When you make decisions in your life, you go through a mental dance of toing and froing, trying to weigh up which direction is best for you. But in this process, how can you know which thoughts to listen to? Many people rely on their intuition.
Intuition is sometimes called your ‘gut instinct,’ or heart. It’s the voice inside that is sure, centered, and wise.
There are different ways to make decisions
When you have to make decisions, some people gather as much information as they can to make a well-reasoned choice. Other people prefer to process the decision externally through sharing their feelings and insights with others. And others are helped through this process with spiritual guidance in the form of fortune-tellers or oracles such as the I Ching.
Whatever the process, ideally, you are seeking the arrival of a place where you feel “right” in every sense — mind, body, and spirit — so you can confidently make your move.
This can be a difficult process that takes time, especially when there is an element of anxiety or emotion attached to the decision. Once anxiety has joined in the mix, you begin to focus on your fears rather than your opportunities, and the risks may appear dauntingly large.
It’s therefore important to acknowledge which emotions are being stirred up and why. Writing this down in your journal will help to give you insight into what is influencing your choice so that you can reveal what is truly right for you.
Make decisions using intuition
Making good decisions is a balancing act between life experience, wisdom, common sense, knowledge, and also intuition. The best place to be when making decisions is walking on the road of calmness, self-trust, and listening to your inner voice.
It is important to develop the skill of deciphering when your thinking is stemming from your emotional brain or from your intuition.
Here are some tips that may be helpful to you when you are feeling overwhelmed and are unsure about how to interpret the floating thoughts in your head.
Is this intuition or just thoughts?
- Are your thoughts originating in your head or further down in your heart or solar plexus? If it’s from your head, it’s more likely to be your head talking, while further down, it could be your intuition.
- Is your thinking linked to an emotion, or is it a quiet and sure voice? Intuition is often quieter, but feels as if it is factual, whereas the emotional voice is fueled by emotion.
- Are you over-thinking this? Your intuition is more likely to guide you once, then disappear. The voice of thought, on the other hand, is repetitious — it could be habitual thinking, such as fear, self-doubt, or unnecessary negativity.
- Did your thought ever give instant relief or bring instant stress? Often, intuition will “feel” right and will give you an immediate sense of faith that a resolution can be made that you can live with. The mental-emotional voice, however, has the ability to create more questions, as it makes you second guess yourself.
There are no right or wrong answers here; look at it as a process of learning more about yourself and working with yourself.
Walls that block decisions
In the article Effective Decision Making by Skills You Need, some of the factors that inhibit effective decision making are identified as:
- Too much information: Causing you to feel swamped. This decision should be straightforward; could I be complicating things?
- Too little information: Causing you to feel uneducated about the decision you are about to make. You could do some research by calling a friend who may know more, or an information service to ask more questions. With more information, you will gain some perspective.
- Too many people involved: You feel accountable to others. Unfortunately, there are times that you need to make a difficult decision that may negatively affect someone else. Perspective and advice may be needed in these situations.
- Vested interests: Be clear on what your inner vested interests are; this is crucial information and is likely to influence your decision.
- Strong emotional attachments, or no emotional attachments: Both extremes can be problematic. Ideally, you should try to strike the right balance here to be fair to everyone involved, including you.
A time to wait
There will be times that you are simply too stressed and worked up to be able to make a call on whether you are hearing the voice of reason or simply listening to the voice of your fears. In these instances, you can wait for the emotions and stress to die down.
There is an ancient saying from Daoist Master Lao Tzu that relates perfectly to this situation: “Wait until the mud settles and the water becomes clear.”
At its core, the issue may be about patience — it’s not yet time to make this decision.
Words of wisdom from ‘Tao Te Ching’
Do you have the patience to wait till the mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?
The Master doesn’t seek fulfillment,
But not seeking, not expecting, is present, and can welcome all things.
It’s your journey
It takes courage to make choices and decisions in your life, as no one else can do this job — only you can say what’s right for you. By the same token, we all make mistakes and wrong choices, but you can choose to see these as learning opportunities.
It’s not always about which path you take; maybe it’s more about the process of taking your next step forward.