I feel like I got my Degree in Difficult Decisions from the University of Life after 3 years of non-stop, voluntary major life changes. In this blog I share 10 simple steps I used during that period of time to ensure my decisions were heart-led and healthy, not fear-based and limiting.
I want to support you to cut through any fog that might be keeping you stuck, so you can make great choices in any situation with clarity and confidence.
You're Standing at a Fork in the Road
When faced with a difficult decision, it often feels like standing at a fork in the road, right?!
- The path to the left might represent a fear-based decision and the path to the right might represent a heart-based decision.
- Perhaps the path to the left represents what you think you should do and the path to the right represents what you feel is best for you.
- Or even more challenging… the path to the left may represent what other people are telling you to do, and the path to the right is where you really want to go.
- And the doozy of all difficult decisions – when you genuinely have no freaking idea which path to take.
5 Factors That Cloud Your Ability to Decide
The most difficult of decisions usually involve a hefty dose of the following 5 factors:
- Conflict between your head and your heart – too much thinking, not enough feeling
- Confusion about what is really in your ‘best interests' – resulting from over analysis, too many options, too many variables or too many people in your ear…
- Other people giving well-meaning advice – i.e. voicing their opinions, which are knowingly or unknowingly based on their own agenda, which sees you doing something that fits with their view of the world, their desired outcome, and how they see you fitting in with that
- Fear – the fears of other people (note – the above well-meaning people are often voicing their fears within the tapestry of advice they give) and your fear, which is fueled by…
- Multiple unanswered “what if” statements – these traumatize most people, given we are addicted to certainty! Most difficult decisions are difficult because they lead us into uncertain territory. Generally speaking, when you're at the fork in the road, the easier, more obvious and safer path has the more certain outcomes (less “what ifs”), and on the flip side the seemingly more challenging and possibly riskier path has less certain outcomes (more “what ifs”). Additionally, from experience, most major life pivot points (moments of decision that send us rocketing into a whole new direction in life) usually come about from us taking the lesser known path, the one that has the higher level of uncertainty but which inspires the most possibility for us.
In reaction to the above 5 factors, you may be locked in a cycle of unhelpful thoughts and arising feelings that keep you stuck and cloud your ability to a) logically work your way through the decision making process and b) tap your intuition as to what genuinely is the best way forward for your unique self.
The 10 steps below have definitely been useful for me in cutting through the cloud and getting clear on what is irrational and unhelpful (but somewhat natural) fear and what is genuine inner knowing that I need to pay close attention to.
Ultimately, the point is to understand whether your discomfort about a difficult decision is natural fear of the unknown or whether you're leaning into a decision based on unhealthy and unhelpful factors.
10 Steps to an Empowered Decision
Grab a pen and paper, as you'll be answering all the questions below and actively participating in the exercises if you're serious about wanting to get unstuck in order to make a genuine empowered decision.
1. What has led you to this fork in the road in the first place? What events, people, situations, circumstances, challenges, realizations or inspirations have all culminated to bring you to this position of facing a difficult decision? Reflect at the outset on the bigger picture, to get perspective of where you stand and why you're at this point.
2. What is your underlying motivator? Has this decision point arisen because of the healthy need to fulfill yourself, to be self-expressed, to experience natural feelings of greater happiness, well-being and success OR you have come to a decision point in order to get away from something – a desire to run away or avoid something you need to face. Get really clear on what is driving you forward.
3. What feeling arises within you when you think of making the decision to choose a particular direction? Sit quietly and imagine you have made the decision in one direction, noticing the feeling arising within you. Then ‘turn the tables’ and pretend you have made the decision in the opposite direction and notice again how you feel. You are testing your feelings in relation to taking one path or another. Feelings are an incredibly valuable guidance system, like a GPS to navigate difficult decisions.
4. Are you making this decision because your heart tells you this is the path for you, or because you ‘think' it is the ‘right' thing or the thing you ‘should' do? Often the thinking and ‘should’ing’ we do to ourselves is part of the problem when we are faced with difficult decisions, we let our over analysis of a situation paralyse us. It is a risky business to base decisions on an unconscious desire to fulfill the expectations of other people and society as a whole, instead of basing our decisions on our own heart-led destiny and desire to march to the beat of our own drum.
5. Will this decision benefit you and ultimately (at the heart of it) benefit others because of your own flourishing? (Important note – your own genuine flourishing in life is never going to be to someone else's detriment, even if they don't like your decision).
6. If you feel fear, is the fear because you are worried it (whatever ‘it' is) might not work, that you might fail?
7. If so, would you make this decision more easily if you knew that you would succeed and it would lead to your desired outcome? The answer is usually yes, leading us to see that it's our minds and fear that stands between us and an easier decision process.
8. Next there's the tried and tested decision making tool – the pros and cons list! Always a goodie. Literally write down the pros and cons of the decision until you exhaust the list completely. We can see and make sense of things differently when we create the decision outside of our heads, by writing it down or talking it out. Inevitably things start to look clearer and more instinctive when we allow all our senses into the decision making process. A difficult decision process managed totally by (and within) your conscious analytical mind will often be more challenging/confusing to make.
9. When you want to get in touch with your inner knowing (your intuition) and you feel like the noise in your mind is too loud and running the show, close your eyes. Closing your eyes is an incredibly simple way to bring quiet and greater connection to your inner self. By cutting out one key source of stimulus (visual), you greatly improve your ability to hear your inner voice.
10. Imagine you have a higher self. That higher self is your soul and is the reason you are on this planet. Imagine that your higher self is watching you right now, fearlessly, peacefully and lovingly watching you struggle with this decision. In relation to this decision, which path do you sense your higher self would suggest you take?
The Choice to Not Decide
If you are facing a fork in the road, and there are difficult decisions to make, and yet you notice yourself hesitating in terms of actively participating in making a decision, then please consider these final few points.
- Have love for yourself – it is not easy to make major decisions. It takes courage. Courage that you absolutely possess.
- Having said that, while loving yourself in the process, understand that the longer you remain non-participative in your life, the more pain you are creating for yourself
- Notice that if you remain hostage to your fears and indecision, you have given over your power, and the result will be a feeling of helplessness
- Helplessness as a feeling leads you to believe that you are at the mercy of others, of life and you do not have control over your path and destiny
- Taking both logical and intuitive steps such as those outlined above, will give you back your power and allow you to see that there is only ONE block in your life that truly limits your peace and happiness. That block is you. Luckily… you are also the solution!