One of my clients came to me because she was at a crossroads in her life and didn’t know which way to turn. She’d tried everything; exhaustive research, listing pros and cons and seeking advice from experts, yet still the answer eluded her.
Some days I fly through making major decisions before breakfast but other days the shutters come down and I’m incapable of even deciding what I want to eat. How easy would it be if all decisions were made for us? No personal responsibility required? All consequences known? Desired results guaranteed?
That we get to make our own decisions brings both woe and joy in equal measure. Joy as we enjoy the freedom and choice to determine our own paths and woe as we live in doubt, uncertainty and fear.
Looking back, when have you made your best decisions? Have you regretted taking misguided advice that seemed like a good idea at the time? Did you know the answer all along but not trust yourself only to live to sorely regret it? How many times have you admitted that you ‘should have known better’?
Decision making is fraught with chance and doubt and fear of getting it wrong. Here are my top tips to improve your chances of getting it right:
Is this a ‘should or ought?’ - The most common decision making tools and quite possibly the two most debilitating words in the English language. I should take the job, I should stay in the relationship, I ought to stay late - see if you can hear yourself when you next say ‘should or ought’. Ask yourself why you should do that thing then question your answer with another why. Keep going until you get to the bottom of your reasoning. The first time I did this I was stunned to uncover the real reason behind the ‘should’. It was the voice of a childhood headmistress instructing me.
Get out of your head and into your heart - How many times have your best decisions defied logic? When your mind has exhausted all options, how about getting it to quieten for a while and take a moment to notice how you feel. Sit still, breathe and relax, reassure your brain that you’ve got this. Then picture your choices coming towards you and note how that feels. I never fail to be surprised at the physical pain I feel in my core when I ‘see’ some things approaching me but I instantly get the decision that I needed.
Get out of your own way - Where are you when your best ideas come to you? Whatever works for you, do more of that. Ask yourself the questions that need answering then get out to your favourite place and wait for the answers to arrive.
Write it out - Get a blank sheet and write out your question. This is a way to get past the logical and reasoned arguments that weigh up the pros and cons of big decisions. This is about getting past the thinking layers to seeing what lies at the heart of the matter. Keep answering the question ‘Why’? when you’ve answered, ask again. Keep going until you get your insight - you will recognise it as your truth when you see and feel it.
Walk away - It’s not only when looking at artworks that perspective is best gained from afar. How many times have problems in your life sorted themselves out over time. Just like in nature when erosion uncovers geological gems, it’s possible that your best ideas will come when you stop digging and take a step back.
Be kind and patient with yourself - How many of us have left home and got angry with ourselves for forgetting to do something? It’s an all too familiar tirade that we inflict upon ourselves. How stupid we are forgetting to lock the back door, close the window, switch off the iron and so it continues. It gets to the point where we readily admit that we can’t trust ourselves. So how many times do we acknowledge the times when we got it right? How can we begin to trust ourselves when we take getting it right for granted? Start acknowledging the times you got it right and begin to build up your self-trust bank.
Trust yourself - You’ve got this! You are the expert on you, no one else knows what’s best for you. They may think that they do, they may even implore you to follow their advice with the very best intentions but only you can connect with how you feel and follow what brings you joy.
Remember, we’re all doing the best we can, guided by our own personal values and moral compass. Be sure to show yourself some compassion and forgive yourself for not getting it right every time, all the time.
What do you do when making big decisions? What helps?