Making Decisions, Accepting Sacrifice, and Finding Your Values

Last Monday I flew from my hometown in the Chicago suburbs back to Los Angeles, and I’ve gotta say…it’s always harder than I think it will be.

My family is really important to me. They’re loud and they’re crazy and they’re definitely not perfect, but they are more fun than anyone I know. My decision to move to Los Angeles was fueled by my career, my love, and my need to get out there and live somewhere greater than the suburbs of Chicago. But when I hug my mom goodbye at the airport….I start to doubt if any of that is worth it.

The whole thing had me thinking about the after-effects of making a big decision.

I knew that I wanted to move to Los Angeles. I love the warm weather and the constant sunshine. I love the bustling people and the feeling that everyone is trying to do something and to be somebody. I can feel the creative energy in the air here, and it’s inspiring.

And then there’s always that nagging feeling – what if I made the wrong choice?

I realized coming back from this trip that there is always going to be some sacrifice involved in making a huge decision. I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever feel 100% certain about anything. It feels a little vulnerable to say that, because I think media portrayals of motivated women want you to believe that true dedication to anything requires 100% confidence in career moves, relationships, and relocation.

But life isn’t perfect and no big choice we make is going to have 100% positive results. I moved to Los Angeles and have to sacrifice seeing my family as much as I’d like. But if I didn’t move to Los Angeles, I’d be giving in to a “stuck in the suburbs” lifestyle that I know isn’t a good fit for me. There’s always going to be a little sacrifice involved.

So it’s like this: big decisions need to be made, and with each choice will come a bit of a sacrifice. So how do we know which sacrifice is worth making?

To me, this comes down to finding your values. What is your priority right now? Depending on where you’re at, it could be a lot of things: family, career, romance, friendship, self-care, fitness, money, travel, exploration. Sometimes it’s super clear what you want to prioritize – and sometimes it isn’t.

My professor gave us a Values Clarification exercise in my Field and Practice class when I was getting my Master’s degree in Social Work. The fill-in-the-blanks worksheet allows you to complete sentences like, “To be happy with my job, I must have ___________ and ___________,” and “The path to success in life begins with ______________ and ends with ____________.” You’re instructed not to think too hard about it, but to just answer with what first comes to your mind.

I love this exercise because it helps put your values into context. All you have to do is answer honestly and then read over your responses when you’re done and see if you notice a pattern. You might see that most of your answers reflect a commitment to traveling or to love or to career success. Your answers, then, can help teach you about your priorities and give you a hint about which big decision to make. We can easily say that first and foremost we value family, but when we fill in the blanks in tough, thought-provoking sentences, we can see whether our answers really do reflect that value the most.

If you’re in the middle of a big decision or if you just want to explore what you want for yourself, try filling out the worksheet here!

*PS - I have no idea where this exercise came from - my professor didn't cite a source! If anyone has it, please let me know and I will edit to give credit :)