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Health & Spirit

Beware of making big decisions because of temporary moods

Carolyn Hax on

Hello, Carolyn:

How do you know a big decision is based on what you truly want vs. what you feel you want at the moment? There are low-stakes versions of this, such as dramatically cutting your hair after a breakup, but I think I've made a lot of my bigger decisions -- like getting my MBA -- based on my high and low moods. It was a reasonable step for my career, but, looking back, I see I did it only because I was displeased with how my life was going and I needed a distraction. I had no interest in my MBA, but it was at least something to focus on.

I have so many examples of doing that. And now, yet again, I feel a malaise -- bored at work, getting over a breakup, weather is crummy -- and the voice in my head is pushing me to make a career and location switch. Making a "big move" has always been my default when I feel this way.

Am I just grasping for anything to distract me, or is it time to pull the trigger because it's what I want?

-- Bored

It sounds like time to figure out why you're so restless, easily bored, quick to reach for distractions.

 

None of these is necessarily a bad thing; well-managed, these traits drive art, innovation, excellence. They just take some managing, given how easily they can pull you toward novelty at the expense of meaningful investment -- or, in your case, toward investments your heart isn't in. Plus, sometimes decisions are just about guessing which option you'll regret least.

With a better understanding of your strengths, weaknesses and emotional makeup, though, you can learn to anticipate your malaise, ideally to the point where you pre-empt it by building novelty into significant parts of your life. Your career, your location, your taste in partners and friends, all can be healthy outlets for your natural drives.

Toward this understanding, consider a tough inventory of your past decisions, using hindsight:

-- Did you treat something as "what I want," only to regret it later -- or did you own your doubts going in? If the latter, then why did you overrule them?

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