4 Strategies To Make Post-High School Decisions Less Intimidating
Last updated March 1, 2023
Deciding what to do after high school is an important and exciting milestone! While some people may have a clear picture of what they want to do when they graduate, many others are undecided, and that’s OK. It’s normal to feel stuck or even overwhelmed with the options in front of you, but rest assured post-high school decision making is not a matter of life or death. Here are some approaches and mindfulness tools to help decision making feel less intimidating and to get you moving when you’re stuck.
Plan for what you can, accept the rest
It can be easy to get caught in a cycle of overthinking or feeling anxiety over committing to the “right” choice, especially when figuring out life after high school. Decision fatigue is the idea that after making decisions or stressing about making decisions, our ability to make more decisions then become worse as the time goes on. Often this added stress is coming from a fear of uncertainty, failure, or regret. These feelings can be avoided through planning and mindfulness surrounding life after high school. Start by identifying the decision that needs to be made, be it education paths or feeling out different careers. Ask yourself questions like:
- Have I talked to my family, friends, counselor and sorted through my dreams or ideas?
- Have I explored various information outlets about careers, education, or self-development?
- Do I know what opportunities are available to me?
- Have I figured out what I value or what’s important to me?
- What gives me hesitance? What am I worried about?
It’s important not to spend time fixating on what you can’t control, and to embrace the reality that not everything planned will play out as expected. Remember, you are not locked into one pathway, you can change your mind and your goals. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed with too many decisions, step away from them for a moment and try a mindfulness activity such as taking time to reflect, journaling your worries, or deep breathing to reset your mind.
Define your goals and interests
Before you make or commit to any decision you should think about what you want out of your future. Research the different post-high school options so you are well informed about all facets of all your choices. Do you hope to enter the workforce and gain skills on the job, or do you want to go to college to prepare for a career? Writing out your specific goals and the things you’d like to accomplish after high school is a helpful way to avoid getting stuck in the decision-making process. Make a list of short-term and long-term goals, this will help identify which pathways or opportunities align with your vision.
Having an idea of your interests, and what is important to you can also make figuring out what to do after high school less intimidating. Do you have a clear picture of your current skills or talents and how you’d like to use them? Is staying near your family important to you? Take the time to explore your needs and priorities, this will not only help you narrow down decisions, but will help you feel at ease with the choices you ultimately make.
Weigh your options
Brainstorming the various pros and cons of the different directions you can go is a useful way to visualize how closely a path may suit your needs. If there are too many decisions to consider alone, talk things over with trusted mentors, family, or someone you admire. It's ok to ask for help and advice!
Remember that career preparation and personal growth can happen in many different settings, so choose what is right for you. If you take the time to plan well, you are more likely to have an easier time choosing, and will make good decisions you are at peace with.
There is not one “right” way to proceed with life
Different choices may have different trade-offs, but there is no one right way to proceed with life or decisions. Try to approach decision making in small steps, tackling one decision at a time. Make the best choice possible based on circumstances and given information, then make peace with your decisions knowing you can always change your mind. Talk with your peers or recent graduates to get perspective on how others made their choices, and how they’re life is going after high school. This is a great way to make connections and learn about additional resources.
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