How to Make Tough Decisions in Life – You Need to Burn Your Boats


How to Make Tough Decisions in Life
How to burn your boats in style like this ancient Greek dude.


You just took a tough decision.

Big like quitting your job, breaking up your relationship, moving to another city or starting a business.

But then, a little voice appears inside your head and starts whispering: “What if  you made a mistake?”, “Dude, is this what you really reeaaaaally want?” “You’re overreacting, just go back before it’s too late”.

We all know that voice. It happens to everyone. But having second thoughts is extremely stressful and exhausting.

You are wasting valuable energy into thinking your decision over and over, while you should be using that energy to move forward and explore the new road that lies ahead.


Burning Your Boats

Let’s take a lesson from ancient Greeks. Upon arriving into the battlefield, the general commanded his army to burn all of their boats.

Yeah, burning your own boats sounds pretty crazy, but it comes with a great advantage. It leads to a point of no return. There is no going back after that.

With the possibility of fleeing dropping to absolute zero, all the soldiers can do is fight and commit to victory. Their survival instinct, instead of making them run away, is pushing them forward, making them thirsty for victory.

“OK, cool story” -I hear you ask- “but how can I apply that lesson in my life?”

I know you’re not generals invading foreign lands with a fleet full of bloodthirsty soldiers, so let’s get practical!


3 Things to Remember When Making Tough Decisions

#1: It is not possible to know right now if you made the right choice.

I bet the Greeks in our story were not sure they would come victorious. Nevertheless, they burned their boats and this gave them a huge incentive to win because there was no other option.

That’s a mentality to adopt. “What is done is done, now I have to keep going”.

At this point, logic and intuition can help you no more. You picked the path that seemed right, but now it’s time to stop thinking and start walking down that path.

Maybe life proves you wrong in the end but it doesn’t matter. Your goal is to win the war, not every single battle. Life is not about being always right. Life is about learning from your mistakes and keep moving forward.

#2: Change is always hard.

That’s life, that’s human nature. We, humans, are creatures of habit. Big decisions bring big changes.

Your routine and everyday habits may be disrupted. You may have to go without things you took for granted for years. You may have to step out of your comfort zone. But to gain something you really want, you need to have the courage to let something else go.

I know, going on a new adventure is never easy. It means leaving the comfort of your home and hitting the road. And trust me, the road will offer you wisdom and joy that your comfy sofa will never do.

#3: Going back turns out to be wrong 99% of times.

Judging from my own choices and discussing with a lot of people about theirs, returning to a previous situation is proven to be -in every case- a terrible idea.

When you decide to make a big change in your life, it’s probably because you aren’t satisfied with the current circumstances you are living in. There are problems you can’t solve or you really need to take a step forward and claim the life you always wanted. Well, do it!

I’m not writing this article because I magically got enlightened while sitting under a tree like Buddha. It’s because I made these mistakes so many times that I finally learned not to do them again.

Trust me, if you regress to the previous situation, the same problems will be waiting there for you, getting you thinking about moving on once again.

Having the previous bullets in mind, let’s see what actions you can take that will actually help you commit to a difficult decision.


How to Burn Your Boats

#1: Write down the reasons why you took that decision.

In some point, it is expected to have second thoughts about your decision and the temptation to go back to the previous situation appears.

Here’s a little trick to help you with this.

Write down your thoughts and emotions the moment you are taking that big decision. Why are you taking this decision? Why do you think this is the best choice for you right now? You can even write a warning motivation note to your future self to read.

Now put it away somewhere safe. I keep a special diary just for this. This trick will remind you of the reasons why behind your choices, your “axis of decision“, and give you the courage to keep going.

#2: Commit to your decision by telling people about it.

This is another way to trick yourself. By telling people about your decision, they expect you to keep your word. The more you admire those people, the better because you can’t afford to lose their respect.

#3: Get rid of the past.

To leave your past behind once and for all, you need to forge your own point of no return. Avoid at all costs the circumstances that can reignite the temptation to go back.

Going through a breakup? Erase her/his number, stop following his social media, avoid being in the same group of friends or party for a while, burn his photos (OK, I know you won’t burn them but at least stop looking at them for god’s sake!).

You got the point. Big decisions come with big changes, creating a new life for you. So, get rid of everything that belongs to your old life in order to make space for new things to come.

#4: Work hard.

I’m not referring to your main occupation, but working in a broad sense. Be active, be creative, be busy. Keep your mind occupied with some cool project.

Like the Greeks, you burned your boats but now is time to fight hard. Explore the new possibilities created by your decisions, seize the day with an adventurous mentality and claim what you always wanted.


The Philoso-pill to Take

Taking life changing decisions is an extremely difficult process. We all have to go through this from time to time and that’s good because it makes us more experienced and mature.

But decision-making is not enough. To reap its benefits and do start a better life, you have to commit.

Talk is over, it’s time to take action. Toss the torch to your boats and watch them closely as they sink into the sea, vanishing along with your doubts and fears.

Make an 180-degree turn and start walking the new, exciting path that lies ahead.


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