When it comes to big life decisions, sometimes it’s hard to know which way to turn. Should you jack in your boring office job to follow your dream career? Or maybe re-mortgage your house to free up some funds for that trip of a lifetime? Often we agonise about the outcome and worry about how it could all go wrong, but maybe we just need to start believing in ourselves.
“Often when I see people struggle with making decisions there are a few common factors that are at play,” says transformational life coach Nicky Clinch (nickyclinch.com). “Getting caught up in what we ‘should’ do rather than what we really want, concern about what other people will think if we get it wrong and the pressure we put on ourselves to never make mistakes can cause anxiety, worry and even cause panic attacks.” However, the more we learn to trust our gut instincts and give ourselves permission to be imperfect, the more confident we will become in making decisions, says Nicky. “At the end of the day there are no right or wrong decisions because each time will always be an opportunity for learning more in some way.” So learn to trust in yourself, try our simple rules for good choice-making and start achieving your goals today!
Write it down
Write a list of all the fears that are coming up for you around making the ‘wrong’ decision and remind yourself you are allowed to be imperfect, says Nicky. “Write everything down even if it is completely irrational. This is an exercise called ‘breaking through the blocks’ which helps to clear our mind of all the irrational fears that are popping up. This allows us to do the best we can and not try to be so perfect.”
Use the 20-minute rule
If you’re not sure how to react, your first reaction will often be an emotional one— you’ll try to please other people,” says TV clinical psychologist Linda Blair (lindablair.co.uk). This may not be the best decision for you, and if it isn’t then it won’t help others either because your heart won’t be in your actions. “Wait 20 minutes—that’s how long it takes for emotions to settle, and for your reason to play a part in the decision making. Then, with that balance, think about what you wish to do.”
Instead of thinking about what the right decision is, ‘feel’ it in your body, says spiritual mentor Gail Love Schock (gailschock.love). For example, if one option makes you feel stagnant, heavy, listless and depressed, you probably want to choose differently. If your second option makes you feel tingly, as if anything is possible and puts a smile on your face, this is a good way to go. “Following your feelings, as opposed to ‘getting your head around something’, helps you tune back into trusting yourself,” says Gail.
Look into the future
This is a great way to test if you are making the right choice, says life coach Kitty Waters (kittytalks.com). “Take yourself into the future once you have made the decision – how do you feel? Ultimately when making a difficult decision you should feel good about the outcome. Usually deep down we know the right thing to do it’s just whether we are willing to listen.”
Identify your goals
Working out what sort of outcome you really want is crucial, says David Welch, author of Decisions, Decisions: The Art of Effective Decision Making (£7.99, Prometheus Books). “People who aren’t self-reflective are going to end up making bad decisions because they don’t really know what they want in the first place.” Before you ditch your job, ask yourself: Do I really want a different career? Or do I just want a different boss? Don’t make a decision based on the wrong problem. Own it!
“It’s always good to gather facts and figures and to listen to the opinions of other people,” says Linda, although she recommends taking advice from no more than two people. “Remember that no one knows you as well as you do. Make sure the decision is your own – that’s the best sort of decision you can make.”
Feed your mind
“Your brain will function at its best only if you’re adequately nourished,” adds Linda, who suggests having a snack before making up your mind. “Choose a food in its natural state and one that contains a good balance of slow-release calories as well as vitamins and minerals,” she says. “As long as you have no food allergies, almonds are an excellent choice.”
Mindfulness meditation can help when you are faced with touch choices, says hypnotherapist Tina Bakardzhieva. (oxfordspires hypnotherapy.co.uk). “It helps to quiet the mind and focus on the present moment so, at least for a time, we come away from regretful thoughts about the past or anxious thoughts about the future.”
Try this simple breathing exercise to bring yourself into the present moment:
1. With your eyes either open or closed, silently ask yourself: “What is my experience right now, in my thoughts, my feelings and my bodily sensations?” Recognise and accept your experience, even if it is unwanted.
2. Gently redirect your full attention to your breathing, to each in breath and to each out breath. Try noting at the back of your mind: “Breathing in … breathing out” or counting the breaths.
3. Open the field of your awareness around your breathing, so that it includes a sense of the body as a whole, your posture and your facial expression.
4. If you feel discomfort or resistance, breathe into these sensations on the in-breath. Then expel them on the outbreath, saying to yourself: “It’s okay. Whatever it is, it’s okay. Let me feel it. It is here already so I may as well be present for it.”