On making hard decisions - Why I denied graduate school

Growing up, I was one of those nice, good, smart kids, who obeyed all the rules and whose sole purpose in life was to get good grades, have a stacked resume, get into college, and live happily ever after. Essentially, I got pretty DAMN good at meeting everyone’s expectations. There was always someone above or ahead of me giving me structure - setting the schedule, pace, and goals to be met. There was always someone there to give me feedback on how well I was doing. However, with every progression to the next phase of life, middle school to high school, high school to college, and college to adult life, that sense of structure diminished and the external expectations to be met became way too numerous and much more difficult. One of the biggest shifts I have had to make once I finished college and moved out on my own was learning to make my own decisions and being confident in them.   Most recently, I had to decide whether or not to accept my offer for the Master’s program for Human Centered Design at the University of Washington. I had spent weeks running the idea in my head. Logically, it made sense. I had already put in almost a year of classes through my certificate program. I liked the culture of the profession and knew the job would be a great fit for my educational background and current work in technology. The field is also in GREAT demand, and I would be very comfortable in terms of salary. Plus, what if I didn’t get in next year? Would I be missing out on a great opportunity? In haste, I clicked accepted the offer, hoping to quiet the voices in my head.

However, no matter how logical the decision, a part of me kept fighting it days after. I will share that I am also taking classes to become a professional certified coach. (Also part of the reason that life has been so insane!) Coaching is my calling. I finally feel like this is a career I have picked for myself – something I am gifted at, enjoy, and feel fulfilled doing. In my mind I wondered what would happen if I waited to do the Master’s Program, so I could see where my coaching career could go. I was already feeling somewhat burnt out in pursuing multiple passions. Intuitively and emotionally, I knew that accepting the Master’s program was not the right move at the time.

Ah, the conflict between logic, emotions, and intuition… can anyone relate?

In my personal development work over the past year, what has helped me most was tackling the limiting belief that I was incapable of making the right decisions for myself. What helped me was stumbling upon this:

“There are no right or wrong decisions -- only consequences.”

For truly “right” and “wrong” are judgments, and therefore require someone to be making that call. What we refer to being “right” versus “wrong” or “success” versus “failure” oftentimes exist only in that the consequences of our decision did not match what we would have expected or have liked. For the longest time, I had outsourced that determination of “right” or “wrong” to someone outside of me. What if I was that person for once? What is it that I personally valued? What did I want out of life? The thought was terrifying yet also very empowering.

In the past, I would have defaulted to the “logical” decision out of fear, visualizing the nods and comments of approval from my friends and family. (“Wow, she’s getting her Masters! She must be bright!”) In the past, I would have thought that how I felt about something was not a valid basis for making decisions. I was afraid of making the wrong choice.

However, with my new mindset, I was calmer about the decision -- whether I did graduate school or not, it would be a good decision. It would be the right decision for me.

After researching the program and talking to different people in the field, I ultimately revoked my acceptance of the offer. Deep down, I knew the program would give me a breadth of skills, but I would still feel I lacked an expertise. I could also apply again within the next few years when/if it aligned better with my personal goals. As soon as I committed to the decision, I emotionally and physically felt lighter – like a great weight was off my chest!

Life has been trying to teach me this lesson for a while. After all, they say life will keep teaching you the same things over and over again until you really get them. For me, it came down to trusting and listening to myself – realizing that my feelings and intuition were just as or even more important than logic in my life decisions. My new mindset comes from feeling of self-love instead of fear that I truly deserve to go for what I want in life. From here, I am excited to see where my coach training takes me within the next year or so.

How about you? What would shift for your if you operated from this mindset?There are no right or wrong decisions. Only consequences” and the only person who gets to decide is YOU.