During his recovery from a serious battle injury, Ignatius Loyola noticed that the pleasure he got from reading romantic novels soon faded away and left him feeling empty. When he read the lives of the saints and the Gospels, he felt an inner peace and joy that lasted a long time. That was his first lesson in discernment. God was drawing him to a new way of life, and to a new way of making decisions.
We make decisions every day, often without much thought. From time to time we have bigger issues to address, such as choice or change of career, where a relationship is going, what course of studies to follow etc. We take many things into account. What do we want or need? What is right for us? What is best for others? What does God have in mind for us? That is where discernment comes in.
Discernment is not just a matter of adding up the pros and cons, important though that is. We pray for clarity and guidance. We examine our motives and desires. We pray to be free within ourselves, where God is at work. We examine the alternatives with both heart and mind. We come to a decision, and pray for inner peace to confirm it.