Updated: Feb 15, 2021
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Life is full of decisions, some of which are harder to make than others. When you look back on your life you probably have these decisions categorized into the best decisions of your life and the worst. Although I’m very much in the camp of “no regrets,” I do often ask myself how can I make a better decision the next time around?
Unless you’ve lived your life like a hermit in the woods or on a deserted island, you’ve been taught to think your way through the decision-making process. We have this notion in our culture that there is a logical answer out there. Example: Should I attend this college or that one? Well, this college is close to home, offered me a better financial aid package, and has a better rating, so, therefore, will give me more opportunities in life. And the other? Oh, it’s just a whole lot more exciting to me. So I should go with the first.
Can you think of an instance in your life when you denied yourself a choice that really excited you simply because it was not the most logical one?
We all do this so don’t beat yourself up about it if you’ve gone about your life mostly on logic-mode. What I want to offer in this article are 6 other modes you can use when making decisions that don’t involve thinking your way to the answer and that is probably a whole lot more aligned with what’s truly best for you.
I think if they started teaching non-logical decision-making strategies to college students everywhere we would have a society full of happier and more motivated individuals making incredible contributions to the world.
So whatever it is you are trying to figure out in life, here are 6 non-logical modes to consider using when making decisions:
1. Feel it Out.
This one might seem a bit simplistic, but it’s not. A lot of us are used to telling our “feels” to shush so much so that we don’t even realize we are doing it. When you are faced with a decision, take the time to notice how the various outcomes might make you feel. Imagine yourself living each of those outcomes out.
A very simple example of this would be when looking at a menu and deciding what you are going to order. I am probably the most annoying person to take to dinner, aside from my mother, because I need to spend a long time imagining what the flavor of each dish would be like and see if I like that flavor right now at this moment. In fact, I hate it if you distract me with conversation while I’m trying to feel out my dinner choice. My mother, on the other hand, needs to ask a billion questions to the poor waiter before ordering (but that’s another non-logical decision-making strategy I’ll talk about later). You can imagine what a pair my mother and I make when going out to dinner. Yikes!
In any case, there are more important decisions to be made than what to order for dinner and the point I’m trying to make is for you to tune into what emotions the possible outcomes bring up in you.
Does it excite you? Does it make you feel good? Does it scare you? Does it make you apprehensive? What is the dominant emotion you feel surrounding a particular choice? Your logic might be invoking some fear about a particular choice, but if the dominant emotion is enthusiasm, see if you can begin to trust that feeling to guide you in the right direction.
When you think back to the decisions you made based on how you felt did they turn out to be bad decisions?
2. Listen to your gut.
This one can seem a bit cliche as it gets dropped all the time by friends and family who want to be supportive of your choices. Just listen to your gut! But what does listening to your gut really mean? For me, this is about being really tuned in to a physical response your body is having. You might notice that your body is literally being pulled forward or shrinking back when an option is presented to you.
Let’s pretend we are back in that college scenario. If I were to ask you right now “do you want to go to college A” does your body take a confident step forward, backward, or not move anywhere? If you’re getting any other response besides moving forward, that may not be the best choice for you, or it’s not time to make a decision yet. Frame your choices as a yes or no question and see how your body responds to each option. Better yet, have someone else ask you these questions.
Learn to trust your gut response even if you can’t explain it logically.
3. Articulate Your Options.
Some people need to hear themselves literally saying their options out loud and it is through this process that the right choice becomes evident. This does not mean you need to talk it out with someone. That’s another strategy that I will share later. Articulating your options may just mean you record your voice for no one else but you, and maybe you don’t even play the recording because you already know the answer from having said it out loud.
It may seem a bit silly but I absolutely love the WhatsApp invention of audio messages for this exact reason. I frequently find myself listening back to my own messages that I sent to a friend when sharing something that was going on in my life, and no it’s not just because I love to hear the sound of my own voice. Although sometimes it is enough to have just recorded my voice, listening again to what I said has often led to some deep insights about what’s actually going on in my inner world. It’s a way to kind of literally be on the outside looking in. To be your own friend listening to yourself and trying to help you get clear on your answer.
4. Talk it Out.
Okay here I’m going to explain why people like my mother benefit from torturing the heck out of those poor waiters, and contrary to what I thought for my whole life it’s not because they simply love to annoy everyone around them. I love my mother dearly, by the way.
For some people, hearing others speak about the options available reflects back to them what they might want. They sense a certain clarity when the words are coming out of someone else’s mouth. This does not mean that the other person is telling you what you should do. The waiter is explaining the choices on the menu but he’s not saying, “oh you should get this one!” And even if he does make a recommendation based on his own personal choice try to be aware of whether or not that’s what YOU really want.
Your friends and family might share their opinion about what you should do but this decision-making strategy is not about giving your authority up to those around you. It is about using the discussion to assess the way each option makes you feel when you hear it out loud from someone else. So in a way this strategy is combined with the first one I shared about feeling it out.
5. Listen to Your Impulses.
Aside from ignoring our emotions, one other thing we have been taught to suppress are our impulses. There are obvious reasons for why we shouldn’t act on all of our impulses. However, a lot of us have taken this to the extreme and completely suffocated even the impulses that could potentially lead us to great things.
If you feel a strong urge that hits you in one flashing moment, instead of locking it down on auto-pilot, ask yourself what’s the worst that could happen if I follow this impulse? Perhaps you are in the middle of creating a facebook ad to attract new clients and you get the sudden impulse to take a walk around the block. Let’s say you listened to this impulse and on your walk you meet a neighbor. The neighbor asks you what you’ve been up to and you mention you were working on ads. The discussion leads to your neighbor being very interested in the work you do and eventually becoming your next biggest client.
I’m not saying this type of coincidence is going to happen every time you act on an impulse. At the very least that walk might have refreshed your energy so that when you came back to your computer you wrote the best ad copy of your life and attracted your new client that way. What I’m saying is that listening to your impulses can make room in your life for moments of extraordinary serendipity.
Out of all the strategies I’ve mentioned so far, this one could just be the one that involves the least amount of effort but the most amount of faith.
6. Wait it Out.
I once read somewhere that if you’re trying to make a decision about something give it 7 days because often you’ll realize you no longer need that thing you thought you needed. I would argue that for some people 7 days is not enough. Unless you need to make a decision right now, waiting until the solution becomes clear to you could be the best strategy to take. It may also give you time to explore the other decision-making strategies I shared before.
Because indecision can cause so much anguish, waiting can be one of the most difficult things for us to do. Often we want so badly to get rid of our anguish so we jump to a decision just to quench our thirst for peace of mind.
One of the reasons I love the long holds in yin yoga is that it provides valuable training in simply sitting with your discomfort. In other words, waiting it out. When we get into a yin yoga pose we try to find sensation and sometimes that sensation can be quite uncomfortable. However, when you train yourself to stay with the physical sensation which you know is ultimately for your own good, you are also practicing to stay with the discomfort of your indecision long enough to allow the correct choice to make itself known to you. In the end, you will likely be more satisfied with the choice you made and the discomfort will have been worth it.
So how can you know which of these decision-making strategies is best for you? Practice each of these on a small scale and observe the results you get. Notice which strategy leads you more often towards satisfaction, peace of mind, and certainty that your choices are correct for no one else but you. Your level of happiness is a good indication of whether or not the strategy is working.
Aside from stretching and getting more flexible, practicing trusting the non-logical decision-making process is all a part of what we do in yoga. If you’re ready to explore how yoga can lead to a more inspired and meaningful life I invite you to take a free 7-day trial of my online studio membership. I challenge you to use the decision-making strategies I’ve just shared to see if joining this online community is right for you! By the way, when you join, I offer a free 20-minute live call where we can get to know each other, answer any initial questions or doubts you have, and talk about how this membership can best serve you on your path in life!