Typically, expats who reach out to me explain their predicament in one of the following ways:
“I want to make sure I’m making the right decision”
“I’m confused about what’s the right thing to do”
“ I don’t want to make a decision that I’ll regret”
“How do I “know” that this is the right decision?”
It’s not that my niche is working with people who cannot make (good) decisions.
In fact, the clients I work with have often made many great, even bold decisions in their lives before.
Not all decisions are difficult to make, even if they’re big ones.
There’s just something about *this* decision that is bringing up more than it’s fair share of (emotional) obstacles.
So, in reaching out to me, they naturally feel a great deal of shame around why they’ve not been able to make up their minds and just *know* what they should do.
I often have to assure them that they are in no way a failure in my eyes, and they are not doomed to having to rely on a coach to work through every single decision going forward.
The reason why some decisions are harder to make than others is because there’s often a lot of doubt and confusion in their hearts in relation to this particular decision.
Whether that’s a decision on whether to stay or go, what the next step should be or even where to settle down for good.
Identifying what’s causing that doubt and confusion is the first step in our work together, followed by challenging these thoughts and fears, or even working on changing one’s circumstances, if necessary.
It’s when you cut away the root cause(s) for any doubt and confusion that the right decision has a way of naturally floating to the surface.
Over time, I’ve noticed that the obstacles that make it difficult for people to just “know” what the right decision is fall under similar categories.
In this blog post, I’m sharing what these typical obstacles are, together with helpful strategies for you to apply to your thought process.
1. Past difficult experiences are coloring the present and your imagined future
Do any of the points below apply to you?
- You’ve had a terrible time in a new country you’ve lived in (or you’re still struggling in that country)
- You’ve struggled with relationships, your career or any other aspect of your life and you worry whether things will ever get better in that aspect of your life
- You’ve had difficult relationships with your family or difficult experiences in your country of origin
If you’ve had any of the above happen to you in the past and these past events are making you fearful of making a decision, then chances are that these past experiences are influencing whether you’re seeing your current situation and your future options clearly.
Chances are there is some healing and grieving to be done in those aspects of your life so that your fear of the past repeating itself doesn’t cloud your ability to recognize the right decision for you.
As long as you’re trying to avoid the past repeating itself rather than moving forward with peace and joy in your heart, there will always be a part of you wondering whether you’ve made the right decision.
To really know what is right for you, we all need to clear the debris from our past negative experiences, learn from them and choose differently going forward.
If you recognize yourself in these sentences, here are some reflection questions for you:
- What have you experienced in the past that you think will never change or that will repeat itself?
- What negative experience are you trying to avoid as part of your decision-making?
- What if you didn’t try to avoid difficult experiences but rather sought to understand what they meant to teach you on your life path?
2. Fear of others’ judgement and opinions
Almost all of my clients have people-pleasing tendencies, whether they realize it or not.
As a recovering people-pleaser myself (which is honestly a lifelong journey), I have a lot of compassion for anyone struggling under the weight of others’ opinions (whether real or imagined).
Since I’ve come out the other end of that tunnel, I’m in a perfect position to notice people-pleasing tendencies getting in the way of my clients’ inner compass when it comes to recognizing the right decision for them.
If you grew up in a critical environment and if your subsequent life experiences have reinforced the idea that you cannot rely on your own sense of right or wrong, we’ll always be looking to others for guidance (consciously or subconsciously).
But here’s the catch – the people giving you advice on what you should do, or projecting their fears onto you, while they may be valid fears, while they may mean well, please always remember that…
…they are not the ones living your life day in and day out. You are. This is your life and your life path will be unique to you. What will make you happy will also be unique to you.
So what does it matter what Susan thinks (No offence to any Susan’s out there! 💛) you should do if she’s not the one who will have to live with the impact of your decision?
What does it matter what aunt Margaret (Blessings to all aunt Margarets out there who stay out of others’ businesses 💛) will say if she’s never lived a day outside of her home country? How could she possibly know what’s best for you?
It’s perfectly okay to receive others’ advice with kindness and acknowledge that they’re coming from a place of love, but you are under no obligation to take anyone’s advice on board.
Not even mine!
All you should ever take on board is what resonates with you.
Some further questions for you to reflect on if the above resonated with you:
- Whose judgment of right or wrong are you worried about?
- What’s the worst that can happen if you don’t follow their advice?
- What would you choose to do if no one had a single thing to say about your choices?
3. Fearing that you won’t be able to cope should things go wrong
Sometimes I come across expats who deep down already know what the right decision is for them, but they fear that they won’t be able to cope with difficult experiences (in whatever aspect of their life) should they go through with their decision.
They fear they won’t be able to handle family dynamics.
They fear they won’t find a loving partner to share their life with.
They fear they won’t find a good job and be able to secure a comfortable lifestyle.
They fear they won’t enjoy their new life (mainly because it’s unknown).
They fear they won’t find a home they like (sooner or later).
They fear they won’t be able to deal with temporary solutions until things fall in place.
The fear of these things potentially happening is so great that they resort to dissecting their decision and thereby get themselves stuck in analysis-paralysis or procrastination.
At the root of this kind of fearful thinking is the belief that life after making the right decision will be free of any struggle, obstacles, learning curves or negative experiences.
I know you know this isn’t how life really works.
So, instead, what if you thought of making the right decision being similar to entering a new level in a video game?
There will be new monsters to conquer on that level, sure, but you’ll also have new weapons with which to fight against them.
You won’t be left in the lurch – not by life, not by others and certainly not by yourself, right?
Here are further questions for you to reflect on in relation to this:
- What do you fear is going to happen to you should you go through with your decision?
- How can you prepare for the worst case scenario already now and still go through with your decision? Who could you reach out to for expert advice?
- What if everything went exactly how you want it to?
Feel called to share what came up for you while reading this blog post? Got questions? Let me know in the comments below.
If you don’t want to figure all of this out by yourself, then check out my coaching services here. Let’s work together to untangle that knot of issues keeping you from recognizing the right decision for you.
Katherine is a retired world traveller and former serial expat of 15 years. Based on her professional and personal experience as well as PhD research, she now helps expats, travellers and location independents decide whether to stay or go, whether to move back home or where to settle down.