Imagine yourself sailing through life doing all the things you ever imagined were possible – and with ease! No obstacles come your way and it’s so easy to make decisions about what you want.
Yeah, that was my level of thinking when I was a teenager. I really thought that life was more like a formula – you do all the right things and the result is a relatively easy life filled doing all the things that you’re passionate about.
Life is not a formula and it’s hardly easy! Obstacles come our way and most decisions are not black and white – they’re usually a murky gray mess.
If decisions were easy and the results could be definitely predicted, then we wouldn’t be drawing up long pros and cons lists or cycling the same series of details and facts through our mind every waking minute.
In real life, in your real adult world, decisions are complicated. To further complicate things we bring our youthful expectations for perfection right along with us. We think there is one right decision that’ll magically unlock all our hopes and dreams in one fell swoop. Well, at least I’ve been guilty of that sort of thinking!
Here’s the thing. Life never offers you a guarantee of any given outcome. You have to take action in order to discover the result.
So step #1 is to reframe your expectations.
Allow yourself to make the best decision you can with the information you have, then let it go and see what happens. Then when you have more information coming your way you can always pivot and make another choice. That’s how life works – you make one decision, then another, then another in a never-ending chain. But we make it harder on ourselves when we stop the flow and get stuck. This is usually because we are desperate to control a situation when we’re desperate for one particular outcome.
I am hugely guilty of this. Sometimes I can give myself a gentle reminder and be on my way, but sometimes I get caught in my own dark web of cloudy thinking.
Yesterday I had a big business decision to make. It’s one that I’d been thinking about for some time so it seems like I should have had it figured out long ago. But somehow I found myself struggling to decide at the very last minute.
Why was this decision hard to make? Because like so many things it was not a black and white situation. Life has a way of complicating even the simplest things, which can lead you to feel truly confused and conflicted when big decisions must be made.
In this case, it was a hard decision because I really wanted to do this thing, but life and logic got in the way of honoring what was best for me and my business. And because I try to make smart decisions, I almost let fear win. After a month filled with serious medical drama and travel my mind was a bit cloudy and wasn’t in the best state of mind to make a clear no-regrets decision.
So what did I do? I remembered that important decisions deserve respect. Important decisions deserve our undivided and unclouded attention. So I set aside time in my schedule to declutter my mind and come to a decision I could be sure about.
Here’s how to make good decisions with clarity
1)Weigh the Pros and Cons
It’s good to make sure you’ve reviewed the important facts or possibilities of each decision. You don’t have to overanalyze, but it’s best if you feel comfortable with the benefits and downsides of whatever path you choose.
When you take a little time to review what you know, you might also decide that more research is needed. Try not to go crazy here – perhaps you can give yourself a time limit for doing this step then move on to the next. I spent about 30 uninterrupted minutes on this step.
2)Clear the Stories
Everyone tells stories. You do it. I do it. Humans are programmed to rationalize everything they do or experience. Even though I am well-versed in the flawed nature of the stories we tell ourselves, I still get caught up in the mental drama from time to time. But I have gotten good at calling myself out.
So ask yourself – is the story you’re telling yourself true? Mostly true? Partly true? Or just a crazy lie you’re telling yourself to feel better?!
Usually what we do is we take little facts and combine them with big assumptions about their meaning or what might happen in the future, then we arrive at what we consider “reality.”
Common stories include statements such as:
“But I don’t have enough money.”
“My insurance won’t cover it.”
“My insurance won’t allow me to switch to another doctor.”
“I don’t have enough time.”
“I’m too old.”
“But I have this medical explanation”
“But I don’t have a medical explanation!”
A funny thing about “reality” is that it’s rarely black and white. Take two people and give them the same facts and you’d better believe you’ll get two different stories!
I’m not telling you to stop telling stories. That’s on par with telling you to stop being a human. I’m suggesting that you start becoming wise to the stories you tell yourself and others. I also recommend that you completely set aside your story for long enough to make a clear heart-centered decision.
3)Get to an Emotionally Neutral Place
My favorite way to do this is to do tapping (EFT). Tapping is a quick way to work through intense emotions so you can move forward with more clarity. I teach my clients how to do tapping because it is such a wonderful, easy, self-empowering tool.
Some people choose to go for a run, do yoga, meditate or take deep cleansing breaths.
Do you have a way to bring intense emotions down to a neutral or manageable level? If not, I highly suggest you find something that works for you.
This is where it’s really helpful to learn self-hypnosis or meditation. Self-hypnosis is a phenomenal way of clearing the mental clutter and allowing clarity to come in. You can also try walking in nature or lying down in the grass with your eyes closed. The peaceful sounds of nature can have a soothing effect. Soft instrumental music in a quiet place can do the same.
Whatever you choose – do it! The key is to know your question then let it go. Stop analyzing or obsessing about the pros and cons. Let go of the stories, research, and all the mental drama and let your wonderful subconscious mind lead you to the best answer for you.
The nice thing about having done the first step (weighing pros and cons) is that you don’t have to keep thinking through the details. You’ve just reviewed the facts, so give yourself permission to let them go for a good 5 minutes. It won’t hurt – I promise!
This might be the most valuable step in the process, and usually, you will know your decision very quickly during or after this step.
Self-hypnosis is hands-down my favorite way to get quiet and make decisions that I know I won’t be regretting in the future. This is another tool I give to my clients.
5)Take Action Then Evaluate
Once you’ve made your decision it naturally follows that you must go through with it. Don’t overthink this. Just remember that you only need to worry about the one step in front of you, then let it go and allow things to unfold.
Once you know the results of your action then you can make the next decision that needs to be made, and so on and so forth.
Do your best to avoid over-planning and lining up all the hypothetical events in the order you wish them to occur. I’m SO guilty of doing this in the past. It was a hard habit to break, but a very liberating one.
Remember – one foot in front of the other, one decision at a time!
Now it’s your turn. Share your thoughts or experiences in the comments below.