No Wrong Decisions
The New Year is a time of new beginnings. Really we can make new beginnings in any moment, but it is nice that we have a holiday set aside for intention-setting. Just like Thanksgiving is a wonderful time for gratitude practices, at the New Year we can focus on decision-making and following our bliss!
As we look forward, set goals and make plans, beware of the resolutions that start from the premise that something is wrong with us that needs to be fixed. Self-loathing is not motivational. Real change is born from self-acceptance and following our bliss. We can use New Years as an opportunity to set intentions that are in alignment with the kind of life we want to create.
Sometimes making decisions can feel brutal. Swimming in competing considerations, it can be hard to discern our inner guide from all the voices in our head. Many times we are making decisions out of fear and urgency. We may worry what other people will think. We may tell ourselves we have to be perfect and that it’s not okay to make mistakes. We may fear losing an opportunity if we don’t decide fast! So, as we approach the New Year, here are some guidelines for decision-making that might help reduce decision-making stress and set you on your true path.
Trust that whatever decision you make, things will be alright. No one decision will make or break you. The imagined weight of the decisions we grapple with will cause some people to waffle back and forth, paralyzed by self-doubt and fear. If this is the case with you, practice being decisive with small things, like menu choices, to build up your decision-making muscles. Other people will make decisions hastily to escape the discomfort of uncertainty. Remember, you don’t have to know what to do the moment a question presents itself.
Take Your Time. A feeling of urgency is not a friend to centered decision making. In fact, when you are feeling urgent, it is probably not a time to make any big decisions at all. Good decisions come from a place of calmness-- from knowing that everything will be alright no matter what you choose. Pausing will not make you miss any opportunities that were meant for you. Especially if you are tired or not feeling your centered best, then sleep on it. Think through important decisions when you are well-rested and clear-headed. If you suspect you might be impulsive, you can set up rules ahead of time. One piece of advice given to young adults who are embarking on dating is to decide how far they will go before they leave on their date, and stick to it. Then they won’t get caught up in the moment and do something they might regret later. The idea is that they can always reassess and make a different choice next time! We can apply this same rule to our lives as well. Maybe we make a grocery list at home to prevent impulse purchases, or decide not to make a decision until some date in the future so we have time to feel into it more deeply. On the other hand, if you’re the type to procrastinate making a decision, give yourself a deadline. You don’t want to wake up 40 years later, still not having moved in the direction of your dreams.
Gather the facts. Our decisions are only as good as the information we have about our choices and options. Imagine all the hours you spent agonizing over a choice that was largely still hypothetical, because you were guessing and making assumptions. Postpone agonizing over a decision, until you have done the research, and asked the questions. And even then don’t agonize! Remember that there is no such thing as “perfect” information, and if you over-analyze every detail you might be the victim of “analysis paralysis.”
Listen to your gut. The million dollar question is how to differentiate your intuitive voice from all the other voices in your head! The general rule is that when there is lots of chatter in your head, that is not your intuition. Your intuition presents itself as a quiet sense of rightness. This is a muscle we need to strengthen by practicing with small things. When my daughter has difficulty making a shopping decision, she holds the item in her hands and walks towards the cash register, taking note of how she feels. Then she’ll hang it back up and walk away, or walk with a different item, and see how that registers in her heart and body. It’s similar to when you ask someone’s advice and then recoil when they give you the answer you didn’t want! These small tricks of the trade can help you begin to recognize your intuitive voice.
Realize you haven’t thought of all the options. More often than not, situations resolve in ways we hadn’t even thought of when we were considering solutions. This happens over and over, and yet we so often forget, and think that our limited perspective encompasses everything that could come to pass. Often, when we take one concrete step in the direction we are feeling drawn to, doors will open that we hadn’t imagined!
Take the one next right step where you are. If you can’t figure it all out, you don’t have to know exactly where it’s going to take you, you just need to start with one thing that feels right and keep following the “right-feeling” things and see where they lead. (You are a Badass by Jen Sincero) You often have to take the first step before the next one will present itself. Most answers reveal themselves through doing, not thinking. This doesn’t mean you are passively blown around by whims or external events; rather you listen with all of your being and follow where you are called. Eckart Tolle, in The Power of Now, takes this one step further. If you find your here and now intolerable, and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally. Any action is often better than no action, especially if you have been stuck in an unhappy situation for a long time. If it is a mistake at least you learn something, in which case it’s no longer a mistake. If you remain stuck, you learn nothing. Is fear preventing you from taking action? Acknowledge the fear, watch it, take your attention into it, and be fully present with it. Doing so cuts the link between the fear and your thinking. If there truly is nothing you can do to change your here and now, and you can’t remove yourself from the situation, then accept your here and now totally by dropping all inner resistance. Through surrender, you will be free internally of the situation. You may then find that the situation changes without any effort on your part. In any case, you are free. Surrender is a purely inner phenomenon. It does not mean that on the outer level you cannot take action and change the situation. In fact, it is not the overall situation that you need to accept when you surrender, but just the tiny segment called the “now”. In the state of surrender, you see very clearly what needs to be done, and you take action, doing one thing at a time and focusing on one thing at a time. Learn from nature. See how everything gets accomplished and how the miracle of life unfolds without dissatisfaction or unhappiness. “Look at the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin.”
Do your best wherever you’re at. Everything on your journey contributes to where you’re going. Resisting where you are will not take you where you want to be. Jen Sincero, in her book You Are a Badass, gives the example of waiting tables when you want to be a rockstar. She suggests that by having a good attitude while doing the job you’re in, and being grateful for all the things that are helping you to live the life of your dreams, you will be more likely to achieve your goal. For sure this will make your current work more pleasant, attract bigger tips, and raise your frequency to help attract the people and opportunities you need in order to move in the direction you want to go.
In a nutshell, and I can’t stress this enough, success is not defined by “what” you are doing, but by “how” you are doing it. Remembering this overarching truth can help you to release decision-making anxiety and bring you back to the moment you’re in. Joseph Campbell, in The Power of Myth, illustrates this concept with the medieval wheel of fortune. If you define success as the accumulation of riches, or forcing a specific outcome, then it is like you are attached to the rim of the wheel, you will either be at the top, going down, at the bottom or coming up. But if you define success by how you conduct yourself… your reactions and actions, then you are at the hub of the wheel and you’re in the same place all the time.
Follow your Bliss. Joseph Campbell is famous for this phrase, and he suggests that we are having little experiences all the time that might indicate where our joy is. When this happens, grab it. He says, “If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you. That the life you are living is the one you ought to be living somehow. And when you can see it, you begin to deal with people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open doors to you. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”
There are no wrong decisions. “If you obsess over whether you are making the right decision, you are basically assuming that the universe will reward you for one thing and punish you for another. The universe has no fixed agenda. Once you make any decision, it works around that decision. There is no right or wrong, only a series of possibilities that shift with each thought, feeling, and action that you experience.” -Deepak Chopra. Melody Beattie reminds us that decisions don’t have to be made perfectly. We don’t have to be perfect. We can just be who we are. We are not so fragile that we can’t handle making a mistake. It’s no big deal! It’s part of living. We can learn from our mistakes or we can simply make another decision.
It’s okay to change your mind. We are always changing, so what is the right choice for us in one moment, may not be right for us in the future. Try and let go of the societal suggestion that there is some shame in changing your mind! You can admit you were wrong, or just admit that you changed. It’s that easy. It doesn’t make you different from anybody else, it just makes you more honest.
Remember you are part of something bigger. The more you practice being present and connected to Source energy, the more available you are to download ideas and seize opportunities that you might miss out on if you’re all wrapped up in the chatter in your mind. Instead of thinking of yourself as the doer, consider yourself a conduit, a channel, a beautiful cog in the wheel of life.
As you approach decision making in the New Year, you can begin by accepting where you are in this moment. If you’re not in a space right now to be making big decisions, what steps can you take to ready yourself? What might you do to put yourself in the best possible position to hear your internal guidance, which is coincidentally also the guidance of the Universe? How can you come to a state of openness and receptivity to the messages in the form of gut feelings, synchronicities and signs? Make a list of things you can do to get ready, and then make sure self-care is on the top of your list. Know that there are no wrong decisions and that all moments in your life are exactly as they should be for the evolution of your consciousness. Happy trails!
** (For further reading, check out Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now; Jen Sincero, You are a Badass,; Joseph Campbell, the Power of Myth; Melody Beattie, Codependent No More. Much of the content of this essay was taken from or inspired by these insightful works.)