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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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My dog is very I’ll with liver problems. His meds r very expensive and facing possible surgeries. He may have to stay on these meds the rest of his life with no guarantees that even the surgery will help. I live on social security and just can’t keep paying all these expenses. My head says be realistic ( I can’t afford anymore) my heart is saying I love him and as we get older aren’t most of us on a chemical life. How can I let him go. What to do??

Ann Richardson

I am terribly sympathetic with your situation, as it is so hard to let go of long loved pets. It is natural, of course, to want to prolong his life, but I wonder whether that is doing him the best possible service. Might he be in terrible pain and discomfort? You will need to give some thought that perhaps it would be better for him to pass on without further interventions. I wish you the best of luck in making the right decision.


It was one of Jei Atacama’s wisest guidance. Leading the way to the intelligence of life.


wow i like what you had to say! i’m 76 and in decent health but my daughter and grand kids are exactly what you said – not so nice and i don’t like the way they were brought up – get away with everything where as i never let my daughter do that. i just recently made my daughter executor of will, but i really didn’t want to idk what else to do. my family has their own problems, so who do i trust with my will. i can’t depend on my daughter (only have one) this concerns me and i get a sick feeling every time i think of getting older. who will be there for me. I try to stay in good health but you know there will come a time …… im sure you will say “make peace with your daughter” there have been way too many hurtful things over the years that upset me more than not speaking to her. any suggestions! thanks

Ann Richardson

No, I won’t say “make peace with your daughter” unless that is what you really want to do, but it sounds like the opposite. We are all growing older and potential frailty is a worry for us all. I am 80 and healthy, but don’t know how long it will last. I don’t know a lot about executors of wills and, of course, I don’t know where you live, but it is possible to ask someone else to do it – friends or other people in your life. If you would breathe a sigh of relief to think it was in the hands of someone else, then I would look seriously for that person. As I tell everyone, do find someone (not your daughter) with whom you could discuss the issue and tease out your thoughts. Good luck.


We don’t have family that could serve as executor, so we hired a financial fiduciary to keep everyone else out of it, and be guaranteed our wishes would be followed.
I highly recommend going this route.

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: http://annrichardson.co.uk.

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