I spent four months last year obsessing about whether I wanted to pursue a new position at work.
I had pro-con lists and sought advice from everyone and I mean everyone - from the person who used to be in the position to a priest. None of this helped. I just couldn't decide. Or said better, I couldn’t stick to a decision.
Now going back and forth is part of my natural decision-making process. I like to seek lots of input, gut check, seek more input, gut check again, seek just a little more input, then…(drum roll please) make a decision. Once I make a decision, I get on board with it. Ambivalence shifts to optimism and planning.
This, though, was different. I would go through the process, make a decision, and then change my mind. Not me at all.
Why was this process different?
When I got real with myself, I realized I was letting superficial things influence me, including the additional salary and – this is a hard one to admit – the nice office (and I mean REALLY nice with a standing desk, natural light, lots of bookcases…but I digress…).
Like others who have the luxury of professional choice, which I fully realize is a privilege many do not have, I was making my decision based on the external – think stuff - versus the internal – think meaning.
What’s wrong with prioritizing stuff?
Martin Seligman and other Positive Psychologists argue the keys to a fulfilling life—the good life—is to do things that have meaning, bring deep purpose, and enables authenticity. Research backs them up. For those who are comfortable financially, new material things do not increase long-term happiness but experiences, connections, and giving to others do. Interestingly, we typically believe that more stuff will make us happy even though it doesn’t.
I feel compelled to stop here and say a word about authenticity. As a Black woman who spends time in predominantly White spaces, there are many occasions I have to shutter parts of me away. I know I am not alone with this. So for underrepresented group members, I would argue that seeking full and complete authenticity is a reach. In relative terms, however, seeking spaces that allow you to bring much/most/lots of your whole self is an attainable goal.
I share my process as one illustration of the many ways we can have difficulty making decisions that bring us closer to living the good life. Many times this happens because we do not give ourselves the time and space to look internally, to consider who we are and what feeds us. This can cause us to pursue money, things, people, and jobs that divert from what we truly need.
If you seek to make decisions that lead to fulfillment, I invite you to distance yourself from the everyday noise of life and choose to contemplate on your meaning, purpose, and real self. You can ease into this process by thinking of the times you felt most alive, satisfied, charged, and authentic. What were you doing? Who were you with? Why did you feel good?
Once you answer these questions, you will be on your way to understanding what you need to live the good life.
Next step, create a plan to bring more meaning, purpose, and authenticity into your life.
In peace and solidarity,