It seems, the older we get, the more decisions we have to make. There are the easy decisions, should I wear that dress (yes!), have another champagne (yes!), walk the beach (yes!) or go the gym (probably)? Then there are the hard ones, should we stay in a relationship, leave our job, sell our house, move or have a difficult conversation? Big decisions can make you feel sick, bewildered, lost, confused and unsettled. But you can’t make progress without making decisions. Fact. So how do we make them? How do we know if a particular decision is right or wrong?
A Choice Point
Russ Harris, medical practitioner and leading authority in stress management, teaches a strategy called ‘A Choice Point’. A Choice Point is a moment in time when you choose between values consistent and values inconsistent behaviour. It is a practice in which you step back with your critical mind and evaluate whether a decision or behaviour will be moving away or towards your values and the person you want to be. Understanding your values, who you are and where you want to be in life, is vital when making choices. Is your decision going to enhance your life or will the decision mean you are turning away from what you value and who you are? Have you ever made a decision and the internal conflict has continued? If so, that is a sure sign you have made the wrong choice and going against your true direction. The right choice often gives a sense of relief as you align with who you really are.
Head versus heart
It’s hard to know what to do when your head and heart are in battle. Your head can often be screaming at you to make a certain choice, and your heart screams just as loudly for you to go in the opposite direction. So which one do you listen to? We, as humans, actually have access to an extraordinary tool that we often forget to use. Our gut. Our gut instinct is the most powerful voice we have. Gut instinct is a natural ability that helps you decide what to do or how to act without thinking. What a powerful gift right?! Yet so many of us choose to ignore it. Have you ever stayed in a relationship or job, which you inherently know is not good for you? Then years later, after you have left the situation, you look back knowing you ignored the red flags and your gut instinct, in hope that it would get better. Listen to your intuition, it’s there to guide you!
Pros and Cons
What are the pros and cons of making a certain decision? Get as much information as possible. What will you gain, what will you lose and who will you impact. What is the worst case scenario? Is the decision permanent? What’s your Plan B? It helps to write pro’s, con’s and options down. You may find that one list will overshadow the other and the decision can become glaringly obvious. This process can be a huge reality slap, as you confront a decision that clearly isn’t working for you.
When both options are terrifying
Have you ever had a decision where there doesn’t seem to be a good choice? What are you fearing? Make time to sit with it and make space for the answer to come. Be calm. Never make permanent decisions on a temporary emotion. Don’t base your decision on fear or guilt. Give yourself time. So many times we make a decision in the heat of the moment based on emotion, but good decisions take time and effort and healthy, intelligent reflection.
Talk to someone or yourself
Often we are so engrossed in our decision that we can’t see the facts and options clearly. Engage with a professional, family member or friend. Others can see a situation with a clearer perspective and sometimes provide more options guiding you to make a better choice. If you feel you can’t open up to someone about your choice, talk to yourself like you would a friend. Play devil’s advocate and consider what you would likely say to a friend if they were asking you on your opinion on the matter.
Give yourself a break
Are you finding all this analysis overwhelming and just confusing you more? Step away from the situation. Allocate time for when to think about it and when to have a break. Overthinking can make the situation worse and can confuse you even more! Catch up with a friend, go for a walk, and step away so when you decide to think about it again, you can with a clearer head.
Lastly, it is important to remember, that sometimes the hardest thing, and the right thing are the same.
“Don’t ever make your decisions based on fear. Make them on hope and possibility. Make decisions based on what should happen, not what shouldn’t” – Michelle Obama