how to

make decisions




words: Tara Dill

I am not new to change, and making difficult decisions has been essential to this change. Throughout elementary, middle and high school, I was constantly looking for a different place (or school) to be. More than anything in the world, I felt like I thrived when I was in a new environment. When I graduated high school, I knew instantly that I could not go straight into college for the next four years of my life. At seventeen, I landed in Paris. Alone. I was ready to spend the next six months to a year traveling around Europe, staying in hostels, and meeting people as I went along. This didn’t go according to my plan.


Within four months, I was back home working at Nordstrom e-Bar. Abroad I had been lonely and exhausted. All I wanted was to be home. The next decision was a bit more successful. I decided to transfer to Dublin City University from the University of Washington after a study-abroad in Ireland and have been here for over two years now. 


Making decisions is never easy, however, I have found some ways that make the whole process a little less stressful!

  1. Make a list
    Ask anyone in my life — I am constantly making lists. I make lists ranging from what I want to do each day to things I’m grateful for. I think it has helped me so much to have a journal and be constantly writing about what mind-frame I’m in. It makes my life so much easier when I can see everything written down. More than anything, it makes the tasks more manageable. For making decisions, pro and con lists are great, but I think looking beyond those are important as well. Address your concerns about the decisions, your reasons behind making this decision, and what is it that this decision will change or make better in your future. A study at Wake Forest University found that making lists can actually relieve anxiety. For me, my mental health was extremely important, and I felt that moving to Ireland would remove a toxic environment, which would, in turn, improve my health. 

  2. Learn from your prior experiences and mistakes
    Life is fucking hard dude, and we’re all bound to fuck up sooner or later. I had attended the University of Washington based on the fact that I didn’t feel like I had any other options. You always have options, even when they aren’t obvious to you. I learned that it’s important to seek out these options and look into them to make sure you’re making the best possible decision under the circumstances. 

  3. Be confident in your choices
    This is your life, and no one else is living it. Hannah Arendt, a German philosopher and author of ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’, places a huge significance on living with oneself. When it comes down to it, you have to live with yourself and the decisions you make. When you’re confident in your decision, it really doesn’t matter what other people say.

  4. Be hopeful
    Get excited about new life changes. Be optimistic about living your life. Being hopeful can benefit your physical and mental health, specifically with preventative benefits against physical illness (Snyder, 2006). Even more importantly, hope allows you to be more motivated to work towards improving your conditions and results in greater confidence about these improvements (Snyder, 2006). 

  5. Nothing is going to be the ‘end-all’ decision
    My mom always told me that I wasn’t a heart surgeon, so the likelihood of my decisions affecting anyone was low (or in her words “you’re not operating on someone, you probably won’t kill anyone”). I realized this after my four months abroad. Traveling alone is exhausting, and really lonely. I felt embarrassed that I couldn’t “make it” to six months and felt like my pride was damaged. But I learned that how you feel and your health is going to be way more important than proving a point to someone. 


Life is made up of decisions and choices. You’re constantly faced with options, and for me, these tips help me feel more comfortable in what I choose. This is your life.


Live it like you have a say in it.