How do you make decisions? When you’ve narrowed it down to just two or three options, what mechanisms do you use to come up with the Ultimate Choice?
When you think about it, you can see that you’re making decisions all day long. What to wear, what’s for breakfast, how to solve this problem, where to put that object. We're always making choices, and we always have a choice, even though it may not always seem so.
Most decisions are so easy that they happen under your radar, automatically. You grab your raincoat after hearing a wet forecast, without agonizing. Other decisions require more conscious thought: will it be your pink or purple shoes today?
This post is about those times when the task of making a decision has you deeply confused, when the choice is extraordinary and difficult — not of the everyday sort.
People are often frozen in such situations, but here's a super-simple way to sort out your thoughts so you can carry on.
1. Find a clean notebook and pen.
Sit in a quiet place. Open the notebook and write a statement summarizing the decision you need to make. For example, "Should I move to New City or stay in Home Town?"
2. Do several minutes of free-writing.
Let whatever comes out of your pen make its mark unguided. Don’t stop writing, filling in with nonsense if necessary. Try this without even lifting the pen from the page the entire time.
For example, "New City has filled my thoughts for the past six months ever since that chance came up and Kristin told me about it."
3. Take a deep breath.
Imagine you select one choice that is available to you. Write a description of the outcome of making that choice. Do the same with each of the available choices. Spend a few minutes on each possibility. Use a timer if you wish, to be sure you give equal time to each possible choice.
In New City I’ll have to find a new job and new home and new everything, which is scary but also kind of excites me...
In Home Town I can stay in touch with my friends and I can keep my cat, but this house is awfully run down …
That’s enough. You can put your notebook away for now. But be sure to come back the next day. Read over your previous entry. Repeat the sequence again, if you're so moved.
If it seems you’re close to a decision but want a little more “proof,” try the following sequence:
1. Write a list of words associated with the decision.
Free-write on each word for a couple of minutes. Job, house, cat, etc.
2. List pros and cons of making each choice.
Do these in parallel columns, so you can compare easily.
3. Turn to a fresh page in your notebook.
Look around your environment, wherever you are. Taking a random cue from your surroundings, write for five or 10 minutes. Forget your decision-making for the moment.
Night’s coming on. The horizon glows the faintest pink. It’s so delicate! And the fireflies are rising up. They’re on the prowl, which makes me laugh a little.
Again, put the notebook away overnight, then reread it the next day.
Decisions often seem life-or-death to us, causing great stress. These journaling exercises are tools for drilling down to resources we possess but have been hidden under the thick fog of perception. Accessing your deep intelligence this way alleviates stress and powerfully builds confidence.
Simply by journal writing, letting the pen mediate our thinking, we can get in close touch with inner knowing, the inner self who can naturally identify the choice that will serve us best.
Having trouble making a big decision? Mari L. McCarthy, Personal Journaling Specialist can coach you through the process.