the right one. Truthfully, the “right” decision is usually nagging you from the back of your mind, but you’ve chosen to ignore it. Stop ignoring it! Do the hard thing. Make that big decision and embrace all that comes with it.
How do you make big decisions?