By Barney Armstrong, LMHCA, Bellevue Christian Counseling
What to do? What to choose? How do I decide? These are questions so many of us ask ourselves on a daily basis—in fact, we are called to make decisions so often that we are not even aware of this constant refrain in our head. Sometimes, these are small choices, like whether or not to have sugar in our morning coffee. But the questions can also point to more substantial and self-defining matters—who we are and what our life’s purpose may be. No wonder we sometimes vacillate between our options!
There are a lot of things you can do, a lot of changes you can make, a lot of directions, programs and ideas you can follow. Why you choose one over another may be whimsical or even random. But having an overarching sense of purpose gives some form to your choices, some foundational reason for what you choose. If you are confronted with some choices but have no solid reason for choosing it can create anxiety. If you are experiencing unusual stress when you have choices that need to be made, ask yourself if there is perhaps a lack of an overall plan behind the indecision.
Choices and Our Anxiety
Any decision can create anxiety in you just because it has consequences and you are hoping to make the most favorable choice. Ambivalence, double-minded, dis-integrated are descriptive of the person who cannot decide without a lot of humming and hawing, back and forth, wringing of the hands. Check yourself – if that’s you, then the anxiety you’re experiencing may not be due to the importance of the decision alone. You may be able to rid yourself of a good deal of stress and strain by simply getting back to an overall purpose – a purpose that defines what a good decision will further, and make choices evaluated in terms of that purpose.
Leaders are Called to Make Decisions
A lack of purpose, and the consequent inability to decide without anxiety, produces insecurity in those who depend on you — another way of saying that good leadership knows what it is doing, knows where it is going. Whether it’s your family, your children, your business, a class you teach, or any other group where you contribute leadership – ask yourself if they feel confident or insecure; and then ask yourself if you convey to them that you have a clear sense of purpose behind your leadership. If that doesn’t yield results, why not just ask a member of the group “Can you tell me what our purpose is, what we are doing, or where we are going?” If they can tell you – great! You’re doing a good job of instilling security in them. If they can’t, it becomes a great opportunity to (what a novel idea) simply tell them. They may be quite happy to find out, become more secure, and more contributing as a group member.
The Ultimate Source of Your Purpose
Sometimes our actions are driven by an immediate need or purpose, but ultimately we long for a greater sense of purpose in our lives. When it comes to major life decisions, we are best able to choose and act when our sense of purpose is rooted in an ultimate source. In other words, we best make decisions when we understand that we are created with and for a greater purpose than any short-term goal. Immediate driving purposes can be very good, but if you don’t have a sense of your overall purpose it can be a way of avoiding the big issue, setting it aside while you finish a short term goal. The big issue is what am I about, who am I and where am I going, what is my overall purpose in life and so how are the choices before me consistent with that?
Christian Counseling Can Help You Find Your Purpose
If you are experiencing anxiety about decisions in general, or you want to clarify what your overall life’s purpose is, it can be helpful to talk freely and openly to a Christian counselor. Often, in this kind of safe and friendly space, people chance upon thoughts they had not crystallized before in their own thinking, and find not only direction, but a sense of confidence in arriving at direction for themselves. If you are feeling anxious about decisions or struggling to uncover your sense of purpose, please do not hesitate to contact me. I would be delighted to discuss with you how Christian counseling can help you discover God’s purpose for your life.
Image cc: freedigitalphotos.net – “Disagree of Agree Directions” by Stuart Miles