Making big life decisions

About four months ago my husband’s work told him they were closing the office in Melbourne and centralising all their operations in Sydney. He could keep his job, but he’d have to move to Sydney to do so. Otherwise he’d need to find something new in Melbourne. And he had four weeks to tell them his decision.

When he first told me I was not. Keen. Moving to Sydney is not something I’ve ever wanted to do. I’ve lived in Melbourne my whole life, all our friends and family are here, and I like my ballet class and church and funky coworking office in the city. Plus Sydney is…well it’s Sydney. Too hot, too sticky and too not Melbourne.

On the other hand, I knew he really loved his job and he hadn’t been in it all that long. It would be a shame for him to have to leave and start all over again somewhere else.

For the first week or so I felt almost paralysed. How were we meant to make this decision? I think what scared me the most was that from the first moment I heard the news I had a feeling that we would end up moving. You can’t always trust your first instincts, but that’s what my gut was telling me and it wasn’t what I wanted to hear (thanks a lot, gut!).

Over the next few weeks, as we thought and talked about it, a few things were really helpful in getting clarity on the issue and making a considered decision.

State the facts

A big decision is rarely going to be free of emotion (nor should it), but I found it helpful to take the emotion out temporarily and just look at the facts. For me, these were the key facts of the situation:

  • If we don’t move, my husband will need to find a new job
  • He really likes his current job
  • He would be able to find a new job in Melbourne fairly easily
  • I can keep my job and transfer to the Sydney office where there are more people and I can be part of a bigger team
  • We don’t know many people in Sydney
  • We’d be leaving our friends and family behind
  • I like my ballet class and church in Melbourne and would need to find new ones in Sydney
  • Sydney is a lot hotter and stickier than Melbourne and I prefer Melbourne’s climate

Decide what matters

Having all the facts laid out like that meant that I could get a balanced view of the situation. Now it was time to put a little emotion back in, by grouping the facts into pros and cons for each option and deciding which things were really important.

I can easily find a new ballet class in Sydney so that’s not a make-or-break factor, but leaving my friends and family behind would be hard. Sydney’s climate is gross, but that’s a minor consideration compared to the benefits moving will bring to both of our work lives. Focusing on what really mattered helped prevent my immediate emotional response from over or understating the importance of each factor so I could look at it from a more balanced viewpoint.


Not everyone is a pray-er, but if that’s your thing it’s an important step in any decision. Although I didn’t get a big booming voice from heaven telling me what to do, praying about it regularly helped me have peace with my final decision and know that although there might not be a right or wrong choice in this case, I wasn’t making one that was way off course.

Talk it over with someone

Talking through the decision with a few trusted people was really helpful in making sure I was considering all the relevant factors. Of course, my friends and family had a vested interest in us choosing to stay in Melbourne (or I like to think they do) but they were able to put that aside and help us make sense of the decision we had to make.

It also helped me to see it from a new perspective. A few people told me how exciting it was and what a great opportunity it would be. That wasn’t something I’d considered at all! Until that point the whole idea sounded terrible and I was struggling to imagine anything much worse. It took a little while, but eventually I was able to see that maybe moving to Sydney could be exciting.

Give yourself a deadline

We had a deadline imposed on us – four weeks to make a decision – but if you don’t, setting a deadline for yourself can be really helpful. Ruminating on the decision for weeks or months on end isn’t going to help, and the longer you stew on it the harder it will be to make a final call.

Which is exactly what you’re going to have to do at some point. For my husband and I this involved sitting down together (with cups of tea, of course) and each taking a turn to share what our initial response had been, what factors we’d weighed up along the way, and what our final decision was. Thankfully, although we had very different initial reactions and had both flip-flopped several times, we landed on the same decision: we’re moving to Sydney!

Stick to your guns

The days after we’d made the decision sometimes felt harder than the decision making process itself. You can’t help but wonder if you’ve made the right choice. What I found really helpful to remember was that I had thought it through thoroughly and none of the facts had changed, so there was no need to second guess myself (even when several of my colleagues who moved to Sydney from overseas told me it’s the least friendly city in the world). Making a big decision, like choosing to move states, can be really scary, but once you’ve made the decision you need to embrace it or you’ll always be wondering ‘what if’. Which brings me to my final tip…

Remember that Sliding Doors is just a movie

I heard someone say this on a podcast once and I found it so helpful! There is no other Shannon out there who went down a different path and is living her life in a parallel universe. I’ll never know what would have happened if we had chosen to stay in Melbourne and there’s no point thinking about it because that alternative reality is not reality at all. Once you make a decision you need to go with it and try to avoid the trap of the ‘what if’.

Since we made our decision to move, there have been times when I’ve wondered if we made the right choice or if it’s too late to undo it. For a few weeks I tried not to think about moving too much, hoping that if I put it off long enough maybe it will just…go away. Lately though, I’ve actually been excited about it. Sydney wouldn’t be my first choice of new home, but I might end up really enjoying it. At the very least it’s a chance to explore a new city and experience living somewhere different.

And if I do hate it I can move back and feel all smug about how Melbourne rocks and Sydney sux.


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