Life throws us plenty of chances to practice decision making. As a right-brain thinker, my logic side dominates. I’d love if I could easily classify pros and cons, weight each situation evenly, count my tallies on a spreadsheet and come up with the obvious, singular choice. It’d be a no-brainer! Ahh, if only algorithms worked for my own needs and desires (scary, they know what type of sneakers I’ve been Googling, but are not fully in my brain… just yet).
That’s the thing, with decisions that are close to our heart, ones that affect our purpose, careers, relationships and families, it’s not an outside job. It’s not a task that can be delegated to someone else. It’s one that requires inner work, on a soul level- work that only we can do for ourselves.
As someone who is prone to research and hem and haw before finally checking out my Amazon cart, you could say I have a tough time making decisions. When talking to friends about my options had me going in circles, a wise coach, Naomi Arnold suggested a different approach (she takes the credit and the cake for prompting me with these questions!).
This alternative to the outdated, useless pros and cons list will have you asking yourself questions, engaging your heart in the answers, and paving the way for you to take action, confidently.
No more second guessing yourself.
No more choosing from fear.
No more staying stuck.
When you’re feeling ready to commit to the first step of decision making (understanding), use these questions to guide your work on a soul level:
1- What are the old stories that come up for me related to this option? How are fear, negative beliefs or the past weighing in on this decision? Is any of this valid?
When I was considering leaving a current job, one option was going back home to my parents’ place and regrouping until I found the next position. The mere thought of this had me conjuring up images of a dog with its tail between its legs. For me going home meant regression, is proved I was weak, not enough, and not able to support myself.
Now, not all these things are fully true, but when I wrote out the story for what it really was, I could see the fear of losing my independence, the worry I’d stay stuck in the familiar and never move on with life. I had felt this way in the past and thought I was confined to the same experience again. In my head, I couldn’t see another situation playing out, only the old one on repeat. It didn’t occur to me that I could choose to think about this in another way, or opt for a different belief about myself instead. When I saw that all this fear was caught up in replaying the past, it was clear I was eliminating this option too hastily. It was certainly something I could reframe and see in a new light.
2- What do I need right now to feel supported and take care of my Self with this decision?
For me, the danger has always been making a decision and then second guessing it. I never considered what supports and self-care would help me feel at peace with my choice. By answering this question, I added intentional, proactive habits to my life during times of decision making. I blocked out the people and things that would make me question my decision. I knew I couldn’t consume social media for a while. I literally wrote the reasons of why this was the choice for me (ie. I’m committed to moving to Uganda for a year), a few quick bullet points will do, and read it to myself after morning meditation. I made sure I exercised every day. Moving and getting rid of stagnant energy and emotion was key in ensuring I didn’t fall back in the trap of harping on my old thoughts. By answering this question, I prepared myself to move forward committed and confident, and not get sucked back into analysis paralysis all over again.
3- What is my gut telling me to do?
Yes, there will always be outside chatter, expectations, distractions, numbing, pick your coping mechanism of choice. All these sneaky techniques get in the way of you really listening to your own needs. Know that and be ready for it. If you get down to it, and come back to yourself, what do you find? Often, we find ways to disconnect from our instinct and it becomes challenging to tap back in. Don’t let that stop you from trying or thinking that you don’t have one in the first place. It’s there. Use it.
When I accepted a job that wasn’t for me, the first day, I sensed it and a small voice told me to quit. I didn’t act that day, but my insides knew. The same with a relationship I was enveloped in… If I got real honest, my intuition revealed it wasn’t the long-term partner I wanted or needed. I didn’t like either of those insights and wanted to pretend that I hadn’t heard them. I wanted to keep my steady paycheck and stay in the safety of a relationship with someone who loved me. But I couldn’t un-hear the nagging inner voice that said something’s not right.
You don’t have to like what your gut tells you, you just have to trust that it’s like a wiser, older sibling who has your best interests in mind. It’ll all work out in the end, because even if what your instinct is telling you to do is hard, it’s also promoting growth and will get you where you want to be.
Major life decisions can bring on the overwhelm, big time. Understanding your options, getting in tune with your needs, and committing to a choice is possible. Really.
If you’re frustrated that all this analysis is getting nowhere, turn off logic brain for a moment and tap in to your heart.
Use these three questions to guide your inner work and reflection. Ultimately, it’s more effective: you’ll end up with a resolution that’s grounded in spirit, who you are as a human being, one that sits right with you.
If all this decision making has got your wires crossed, it may be helpful to talk through it with someone you can trust to sort it all out. As a career and life coach, I facilitate this process for others and would love to help you get some clarity and direction that feels good for you.