What makes a decision better than others?
Look at the intention behind making the decision. Is it based upon any fear? It is working from a place of abundance or scarcity (which is usually fear-based)? Who will benefit from your action?
Further, look at what values are beneath the decision. Is it validating virtues of honesty, loyalty, humanity, etc.? It is important to check any beliefs associated with the values. Are these beliefs valid in all circumstances? E.g., One must always put family first. Look for ‘shoulds,’ have to’s and can’ts when making decisions. What are the consequences of acting opposite to these beliefs? How do you feel when you do the right thing? What is the cost when you don’t?
The costs of not doing the next best thing include a decrease in self-worth and personal integrity which can even lead to beating our self up, agitation (feeling ‘off’), fitful sleeps, and depression. Even our dreams will point out where ego-based fears have directed us down the wrong path.
Happiness is when what you think, say and do are in harmony. Gandhi
Areas in life of doing the next best thing.
The Buddha’s great enlightenment resulted in The Eightfold Noble Path as the prescription for overcoming suffering. It boils down to doing the next right thing. The eight elements of the path of enlightenment include the:
- Right View
- Right Intention
- Right Speech
- Right Action
- Right Livelihood
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Concentration
How you are making the next right choice in each of these areas?
When you can’t trust your mind … trust your body.
A useful strategy when making decisions is to access the wisdom of the body as it is an indicator of feeling and intuition. Sit with an issue or problem or perhaps, with one possible solution to a situation. Note where and what you are feeling in your body. Name the feeling(s) associated with that sensation. What messages are connected to the feeling? E.g. “I’m angry that I’ve been asked once again to be ‘the bad guy.’” Or, “I’m scared that I won’t be able to follow through on this.”
In identifying underlying concerns, one has shifted away from what specifically to do, to the block in making the decision (e.g., I don’t want to be wrong.) One can now deal with this concern and any mistruths around it. E.g. What does it mean to be ‘wrong’? What belief is there around being wrong? When this underlying concern is addressed, it often results in more solid decision making.
To help hone your decision making skills … learn from your past.
- Think of a time you said yes to something you later regretted.
- Think of a time you said no to something and later wished you’d said yes.
- Recall a time you said no and were later relieved that you’d passed on what would have been a bad experience.
- Remember a time you said yes to something that turned out to be a great choice.
In all the above situations, vividly remember the moment you made the decision. What were you feeling in your body? What are your body signs that indicate you are on the right track or off it? Identify underlying messages in each of these situations. How do these thoughts talk you in or out of making the next best choice?
When we truly don’t know what to do – Wait!
Not knowing what to do or having difficulty in making a decision can be viewed as an inner conflict. Neither choice feels right. If only there was an answer. If only I knew! Sometimes the answer is not black-and-white, this or that, but rather something other and most definitely in the grey palette. When we face these situations one has ventured into deep, often existential issues. Psychically, one is holding the tension of the opposites.
In these moments, we are being challenged to let go of our usual way(“That’s what I always do!”) and integrate a new part of us. It can also be seen as a struggle between ‘our’ way (ego’s defensive way or self-will; the part of us that thinks it knows best or is fearful of trying new [shadow] ways) versus a more trusting, growth inspired way. Indeed, when a person’s ego does ‘get out of the way’, this is when a new sense of freedom begins. Situations flow, decisions are easier to make, and often, situations are better than we thought they could be.
It is in these painful moments of decision-making that true deep personal growth can occur. To live with uncertainty, to hold the tension, and to wait, as uncomfortable as it is, is a sign of maturity. It means our ego is strong enough to let go of knowing the outcome, of making the decision now, and of controlling. Ego then wisely decides to trust that there is a deeper part of self that does know.