If you’re a human on this planet, odds are you’ve encountered some hard decisions at one point or another. I personally have struggled a lot with hard decisions, especially in college and beyond. I’d even argue that college was some of the hardest years of my life!
When Margaret of Low Key Lost shared her guest post idea, I knew her ideas about facing hard decisions would relate to college students and new grads. This is a time of change and newness, so how do you welcome these hard decisions with open arms?
At some point in your life, you’re going to be faced with a huge decision that’ll keep you up at night. This decision may be whether to accept a job, whether to change career paths, whether to leave a job, or even whether to start a freelance business…the list goes on.
When these hard decisions arise you’ll feel anxious, scared, and maybe even doubtful.
One thing to really lean into is the power behind taking risks even when the road ahead of you is uncertain; it’s called having faith.
You want to be able to look back on these days 60 years from now and know that you took all the chances, risks, and opportunities presented to you. Can you truly live life with no regrets? I don’t know, but I think we’d all like to know that we came as close as possible.
My Experience with Hard Decisions
What brought me to this point of thinking manifested about a year ago when I was faced with my huge and risky decision (I just realized the acronym for that is HARD which is very fitting).
For a bit of background here, I have competed in track and field since my sophomore year of high school and was fortunate enough to be able to compete in college as well. At the beginning of my senior year of college, I was contacted by the Nigerian Athletics Association to represent Nigeria in the Indoor World Championships (my parents are Nigerian and I have dual citizenship).
I was super pumped to have this opportunity and crazy nervous too. My team and I ended up placing 4th in the 4×400 relay at the World Championship!
Fast forward five months after Worlds and I was lined up on the starting line in Nigeria racing my butt off to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics Games! Crazy right?
The whole experience was a blur, from competing at the trials all the way to the actual Olympics Games. Oh, did I mention I made it? Yes, I did; I placed 3rd in my heat at trials and was the last spot in to qualify for the Olympics! Competing at the Olympic Games was one of the most rewarding and amazing experiences of my life.
(Sam’s edit: UMMMM, excuse me I am so jealous!! I would like to note that I too ran track in high school, but I was very average and also did not try and now look where it got me??)
After I had competed in the games in 2016, for the next 2 years I competed professionally while also embarking on my full-time career in the tech field. It was a very hard balance doing both, and I often felt like I was spreading myself very thin during this time. I decided to retire from track and field after my season in 2018 due to a new job opportunity and some injuries that year.
Making a Change
A few months later, I started my new job in Chicago at the end of 2018. About 5 months, I started to feel a lack of motivation and drive. Things weren’t very busy at work and I didn’t feel impactful in my role.
I was really bored, honestly. I started to miss track and field. Track and field had always given me that extra motivation and been something that I felt some kind of purpose doing. What really did it for me was when Olympic Day rolled around and I started to feel very nostalgic.
This is when my HARD decision started to creep into my mind and fight with me back and forth. Was I really considering coming out of my retirement from track and field? The 2020 Olympic Games were about a year away and I had just taken a whole year off from training. I also had a new full-time job and lived in a city that was not very optimal for training. Chicago’s winters are brutal and they last nearly half the year. As you can see, the odds were not exactly in my favor.
So what did I do? I denied the fact that competing was still something I had a desire to do. I ignored the HARD decision, classified it as too risky, and brushed it off when anyone would bring it up.
The road ahead was very uncertain to me and nothing was guaranteed, which brought up a lot of fears for me. I didn’t want to face the hard conversations I would have to have with myself if I really decided to do this again. Some of the questions I tussled with were: Would I have to quit my job? Where would I have to relocate? How far would I be going from my family and friends to train? Would I be setting my career back?
How to Confront Uncertainty
When we ignore these HARD decisions, they don’t just go away. They eat away at you and pester you day in and day out until you look your decision in the eye and face it. What you have to do in these situations is to be honest with yourself and have faith.
First, I had to be honest with myself and acknowledge that this was still something I wanted to do. Then, I had to lay out all my fears.
Your fears can be crippling and blur your decision-making abilities. Fear is a natural emotion to feel when going into new and uncertain territory. If you call out your fears for what they are, you’ll be one step closer to overcoming them.
I made a list of all the reasons this decision was scary for me, and this helped me understand why this decision was so hard for me. After you’ve identified and given yourself the time and space to understand your feelings, then comes your faith.
Faith is a beautiful thing because it has the ability to combat fear. Faith is putting your confidence and trust into something. This could be a job, a process, a person, a new side hustle—really it could be anything.
The thing is when you fear something, but then automatically counter that thought with positive reinforcement, you then become in control of your fears. For instance, you might fear the road ahead if you start a new freelance business you’ve always wanted to start. But, if you tell yourself I have faith that this will be successful, or even that you have faith that regardless of the outcome, this experience will teach you priceless life lessons, then you’ve taken a negative emotion and changed it into a positive, faith-filled reinforcement.
Make a Positive Change
These positive reinforcements give you the confidence you need to walk in the direction that’s been tugging at you. This is the way to live your life with no regrets. Hard decisions will come and you will be fearful, but if you acknowledge that emotion then flip it into a faithful response, you’re more likely to walk in your purpose.
My positive and faith-filled reinforcement to my fears has allowed me to walk in my purpose and I am currently back to training again! I hope this post has motivated you to face your HARD decisions head-on and empowered you to live a life of faith where you take control of your fears and use them to reinforce your positive thinking.
Margaret is a proud Nigerian-American. Her parents migrated to the United States over 30 years ago. She founded the blog Lowkey Lost because she is passionate about helping young people, specifically first-generation Americans, navigate the world around them. Through her personal experiences, she shares many of the lessons she’s learned over the years or things she wishes she knew during her college years and as a young professional. Subscribe to her blog and follow her on Pinterest to stay up to date with new posts.