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No Decision Zone

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Amuse Bouche

My amuse bouche for you today is a light “dad joke” to entertain your mind before we get down to business. Like any other amuse bouche, you may hate it, but it is worth every penny that you paid for it, right?

A man went to his doctor and said that he thought he might be experiencing hearing problems.

The doctor said: “can you describe the symptoms?”

The man said “Yes, they are an animated family. Homer is a fat, yellow guy and Marge has big blue hair.”

Goal Success by Choice

Do you have dreams that you are trying to make come true? Do you have a goal that you are trying to crush? Success doesn’t happen by chance. You don’t have to get lucky or win the lottery to live the life of your dreams. 

You just have to choose to be successful. If you make the right daily choices, adopt good habits and behaviors, and approach life with the right mindset, you can make your dreams come true. 

Goal Success by Choice helps you make the choices that will move you closer to your goals and keep you from holding yourself back. 

I hope this post helps you get a little closer to crushing your goals.

No Decision Zone

Unsuccessful people make decisions based on current situations. Successful people make decisions based on where they want to be.

Benjamin Hardy

One evening I was watching a well-known personal finance guru’s call-in show. She received a call from a woman who had recently lost her husband to sudden death. She asked what she should do to invest the remaining life insurance money, whether she should sell one of their homes, and how she best depart with her late husband’s belongings.

The host gave great advice: don’t make any decisions right now. The widow should wait a year before making any significant decisions. She had just been through a stressful and emotional life change and was still grieving. Any decision she makes right now would be based on emotion and could easily be the wrong decision.

Unless something is urgent or time-sensitive, no big decisions should be made after a significant life event. It takes time to adjust to the new “normal” life.

Transformation Is Stressful

In the story above, the personal finance guru was cautioning the caller not to underestimate the emotional stress caused by life transformations. Life transformations take many forms and can happen at various times in our lives; each one (positive or negative) comes with a certain amount of stress.

The Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS), or Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, is an evaluation tool used to rank and evaluate the stress levels associated with the most impactful life events.

The creators of the assessment were studying whether or not stress contributes to illness. The forty-three most stressful life changes are included in the SRRS. They are assigned different weights or points based on their relative stress levels. SRRS participants selected the events that applied to their lives within the past two years and then added the scores. The higher the sum of their weighting, the more likely the patient was to become ill.

The most stressful life change on the assessment is the death of a spouse (100 points). Not every transformation is as impactful as the death of a spouse. Still, every life transformation comes with its own level of stress. Here are some of the most relevant events included on this scale:

  • Fired from a job (47 points)
  • Change in financial state (38 points)
  • Change in responsibilities at work (29 points)
  • Outstanding personal achievement (28 points)
  • Revision of personal habits (24 points)
  • Change in eating habits (15 points)
  • Change in number of family get-togethers (15 points)

The events included on this list add up very quickly. A score of over one hundred and fifty indicates an increased risk of stress-related illnesses. This means it is pretty easy to find yourself experiencing a very high level of stress when going through any significant life transformation.

Trying to make decisions when experiencing this stress level is not advisable. It hits your brain and body with a double whammy of sorts. First, making significant life decisions is stressful, so you will amplify the level of stress you are experiencing. Even worse, stress leads to making bad decisions. Stress hormones negatively impact the part of the brain that is needed for evaluating alternatives and assessing risk. Under high stress, people will tend to make far riskier decisions leading to much worse outcomes.

In short, life-changing events, transitions and transformations are traumatic and subject our bodies to high levels of stress. Attempting to make important decisions when experiencing high stress usually means risky, emotional decisions with poor outcomes.

It Can Happen To You

Life-changing events don’t have to be negative to be stressful. When looking at the SRRS scale, many of the events are actually very positive but stressful nonetheless. Even the most positive personal transformations elevate our stress levels.

As I reflect on the events of the past four years of my life, my significant personal transformation, several of my experiences are included on the SRRS scale:

  • Job loss (47)
  • Change to a different line of work (36)
  • Change in responsibilities at work (29) – and this has happened multiple times
  • Outstanding personal achievement (28)
  • Revision of personal habits (24)
  • Trouble with boss (23) – not my current one
  • Change in work hours or conditions (20)
  • Change in recreation (19)
  • Change in eating habits (15)

These events are just the ones associated with my transformation and don’t even include the changes from our global pandemic. Even before accounting for COVID, my SSRS evaluation result was at least 259, high in the moderate to high-risk category. If I add in some of the other stressors from COVID and multiple occurrences of some items, I quickly get into the high-risk category.

Needless to say, making significant life decisions during my transformation was not only difficult, but it was inadvisable. The stress levels brought about from my life changes, and by COVID, mean that this is not the time for major decisions. I needed to take my time, take some deep breaths and wait until I adjusted to my new normal before making big decisions.

Pause, Process, Refocus

You are not powerless. You can take steps to work through the stress introduced by life-changing events and get back on track with your decision-making. But, it is essential to approach these steps with the appropriate mindset. You won’t get past your stress in an instant. The higher the stress level, the more effort and time you will need.

Press Pause

I know it sounds obvious, but the best way to make decisions under stress is not to. Let the stress subside before you start making important decisions. Unfortunately, as I said above, this isn’t going to happen overnight; it will take some time. This will feel uncomfortable for you achievers out there.

To get past your stress, you need to start by pressing pause and giving yourself some time. Be patient with yourself. You are a human being who is growing and transforming. You deserve some breathing room!

Unlike the advice at the beginning of this post, most stressors will require you to wait for a year. The time needed to process your stress will vary with how much stress your particular transformation requires. Stop where you are, take a breath and give yourself some time. Give yourself the time you need, get past all the changes, and then jump into your new version of “normal.”

All About Values

While you press pause to process the changes in your life, you can do a little prep work to help equip you for getting back to decision making.

Roy Disney once said, “it not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” As you complete your transition and begin to adjust to a new normal, this is the ideal time to revisit your personal values.

What are those things that are most important to you and non-negotiable in your life? When you go through any significant life transition, it helps to reconfirm your values and re-center yourself. A refocus on your values will help provide the guardrails you need to make quality decisions that are true to who you really are.

Just the Facts

When you are ready to jump back into making decisions, you need to have the facts about the reality of your current situation. Objectively assessing where you are and where you need to go will help you use facts instead of emotions for your decision.

What decisions do you need to make and why? When do those decisions need to be made? What are the implications of making and not making the decision? Who is impacted that you will need to consider when making your decision?

Then it is time to consider what options exist for each decision you need to make in the near term. 

  • What are the possible outcomes for each decision? 
  • What are the pros and cons of each? 
  • What is your initial inclination for which option to choose and why?

Finally, keep in mind that you are just getting back to “normal,” and you aren’t on entirely sure footing yet. This means that it may not be the right time to jump all the way into any decision if it can be avoided. Are there any options to test out your suspected right course of action before committing to it? Can you dip your toe in the water in any way before diving in?

Take time to collect facts about what needs to be decided, options available to you, and any opportunities to test before you jump. You will be in an excellent position to commit to a plan of action based on reality and not on emotion. While emotions aren’t bad, relying on them when making important decisions after a significant life transition is not necessarily the recipe for success.

Step, Check, Celebrate, Repeat

You have chosen your path forward, and now it is time to act. But, it is not time to go rushing in with your guns blazing. Just take one step at a time. Again, this is a new “normal” for you, and your footing isn’t as secure as you may like. It is ok; just be patient.

By taking a single step at a time, you have the opportunity to pause and evaluate the results of that step. Did it go the way you had expected? Be honest with yourself about how these first steps are going. Don’t be afraid to adjust your path if need be. You are the only one who needs to be happy with your performance.

If your first step went the way you had hoped, celebrate it! Each time you achieve a win in your new “normal” is worthy of a celebration. Recognizing that this is new to you and isn’t easy definitely justifies a reward, even if it is just something small. You’ve earned it!

So What?

Personal transformation and other big transitions, even positive ones, take a mental toll on you and come with significant stress. Unfortunately, stress clouds our brains and impairs our decision-making, especially for major life decisions. Are you going through a personal transformation? This is an excellent time to avoid making major life decisions until you adjust to your new normal. Then take small, correctable steps as you start living your new life.

Looking for some help with adjusting to your new normal? Let me help you take those first steps toward your future.

Click Here to learn more about my Operation Melt coaching services.

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Published inGoal Success by Choice

Disclaimer: The Operation Melt website and blog does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information provided on this website is intended for general consumer understanding and entertainment only. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. As health and nutrition research continuously evolves, we do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or timeliness of any information presented on this website.

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