The art of deciding

You may think you make a lot of decisions, but most of what you do each day is driven by habit. What time you get up. What you eat for breakfast. What you do for exercise. How you get to work. Even the conversations you have can be driven by habit. “You say this. Then I say that. Then you say this.”

So it’s no surprise that when you have to make a decision, it can be hard on your brain and rather unsettling – especially if it’s a decision that leads to big changes – like where you live. Or go to school. Or who you date or marry. Or what you do for work.

I like living a Zen life and feeling unsettled is very un-Zen. So how do we make decisions easier?

Some studies say you’re best off to not sweat it. When you’re faced with a dilemma, go with your first instinct even if it makes no logical sense. Those studies say we know what’s best for us in our gut, and the more we ponder and try to make a logical decision, the more unsettled we become.

Other studies, in the Spock-school of thinking, say make a decision by mapping it out. Make yourself a chart. What are the pros and cons of each side of this decision? Look at the chart. Which side has the most pros? Or look at what you listed as pros and cons and weigh each one. One choice may have a single pro, but if that pro outweighs all the cons or the pros of the other choice, then you go with the one pro.

This all works great until your gut tells you both choices are equally good – for different reasons. So you plot out the pros and cons – and all things are still equal. The choices are different but they both work and you can picture yourself going either way.

I had this type of choice to make last week about taking on new work. Here’s what I was pondering:

  1. Choose a job that paid more money and where I could continue to work independently, setting my own hours and agenda but with a remote board in an industry that did not touch my heart.
  2. Choose a job that paid less and where my time would be more restricted but in my community doing work that will flow from me.

My gut and logical choice was #1. But after a morning of meditation, I went with #2.

Here’s why. The criteria I was using to make the decision – looking primarily at time, independence, and money – wasn’t getting at the heart of the issue. The decider was about the people I’d be working with, and about building a strong local “net,” which made choice #2 the only choice.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the next stepping stone in your life. That’s when you trust the Universe and just take a step. And you’re there. And it’s the right choice.

Sending you peace and love from the wilds of Maine where the sunsets rock, and where our grape poppies are finally in bloom!


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