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How to Make Tough Decisions? Follow Your Heart!

By Ann Richardson September 05, 2022 Mindset

We make decisions all our lives and, indeed, every day. Most of these are straight-forward and don’t require a lot of thought. What shall I have for lunch? Shall I read a book or watch the TV this evening? Should I phone up my daughter for a chat?

Yes, you may need to think for a small moment, but these decisions are not a matter of any agony. Whichever way you decide.

Larger Issues

But from time to time we are faced with much larger problems. We can procrastinate for a period, but eventually we need to decide. Such decisions tend to be ones that will affect our future lives in some substantial way.

They may be about housing. Should I downsize? If so, where should I go? What kind of commitment do I want to take on? Do I want a garden? And so forth.

Or they may be about life plans. Should I continue to work? If so, should it be full-time or part-time? Would I be happier volunteering a few days a week? If so, what kind of activity would I wish to engage in?

Or they may be about personal relationships. Should I try to mend fences with my oldest friend after a bad argument? Should I try to spend more time with my granddaughter, although it is very inconvenient to do so, as she lives a long way away?

And so forth. All very tricky.

What are the key considerations that will help us decide?

The Obvious Choices

Sometimes, the answer is clear and staring us in the face. Here is one scenario that I just invented.

You are thinking of moving to the granny annexe that your son and daughter-in-law have built with your needs in mind. You need help with a new disability, they want to look after you, and you are a very close family in any case. And you adore your grandson.

The decision is very straight-forward. A problem happily solved.

The Difficult Choices

But it isn’t always – perhaps not even usually – like that.

Often, there is some path that your head tells you is the right thing to do, but your heart feels it is wrong. For instance, let me amend the above scenario slightly.

You know that you need help, and you know your son and daughter-in-law want to look after you, but deep down, you don’t like their ways all that much. You don’t want to be thrust into their company on a daily basis. And your grandson is not being brought up in the way you like, so that he is not pleasant to be around.

It looks like you ought to accept their help, but you suspect that the move may result in a lot of arguments and aggravation.

What do you do?

Go with Your Emotions

I have never been one to tell friends or family how to lead their lives, because I feel such decisions are very personal and individual. I might help by asking a lot of pertinent questions, enabling them to clarify the issues.

But it would be very rare for me to advise them which way to fall.

I do often say, in the words of my husband who has said this for years, “Go with your emotions.” This is another way of saying “follow your heart.”

If you think about it long enough, you will find that most difficult decisions involve a conflict between what you think you ought to do and what you, deep down, want to do.

There is the sensible course, which everyone outside your orbit, would say “yes, of course, do that.”

And there is the course your heart tells you is right.

I say go with your heart every time.

Not Straight-Forward

But every case is different. It is rarely straight-forward.

You may be single and in your mid-60s and due for retirement. You are in good health, and everyone says, “Get out a bit, travel, see the world.” This sounds like sensible advice, but actually you love your work and enjoy the company of your colleagues and have no interest in travel.

Or perhaps it is the other way around. Everyone might say, “Times are hard, you should keep earning money while you’re able; don’t retire!” and this seems like the sensible course. But deep down, you are bored with your work and want to get out to see the world while you can.

Same scenario, different emotions. Only you can know which one is right.

And by all means, talk it over with someone who can ask the right questions. This can really help you to clarify where you want to be. Let it buzz around your head for a while.

Follow Your Heart

But do try to follow your heart.

It may not be easy. You may have to step on some people’s toes. It may cost you more money or mean that you have little money left over for anything else.

But every time that I have ever followed my head, I have realised afterwards it was the wrong thing to do. And when I have followed my heart, things have worked out, and I have felt at peace.

And peace of mind is worth everything.

Good luck.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Are you in the middle of making some key decision about your life? Does what you think you ought to do differ from what you, deep down, want to do? Does ‘follow your heart’ make sense to you?

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I’m having a conflict making a major decision right now. Downsizing makes sense but the idea of moving and packing and all that entails is more than I can cope with now.

Ann Richardson

I think everyone feels like that. I know I do. And the longer we leave it, the harder it will be. We’re not getting any stronger! Can you muster some help from friends, family or even some paid teenagers? Best of luck.


Love this! Good advice.

Ann Richardson



This was perfect for me today. In June I downsized from a four bedroom colonial in a community where I lived for the last 25 years. I am also an empty Nester for the first time in 40 years. On top of that I am a widow. I moved to the state where my daughter lives in June when I downsized and rented an apartment near her. Now it is September and I’m finding out that she and her husband are getting divorced. I have five other children that I could move near and also loving siblings in a different state. I have no idea where to go or what to do. I need help making this decision. Any advice?

Ann Richardson

That’s a bit of a bummer about the divorce, but the good news is that you have a lot of choices in what to do now. I would say don’t rush into any decision, but let all the possibilities roam around your mind for a few months or however long it takes. Very importantly, talk it all over with someone who will help you think out what you really want and where you want to be. There may be some practical issues, re climate or cost or types of housing available, but most of all, think hard and carefully about who you want to be part of your day-to-day life from now on. If something jumps out as what you REALLY want to do, deep down, go with it. Good luck.

Josey fisher

I’m sure that there are many retirees who have faced the same thing. Post divorce I moved to Vancouver 16 years ago, the best climate ever for retired Canadians for sure! I am in my mid 60’s, physically active and have a 96yo father who lives just 4 blocks from me. Yes, he does keep my past nursing career skills going but it’s just me so I will be there for him til the end. Ok, here is my problem. Both of my kids live out east with very young families, one in Toronto and one in Ottawa. Neither of them will ever settle in Vancouver. I travel out east regularly but know I won’t be able to keep this up. Once my father passes, what should I do? The thought of going back to harsh cold winters terrifies me but I so want to be nearer my kids. I can’t afford the 2 home thing. Any advice from anyone. Know I can’t live on my kids doorsteps and don’t want to. What would you do. Admit too that I am feeling more of a profound loneliness too.

Ann Richardson

You are clearly a lovely person, looking after your elderly father, and he could surprise you and live a long time, when your decision might become clearer. But I must admit you have my sympathy, as it is a) difficult to move from a place you have lived a long time and which has a good climate to a completely new city with a cold climate and b) difficult to choose which child to live near. Perhaps one family will need your help more and that will help you decide (life has a funny way of forcing one’s hand – my husband and I ended up being the emergency carers of one grandchild because our daughter-in-law was diagnosed with cancer eight months after he was born). I don’t think it will be at all easy, but when the time comes – and probably a little sooner – I would suggest that you find someone who knows you well who could help you tease out the key issues and clarify the decision. But in the meantime, you talk of profound loneliness and I wonder if it would be possible for you to get out more to meet people in Vancouver. You deserve to have a life of your own as well as being a carer. The best of luck.

Albany Feu

Loved this text. Sounds really perfect. I’ve been always tryed following my heart.
Thanks 🙏

Ann Richardson


The Author

Ann Richardson’s most popular book, The Granny Who Stands on Her Head, offers a series of reflections on growing older. Subscribe to her free Substack newsletter, where she writes fortnightly on any subject that captures her imagination. Ann lives in London, England with her husband of sixty years. Please visit her website for information on all her books:

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