How to Make Difficult Decisions with Ease.
I recently took my first post covid flight, on a trip with my daughter to support her longtime student, friend, and surrogate daughter perform in her last undergraduate dance performance.
It was surreal to be in an airport again, with literally THRONGS of travelers, and it was fun to observe my overall sense of calm, even as we spied an enormous TSA line (longer than any I have seen before), between us and our flight.
What I noticed most, as the probability of us missing our flight became evident, is that my mind went into a sort of hyperdrive and started batting around solutions. Like annoying flies, the thoughts would arrive, and I would, without so much of a twitch, bat them away deciding the idea was undesirable or impossible, only to watch as another thought would fly in to take the place of the last one. Have you ever noticed this when in a dilemma of your own when a choice feels necessary?
For the next few minutes, I experienced myself going deep into my head, as my surroundings became tunnel-visioned and my heart rate quickened. Time SEEMED pressured and I succumbed to a tiny bit of panic, even though being on that flight was preferable, it certainly was not essential.
Fast forward (after a couple of deep breaths), I sensed a slight opening of my view, and a slowing down of my thoughts, I released any fear of making a “wrong” choice and thus not making the flight (consequence) and I allowed myself to hold on to a particularly insistent thought long enough to feel it through my being. I chose to follow that idea taking steps toward it, all the while checking in on how it felt, instead of (and this is important) imagining what I would do when or if this idea did not bring my desired outcome. I committed to the decision and to its path, continually releasing my expectation of the desired outcome.
“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
~ Nelson Mandela
This experience is what I want to talk about in today’s article. What can we do when we feel we are torn between two choices? What does being mindful mean in this situation? If I am to live in this way, what practices do I need to employ in order to actually feel it working?
What I often hear myself telling clients, friends, and loved ones is that when we are facing a decision, and we are feeling stuck, lacking clarity, and in fear of making the “wrong” choice, what is truly happening is that we are feeling resistance to the answer that we know (throughout our being) is true for us.
A great example of this, believe it or not, is in that long TSA line. The idea to hoof it over to the other terminal, which I had learned in my corporate travel days was much less utilized, came in and I tried to bat it away, out of fear that, we were already in the “right” line and if I was “wrong”, I would be the cause of my daughter missing the flight which would cause her pain. Alas, the idea kept charging in undeterred by my somewhat panicky state. Once I was able to breathe, regulate my nervous system, and assess my circumstance in the incredulously long line, I took a breath, felt the resonance, and realized that this was truly what I was being guided to do.
The practice is to remember that our job is not to try to figure out which decision will bring what we “WANT” our role is to make the choice aligned with who we are and watch life unfold from there. A sense of freedom and contentedness begins when we see life as neutral and let go of manipulating things in order to get what we want. We practice allowing life to show us what it is instead of telling life what it should be….yikes!!
That last thought brings me to this: the perceived consequence of our choices is key. In order to unveil our innate guidance system, we practice dissolving the fear of the consequence. The first act of decision-making is to neutralize the threat of a “wrong” choice. How do we do this? It starts by moving ourselves closer to the perceived threat and fear.
Hmmm…you may have expected I would say “be fearless, breathe and choose from the heart”, but before any of that can happen, if at all, we practice going closer to ourselves. We move closer to the fear, closer to the feelings, closer to our truth. We move inward and through the fear and imagined doom, through the panic, and into a space that is still. We let the tornado of thoughts, feelings, fears, and expectations become the whisper of a gentle breeze. From here we can see with great clarity, we can feel the choice with great knowing as if it is a puzzle piece slipping right into who we are at the very core.
I admit that my example is pretty benign and I acknowledge that all of us make choices each day that seemingly have great consequences. My invitation to you is to just for a moment, release the consequence and feel into which choice feels like you to the core. Which choice energizes your being with knowing and excitement, from that place choose and watch what unfolds.
“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
The Practice of Making Decisions
Awareness is a skill within itself and a great place to start all spiritual practices. With awareness we have a chance to bring ourselves to the present, giving us access to the realization that we are struggling with a choice. Whether we are knowingly vacillating with a decision, or we are in distraction mode. Awareness will bring our path into view.
Sit with the Decision:
Give the decision space in your conscious mind. Slow down the thoughts of “This” and “That”, and move closer to you, where “Both” and “And’ live. Go to that place of no wrong choice, where all is always OK, to the place that is all-knowing and cannot be extinguished. Where your truth comes forth and is courageous enough to be seen. This is the practice for even the biggest decisions we struggle with. Again the struggle we feel is our resistance to the answer we know.
A Word on Free Will
This is the funny part, even when we know, get close to, see, and feel the choice for our truth, we have free will and can choose differently. HA! And in this, I find a sense of freedom. It’s funny because I can know my choice and I can go with the opposite. Either way, I am in awareness of myself. Because knowingly and with intention going against our gut is not the same as ignoring our gut and pretending it doesn’t exist.
“Live your values, surrender your path and curiously explore the moment”
My favorite part of this practice is to watch my choices turn into my reality. Sometimes it is what I imagined and sometimes it is not at all what I imagined or what I “wanted”, but it is always alive with the congruency of my life.
Lastly, something I want to expand on is this question; how do we become aware in the first place?
Do you ever wonder how great mindfulness practitioners become great mindfulness practitioners? Well, they practice. It is not generally glamorous, it is simple, and sometimes tedious, but the beauty of it is that it is always available to everybody*. I would even say for all of us and I mean ALL of us, if we begin and we continue to practice daily there is a tipping point, in which we desire the state of living more than we despise the practice.
In short, mindfulness practices become mindful living and that feels good to the mind, body, and spirit alike.
Daily meditation practice is the best way I know of to strengthen our awareness. Just 3–5 minutes once or twice a day, will bring more consciousness into your life. As we become fluent in that amount of time we add on time, not because we have more time in our lives, but because we have more willingness and desire to live with awareness throughout our day.
I invite you, whether you are new to meditation, or an avid practitioner, to commit to a daily practice for 3 weeks and then do not meditate on day 22. At that point, simply observe (because you have the ability now) your day. This can be a great eye-opener to what the practice offers your life and a great motivator for day 23 and beyond.
Like what you’ve read? Subscribe here to get weekly musings and practices, much like this, to your inbox. Or Better yet Click here to learn about my Greece retreat where you will have space to practice all of it for yourself.