By Dr. April Minatrea - Clinical PsychologistMay 22, 2018

Leaving private practice is not a decision I’ve entered into lightly.  In considering whether to seize this opportunity, I looked to certain guideposts to mark my path—the kind that can help with any big decision, including whether to move forward in a relationship or with a move, job, or career change.  Think of each of them as an arrow that points one way or another.  The more important the decision, the more arrows you want to see pointing the same direction.  When all the arrows converge, the path becomes clear.

1. Desire

“What should I do?” is a brain question.  Ask your heart:

  • What do I want to do?
  • Will saying yes help me be who I want to be and live the life I dream of?
  • If it were the last thing I ever did, what would I choose?

2. History

Consider:

  • What’s the track record with the person, place, or opportunity you’re considering?
  • Has your experience so far been positive?
  • If the past is the best predictor of the future, do you think you’ll be happy moving forward?

If you have the benefit of old journals or photos to look back on, avail yourself of their wisdom.

3. Wise Counsel

It’s been said that when you’re wearing rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags!

  • Do the people who love you and know you best think it’s a good idea?
  • What do objective, expert advisors (preferably who have no stake in the outcome) say?

When you seek advice, you may learn things you would never have thought to ask.  You can also rally support and get a boost of encouragement from those cheering you on!

4. Dreams

Dreams can reveal subconscious desires and can be a source of divine direction.  If you have a relevant dream, ask:

  • Is the overall feeling positive or negative?
  • If the dream were a movie, what would the title be? Sometimes you’ll capture the meaning of the dream just by giving it a title.
  • What were the key elements in the dream? Symbolically, what do those mean?
  • Why this and not that? (e.g., Why was my car red instead of black like in real life?  What does the color red mean?)

Putting the puzzle pieces together can give you clues about what to do.

5. Signs and Symbolic Experiences

Many of us look for “signs” to confirm that we’re on the right track when making a decision.  Sometimes they come as literal signs—of the billboard variety.  Sometimes it’s an uncanny set of circumstances or a real life experience that takes on symbolic meaning when you ask: If this were a dream, what would it mean?

For example, after following the whisper of inner guidance and deviating from my normal routine, I saw a moving truck that said: The Best Move of Your Life!  Would I move across the country just because I saw a truck?  No.  But when something like this lines up with the other arrows, it serves as a fun form of confirmation.  Some might dismiss such things as merely coincidence.  Then again, some say coincidence is when God winks!

6. Scripture

For people of faith, God often gives confirmation through His word.  A relevant verse may come through:

  • A sermon or daily reading
  • Letting your Bible fall open to any “random” page
  • Asking God for a scripture and looking up the first reference that pops in your head
  • Symbolic experiences, such as when you keep seeing the same numbers on the clock

Sometimes these point to a story of someone who faced a similar circumstance, sometimes to a passage that speaks about a principle to follow in making the decision.

7. Open Doors

Many decisions are not ours alone to make.  Often we need for circumstances to line up and/or other parties to agree.  This is particularly true when there’s an application, admission, or interview process (or a marriage proposal!), and we must wait for an offer to be extended or accepted.  If you get green lights and all the other arrows are pointing the same direction, it’s a good bet it’s a go!

Final Thoughts

For some, this last question comes first: What is God’s will?

Following the guideposts above incorporates seeking God’s will and inviting Him to speak to you.  To sharpen your discernment, consider fasting, either from food or some other activity.

Also consider rephrasing the question: What will make God smile?

For those who struggle with fear that an angry God will punish them if they make a wrong choice, living under God’s smile frees us to operate out of love rather than fear.  Remember God is the most joyful being in the universe.  He is in a good mood!  He delights in you and has a wonderful plan for your life.  By His very nature, He always desires what is best for you!

So whatever decisions you face, may you find the wisdom and guidance you seek.  Follow the path of peace, and move toward joy.  Live the story you want to tell.