Beliefnet
Your Morning Cup of Inspiration

pexels-photo-66100 arrow AMaking major life decisions is hard. We all want to choose a career path that is fulfilling.  We all want to pick the “right” spouse with whom we can live happily ever after.  We all want to raise our children in a place where they can be safe and thrive.  And we all want to find the perfect retirement destination, a place where we can truly enjoy our golden years and not just wither away.

The problem is that we often approach decision making from the wrong direction. We base our decisions on what we need in the here and now.  However, when we make decisions, we should be focusing on our end result.  We should be focusing on where we want to be 40 years from now.

Let me give you an example. When I was in my twenties, I was accepted into law school.  Now, my first thought was, “Wow!  How did I manage that?”  My next thought was, “Well, I may as well go.  I have no skills to speak of, so I may as well get a profession.”  I looked at my career from where I was in my twenties.

My analysis actually should have been from the tail end. I should have thought about what I wanted my life to look like when I was 65.  I should have thought, “OK.  That is a nice opportunity.  But what is it that I want to accomplish with my life?  What do I want my life to look like in 40 years?  Will being a lawyer get me there?”

A tail end analysis will be different for everyone because it is a values-based analysis. If you value money, then you will want to pursue a high paying career.  You also will want a spouse who is career-oriented and doesn’t want kids because children are ridiculously expensive.  By contrast, if you value family, you’ll want a career that doesn’t require you to travel and that has a regular schedule.  You will want to create a life in which you can spend as much time at home as possible.  You’ll also want a spouse who values family as much as you do.

The challenge is that most of us do a front end analysis instead of a tail end analysis when we make decisions. We pick our spouse based on our needs in our twenties.  We pick a career based on what seems good today, and not necessarily on what will make us happy in the long term.  Then we get to be 40 or 50, and we scratch our heads and wonder, “How on earth did I get here?”  Our lives are the sum of our choices.

Tail end decision making forces us to be brutally honest with ourselves. We have to understand who we are – and who we aren’t.  You may wish that you were wildly adventurous, but if you are happiest living near family with a close group of friends, then accept that about yourself.  And make your life choices accordingly.  Likewise, you may look at your friends who have spouses and children, and think to yourself, “I guess I should get married and have kids too.”  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Traditional family life isn’t for everyone.  If it isn’t for you, you’ll be miserable trying to make that work when it isn’t your cup of tea.

When doing a tail end analysis, the question we need to ask ourselves is this: “What do I need in life to be happy?“ The answer may be very different from what your parents, friends and society think will make you happy.  It takes bravery to ignore the rest of the world and say, “You know what?  I know that everyone in my family is in the medical field.  But I almost faint at the sight of blood.  I need to do something else with my life.”

I often wonder how many divorces would be prevented with tail end decision making? How many bad career decisions could be avoided?  How many major life mistakes would not be made if we were honest with ourselves about what we need and who we are?  What if we made all our decisions based on what we know ultimately will make us happy?

This week, consider what you need to be happy in life. Consider what you want your life to look like 10, 20 and 30 years from now?  Answer those questions, and the decisions of today will become much easier to make.

(Photo Courtesy of Pexels)

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