These steps can help you discern in any circumstance.
Are you grappling with a big decision? Maybe you’re considering a new job or wondering if you need to move. Maybe you’re figuring out whether to break up or stay in a relationship. Maybe you’re trying to decide if you should go back to school. Whatever your dilemma, here are seven steps to follow to make the process of deciding what to do next less painful and more freeing.
1Make a pros and cons list.
Get out a piece of paper and a pen and jot down every positive reason you can think of for making the change, as well as every negative aspect of the change.
2Ask advice from people you trust.
You can go one of two routes with this. You can either ask, very specifically, what they think you should do in your current situation. Or you can keep your decision private, but ask how they navigated a similar situation in their life. Know someone who changed careers mid-life? Ask him or her what that decision looked like. Need relationship advice, but don’t want to spill your emotional guts? Ask someone you respect how he or she discerned past relationships.
3Imagine yourself making the change and picture what that would look like.
What would moving look like, practically? Imagine yourself in a new place, and all of the challenges and opportunities that would bring. If you struggled writing a pros and cons list, this might help you fill in and add to that list.
4Figure out your feelings.
What feelings do you have about the change you’re thinking about? What feelings do you have about your current situation? Name those feelings and write them down. Dread, anxiety, excitement, restlessness, frustration, desperation, joy, peace, etc. When you realize your negative emotions, try to ascertain where they are coming from. If the decision to make a change is filling you with dread and uncertainty, but on paper it looks like making a change would be a net positive, take a closer look at those feelings. Are you scared to make a change because the unknown is, well, unknown? Or is there more there? On the other hand, if one of the options fills you with peace and joy, that might be your answer right there. Your feelings shouldn’t make your decision for you, but they will indicate what is holding you back or pushing you towards a specific choice.
5Choose the option you’re leaning toward and think about the worst case scenario.
What if you make the change you are thinking about and everything falls apart? What if life gets worse and not better? Will you be able to cope and survive it?
6Weigh pros and cons against advice.
It’s time to weigh everything together. Line up your pros and cons list alongside any advice you received, and combine that with what you are feeling about your decisions. Try asking yourself, “Am I seeking Jesus in this decision?” and “How can I say ‘yes’ to Jesus more fully?” Let those questions guide you in this final step of discernment.
7Pray — and then make the decision.
It’s now time to decide. Make it and then act on that decision immediately. Find peace in the fact that you have tried to discern well. Ask God to throw a wrench in your plans if it is not His will. And move forward with confidence. Other people may doubt what you’re doing. Don’t let their doubts shake your peace. They didn’t go through what you did to make the decision. You did your best; you made the decision thoughtfully. Now give God room to work with what you have given Him.