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  • Paula Thompson
    Paula Thompson

    Managing Stressful Decisions: Achieving Balance Amidst Discomfort

    We all face moments in our lives when we’re presented with difficult decisions. While we may have already learned to make judicious decisions and are often in search of the “right” answer, making a decision brings with it a unique kind of ambivalence. When I find myself in this position, I tend to choose a path that may actually make me more uncomfortable. While on first glance this may appear illogical or counterintuitive, I've found that embracing the discomfort of a particular choice often leads to more rewarding long-term results.

    The stress of making a big decision can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Our minds are swirling in a whirlpool of potential outcomes, grasping at any potential solution as if we were trying to catch smoke in a windy room. And oftentimes, when we’re constantly seeking comfort, we miss out on opportunities for growth. We can exponentially increase our own standards of living and self-development by choosing values and behaviors we find uncomfortable—but choosing them nonetheless.

    By staying aware in times of decision-making and stressing the importance of confronting our uncomfortable choices, we can discover newfound meaning in life. These decisions can come in many forms—from speaking up in a crowded room, or breaking off a long-term relationship despite wanting to keep it going. In these situations, it’s important to consider alternative paths and view options objectively in order to avoid being overwhelmed with emotion.

    Sometimes, the uncomfortable choice can stem from simply doing what’s right—even if it means going against the grain. In our society of social media stars and influencers telling us how to live ‘the good life’, it’s easy to succumb to peer pressure and take the path of least resistance. But when we choose to go against the grain, we are doing something thoughtful and reflective within ourselves—helping us to connect deeply to our core values. It’s at the crossroads of tough decisions that we have some of the richest and most meaningful opportunities for personal growth.

    Subconsciously, we all hold onto certain implicit biases that can interfere with our decision process during difficult times. Even after we’ve attempted to view them objectively, these biases can linger and remain subconsciously tied to our emotions. Studies have found that individuals are often conflicted by the powerful pull of pleasure versus the nagging discomfort of obligation. Sentiments such as these are at the heart of uncomfortable decisions and can unlock untold depths of personal understanding, allowing us to explore our own innermost motivations and desires.

    Making decisions is never easy, especially when faced with choices that make us feel tremors or distress. But it’s my belief that, if we allow ourselves to be open to the possibilities offered by difficult decisions, we can see possibilities even in uncomfortable circumstances. Therefore, when presented with a decision that makes me uncomfortable, I do my best to focus on the positives, move through the situation with composure, and leverage the uncomfortableness to further grow and learn more about myself.

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