Career Development

The Stress of Yes: Decision-Making Skills for Dietitians

January 11, 2017   /
Jen Haugen, RDN, LD

You have two job opportunities—which one do you choose? How do you decide if it is the right time to take the leap by opening your own private practice? What about deciding on a college or an internship? Should you go back to school for another degree? What about that project you got invited to join, is it the right step to take? These are all questions that will pop into our professional lives as registered dietitians as we launch and grow our careers. But how do you know which path is the right path to take?
Many dietitians have the need to please; in other words, we tend to say yes to everything. But saying yes to everything, can lead to overwhelming stress. Here are some strategies you can use to help you hone your decision-making skills and truly focus on the best decision while minimizing the stress from an overwhelmed schedule:

  1. What are your values? The key to making the best decision is to first know what and who and where your priorities lie. Completing a values assessment can be really valuable to help you not only make the best decisions, but also live your best life. We are happiest when the way we live our lives matches our values, or top priorities, or what we value most in life. Your top five values will be your guide as you make both big and small decisions. Fill out Worksheet: What Are Your Values? to determine which values are important to you, or follow the instructions for making your own below.
  2. Measure the opportunity against your values. Once you know your values, it is time to take a look at how that opportunity, that job offer, that college choice, or that decision to open your own private practice fits into your values. Write down your values in one column and then write down your opportunity in a second column. Can you draw a line from the opportunity to each one of your values? Do they work together or do they work against each other? For example, you are offered a new job which requires you to move and change your schedule. One of your top five values is family, being close to them, being available to them, spending quality time with them. Does taking the job that requires a move and a change in the schedule make sense when you compare it to what you hold most important in your life? That is a decision you need to weigh. 

Once you have completed the value assessment and measured the decision you need to make against these values, you now have one more step to complete. There are four key areas to continue your assessment so that you can make the best decision.

  1. Your schedule. In the book, The Best Yes, author Lisa TerKeurst shares the following, “The decisions we make determine the schedule we keep and the schedules we keep determines the life we live.” New opportunities require additional time, and possibly additional travel. How does your decision affect your time? And realize that saying yes to one thing, means intentionally or unintentionally saying no to something else.
  2. Your finances. Will there be added expenses or additional income from this decision? Do you have the means to handle the changes in your finances?
  3. Your emotional health. Does your current stress level allow for this decision? How would it change your emotional health? Does it benefit or does it hinder?
  4. Your physical health. Do you have time and energy to say yes to this opportunity? Does it allow you to care for yourself in the best way possible?

While not every decision is our choice to make—sometimes things are pushed upon us—we can use these strategies to make the best decision possible. Once you have completed this decision process, chase down that decision; actually daydream about what saying yes would look like after you say yes. Are there any ideas that come to mind that you have not thought of? What would your future look like if you say yes to this decision? After the excitement wears off, can I sustain myself in the months and years ahead? Will saying yes affect anyone else in my life? The best decisions are made when we have thought about the bigger picture. 

Does it mean we have to analyze every decision to death? No. But we can get a better sense of who we are and use these tools as a guide to decide what direction to take.

References and recommended reading

Stein K. Career development in nutrition and dietetics: carving out your own route. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012;112(10):1528-38. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2012.08.009.

TerKeurst, L. The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2014.