Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, episode 221, Making Decisions in the First Year, or When Big Decisions Have Deadlines.
Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, the only podcast that offers a proven process to help you work through your grief, to grow, evolve, and create a future you can truly look forward to. Here’s your host, Master Certified life coach, grief expert, widow, and mom, Krista St-Germain.
Hey there, welcome to another episode of the podcast. So last week I shared some advice from other widows. And this week I want to share my spin on some advice from other widows because one of the things that I heard over and over and over from other widows was, “Don’t make decisions in the first year, don’t make big decisions in the first year.” I hate that advice. I hate it because says who, first of all? And also sometimes we have really big decisions that we need to make in the first year.
And when you keep hearing, “Don’t make big decisions in the first year”, and you have a big decision that has a deadline or a decision that you really want to make that’s important to you, it kind of undermines your confidence. You start to think there’s something wrong with you and you’re incapable of making a big decision in the first year. So I’m not a fan of that advice. Now, I get that a lot of widows say that because they did things in the first year that they later wish they hadn’t done, they later look back and regret.
I also understand that grief wreaks havoc on our body, on our hormones, on everything and that sometimes we don’t really feel like ourselves in the first year. So I’m not saying this is a black and white issue. I recognize that it is nuanced, but I really want to support those of you who want to make a decision or who have a decision in front of you, especially if it has a deadline and you’re also being told simultaneously not to make big decisions in the first year, but what if you have one?
Okay, so let me tell you what I think about making big decisions. I’m going to give you kind of five main things to think about as it relates to making big decisions. Now, this can apply to decisions no matter when you make them, whether or not it’s in the first year of grief or it’s years after your loss, it doesn’t really matter. Decision making is something that I’ve seen widows struggle with on a regular basis long beyond the first year. So it’s a good thing to talk about.
But please know that I’m just not a fan of the idea that we can’t trust ourselves to do big things while in grief. I think it’s nonsense. I think it’s disempowering. I think it’s a bit insulting. And I do understand that part of us likes clarity, part of us likes rules, part of us likes simplicity and don’t make decisions in the first year, don’t make big decisions in the first year kind of appeals to that part of us. But I think it’s an invitation for a more useful topic, which is how to make big decisions in the first year or later, okay, so let’s talk about it.
Specifically number one, if the decision has a deadline and you don’t want to make it yet, see if the deadline can be moved. Just because someone gave you a deadline for a decision, if you aren’t ready to make it yet, ask if it can be moved, because sometimes it can. Sometimes things can be put off, but we don’t ask. Ask, the worst they can tell you is no. So ask if it’s a decision that has a deadline, you don’t feel ready to make it yet, challenge the deadline, ask if it can be extended. That’s number one.
Number two. If the deadline can’t be extended and you still don’t want to make it or you’re still struggling to make it, I want you to think about these three areas and what’s happening against these three areas. I just coached someone in an Ask Krista Anything call not too long ago actually. I’m sorry I don’t remember your name. I’m thinking about you.
She got her husband’s business and she’s trying to run this business and she’s so stressed out and felt like the weight of the world was on her shoulders and all these employees are depending on her and just all of this pressure and fear. And I just really felt for her. And when we ran her decision against these three areas, it really helped her. So let me give you the three areas then I’ll tell you why. So the first one is, is it a data problem? Do you have the data that you need to make this decision or do you need more data? We don’t want to make decisions when we don’t have enough data.
Also, sometimes when we’re putting off decisions, we can hide behind the idea that we don’t have enough data. So we want to ask ourselves genuinely honestly, do I have the data that I need? Is this a data problem? Would more data help? Knowing that part of us will probably want to hide behind I don’t have enough data, I need to do more research. Genuinely, honestly, ask yourself, do I have the data I need?
Second area, do I have the skills I need to make this decision? Maybe you have the data, but if there’s a skill you don’t have relevant to this decision then that can hold you back from making a decision. So maybe there is an area of expertise, a skill set that this decision would benefit from and you can enlist someone to help you. So let’s say it’s a financial decision, but maybe you don’t have a lot of experience in this particular area of finance, find someone who does.
Maybe it’s a medical decision and you don’t have a lot of experience in this area of medicine, find someone who does. What is it and is there actually a skill that you don’t have that would help you in making this decision? So is it a data problem? Is it a skill problem?
Or number three, is it a belief problem? And that woman that I was telling you that I coached on that Ask Krista Anything call, what we found is that it really was a belief problem. She was thinking she needed more data, but when she got super honest with herself, she didn’t. She had the data that she needed. She really had a pretty good group of people around her with the right skills, so even though she didn’t have all the skills, she had people around her with the right skills, so it wasn’t a skill problem. It was a belief problem.
What do I mean by a belief problem? I mean what is it that you’re believing about yourself? What is it that you’re believing about your ability to make this decision? Are you telling yourself you can’t handle it? Are you telling yourself it’s too much? Are you telling yourself you don’t know what you’re doing or you’re going to screw it up or you’re going to fail or everybody’s going to laugh at you? If it’s a belief about your ability or a belief about yourself, that is completely different than a data problem and a skill problem. It’s a solvable problem, but it’s a different problem.
And in order to solve our own problems, to get what we need so that we can make a decision, we just need to be honest with ourselves so that we know what we’re solving for. So am I solving for a data problem? Am I solving for a skill problem or am I solving for a belief problem? And the answer might be all three initially. The answer might be all three. All of them are solvable but we need to know what we’re solving for. My favorite thing to do is to help people with their beliefs about themselves and about their lives. I love it.
That’s a huge part of what I love doing as a coach because beliefs are so malleable, they’re so changeable. Even if we’ve been believing the same thing about ourselves for years and years and years, for decades, even, it’s changeable. If a belief isn’t serving us, we don’t have to keep it but we do have to identify, first, we have to have a high enough awareness to understand that the problem is the belief, so that we can change it. So number one, if a decision has a deadline and you don’t want to make it. See if you can get it extended.
Number two, if you’re going to make that decision anyway because the deadline can’t be extended, you’re going to make it or you want to make it. Check, do I have a data problem? Do I have a skill problem? Do I have a belief problem? Know which problem we’re solving for.
Number three. And please I am not giving you this advice, the advice that’s about to follow because there’s something wrong with you, because you cannot trust yourself, but because you might value some outside input. If that is you, if you want to, if you would value other people’s input, then my suggestion is get a little board of directors for yourself as it relates to this big decision, maybe more than one big decision. Who do you trust, whose opinion do you trust? Who in your world has never steered you wrong, loves you dearly?
Maybe they’re not even that close to you, but you respect them professionally. Maybe you admire the way that they handled this area of their lives. Get you a little board. Ask people, you can literally say, “Hey, I’ve got a lot of big decisions coming up. This grief thing, it’s a doozy. Would you please be on my board of directors?” I think most people would be honored. If they weren’t honored, fine, we don’t want them anyway. The right people will be honored. And you can bounce ideas off of them, just as a double check. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be trusted.
It doesn’t mean that you aren’t capable of making decisions but if it feels good to you to have a little board of directors, why not? Why not? Some people do that just as a part of career advice. I hear that all the time, where people kind of come up with their own little mentoring group. In my business, I have coaching friends that I talk things over with when I’m struggling with a decision or I don’t really know how to solve a problem. I have people I trust that I go and I have these conversations with. We can do that same thing for ourselves in grief. So get you a little board of directors.
Alright, number four, I really want you to remember that life is a series of decisions. One decision and another decision and another decision and another decision, that is life. We cannot know the outcome of a decision truly until that decision is made. That’s just the way that it is. Sometimes we’re going to look back and we’re going to love a decision that we made and sometimes we’re not. Sometimes we’re going to regret it. Sometimes we’re going to wish we had made a different decision.
But remember how I’m always saying feelings aren’t problems to solve? Regret isn’t a problem to solve either. It’s okay to regret, it can’t hurt us. Sometimes the reason we put off decision making is because we’re so worried we’re going to feel regret, but having regret in our body can also be an amazing teacher. It can also be a way of us pausing and looking and learning and increasing our awareness so that we’re better able to make the next decision. Nothing is wrong with regret, it’s okay to have it.
It would be weird if we, somehow every single decision we made, grief or no grief worked out exactly the way we thought it would. Don’t you think that would be weird? I think that would be weird. I don’t know anybody that that happens to. The human experience of decisions is that we take the information we have, we do the best job we can that we know and then we make the decision. And then sometimes it goes exactly the way we want it and we love it, and sometimes it doesn’t, and we wish we’d done it differently but we live forward.
We don’t have the benefit of hindsight as we make the decision. So go into this decision knowing that it is totally okay if you feel regret later, can’t kill you. It’s just a feeling, it’s not a problem to solve and it actually can be a great source of information. It’s not necessarily a problem.
And number five, no matter what happens on the other side of a decision, you always have the opportunity to be your own champion, always. You never have to be mean to yourself. Even if you really wish you would have made a different decision, you can still be kind to yourself. Even if your inner critic is so loud, they’re screaming at you, you don’t have to listen. You are not that critical voice, that is not the truth of who you are.
You don’t have to listen to that voice that tells you that you’re horrible and stupid and you should have known better and everybody’s going to think you’re a failure and how could you have done it that terribly? You don’t have to listen, that is not you.
In Mom Goes On, we do a whole month on relationship with self and this is part of what we’re working on is how do we change that relationship with that voice? How do we learn to speak to ourselves as though we are our own champions, as though we are our own cheerleaders? How do we talk to ourselves like that, instead of just listening to that meanness? Which for some people it’s not very loud, for other people, it is really loud. But it is not true unless we keep listening, it is not capital T true, it is not the truth of who we are. We are not that voice.
And you can just decide right now that you’re never intentionally going to be mean to yourself about a decision that you make. You can decide that as soon as you recognize that inner critic voice, that you are not that and that is not you. And you’re going to be kind to yourself, no matter how loud, no matter how obnoxious that voice gets. No matter what happens on the other side of a decision you don’t have to look back and be mean to yourself about it.
Imagine how much decisions would change if you didn’t think regret was a problem for you to solve, that you actually thought it might be a possible teacher for you, that it’s just a valuable part of the human experience. And you knew that you would not be mean to yourself over a decision, that you would still say, “You know what? That was hard. We made the best decision we could and yeah, it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to, wasn’t perfect. Wish we’d done it differently and also I love you.”
Could you talk to yourself like I talk to you in the podcast? How different would decisions make if that were the case? That’s available to you. You can do that for yourself. It might take practice, we might have to work on it, it can be done. I’ve helped too many women do it, whether you ever work with me or not, I know you can do it. Love to help you do it, but I know you can do it.
So if you have decisions in the first year or after the first year and those decisions have deadlines, these are some things to keep in mind. One more time just for good measure. If it’s got a deadline, ask for it to be extended. If it can’t be extended, ask yourself, is it one of these three problems? Do I have the data I need? Do I have the skills I need? Do I have the belief that I need? And if one of the answers is no, solve for that problem.
If you want, not because you can’t be trusted, but just because, why not, if it sounds like fun to you and it sounds helpful for you and you value outside input, get yourself a board of directors. Ask some people that you trust to be part of that for you. Run your big decisions off of them.
Number four, just remember, regret is not a problem. Life is a series of decisions. We’re humans, we don’t make them perfectly. We’re going to have regret. It’s just the way it goes, not a problem to solve, it’s okay.
And then number five, you never ever, ever have to be mean to yourself about a decision you make, ever. You are safe with you.
And let me tell you, if you want help with this, seriously, come apply for Mom Goes On. These are the kinds of things we work on all the time. We even have a whole decision making section where we coach and talk about this and work on the skill of decision making. These are all things that I think women just kind of resign themselves to as part of their new normal, this is just the way of grief. And basically it’s just really hard to make decisions now. My confidence isn’t where it used to be and that’s just because my person died and so therefore I’m stuck with it.
No, you are not stuck with it, you can actually increase your confidence. You can make confident decisions, you can have a very clear purpose in your life. You can get excited about your future again. You can create posttraumatic growth, that is possible for all of us. That’s what we do in Mom Goes On. So come join us, won’t you?
And Dear New Widow, I mentioned it last week, but again, especially if you’re a new widow, go to coachingwithkrista.com/dearnewwidow. That book, I’m telling you, it is amazing. It’s just paragraph after paragraph after paragraph, so easy to read. You could put it in your purse and it just lifts you up. From real women who understand what it’s like to be in your shoes, to hear that you’re going to be okay, that you aren’t crazy, that all these things you’re going through, that caught you off guard, they understand. It’s just so validating and heartwarming and I just love that book so much, I highly recommend it.
Okay, that’s what I have for you this week. Remember, I love you. You’ve got this. Take care and I’ll see you next week. Bye bye.
If you like what you’ve been hearing on this podcast and want to create a future you can truly get excited about after the loss of your spouse, I invite you to join my Mom Goes On coaching program. It’s small group coaching just for widowed moms like you where I’ll help you figure out what’s holding you back and give you the tools and support you need so you can move forward with confidence.
Please don’t settle for a new normal that’s less than you deserve. Go to coachingwithkrista.com and click work with me for details and the next steps. I can’t wait to meet you.