Life ultimately comes down to the decisions you make.

Of course there are plenty of aspects of it that lie outside of our control. But this hardly seems like a good reason to give up all agency and abandon ourselves to the mercy of circumstance.

I believe that each of us will ultimately be judged on the merit of what we did with what we had. For me, this is the best definition of success that moves past the opinions of others or vanity metrics that so many chase after.

Whilst I’d love a Ferrari as much as the next person, here are four keys on foolproof decision making.

1. Get used to disappointing people

Oh yes, we’re starting here. Hopefully you’ve realised by now that no matter what you do, there’s always someone who won’t be happy.

Whether it’s your parents (you never chose to be the lawyer/doctor they hoped you would).
Whether it’s your pastor (who had big hopes for you in church ministry).
Whether it’s your friends (who preferred the old you).

Someone is always going to be disappointed.

The bigger the decisions, the bigger the disappointment.

Ultimately this comes down to the question of whose opinions you care about most.

I’m not suggesting that people around us don’t matter. Of course they do.

And we should weigh wise counsel and input from those who truly care about us.

But at the end of the day, only you are responsible for you.

It takes courage to make difficult decisions. But avoiding your future calling will create a whole new set of difficulties.

Think resentment, bitterness, grief over lost opportunities and dissatisfaction. The list goes on.

Over the years I’ve had to make many difficult decisions. From cutting certain family ties to leaving toxic organizations, it’s never been easy.

But when the disappointment fades, you’ll find that the boundaries have fallen in pleasant places.

2. It’s ok to change your mind

One of the things that makes decision making feel so intense is not feeling able to change course as you go.

But most of the decisions we make in life are actually reversible. And the worst case is usually not actually as bad as we think.

Of course we’d prefer not to look silly by backtracking. And this is perhaps much more the issue at hand.

Are we really worried about the decision or are we worried about what people will think of us if we change our mind?

Unsure about dating someone? You can always break off the relationship.
Worried about taking on that project? You can always drop it later.
Moving geographic location? You can always move back.

Funnily enough, many good things have happened to me by accident or by proxy. Because there’s still beauty and wonder around even when you don’t plan to find it.

So embrace the unknown. Make a list of the worst-case scenarios and potential paths for recovery. Then do it.

3. Consider the opportunity cost

When it comes to a new venture or change, most of us tend to compare our present situation with the potential.

But we nearly always make a colossal error in our calculations.

We assume that where we are is fixed and permanent.

But it’s not. It could change at any moment.

Your job could change at any moment.
Your church could change at any moment.
The economy could change at any moment.

Things that are familiar feel safe but that’s a purely emotional evaluation and shouldn’t really be taken into account with proper decision making.

The opportunity cost is about being aware of not just what you know but what you don’t know. Of course we don’t know what we don’t know but we should still include this in our assessment of the future.

We tend to look at present circumstances with rose-tinted glasses.

And we underestimate the possibilities of the future.

So we fret about the friendships that will change if we move, without considering the friendships that we will miss if we don’t move.

We hang on to a project we hate because it pays the bills. All the while missing new projects because we don’t have time to do them.

You don’t know what you don’t know. But just know that there is always a cost for staying still, just as there is a cost to your movement.

4. Evolve your identity

Change always challenges who we are.

I remember a few years ago when I started posting regularly on social media.

Before that I was a regular post-the-sky type of Instagrammer. But then I started sharing thoughts and insights that were deeper.

It was challenging because I could feel both the pleasure and displeasure of others.

Some were enjoying the content and encouraging me on.

Others were critical and judgemental. They may not have said it so specifically. But you would notice little comments here and there, designed to put you in your place.

My identity was changing and not everyone liked it.

Becoming a content creator was challenging how I perceived myself to be. I knew where my motivation came from but you’re still affected by what other people think of you.

And as I went on this journey, I began to see myself as a content creator. I truly began to believe that I had insights worth sharing.

I developed confidence to put myself out there, regardless of what others may think.

Any big change in your life will challenge your identity. That’s why it’s important to consider the emotional implications of your decisions too.

Allow yourself to become confident and secure in the latest iteration of who you are.