10 Ways To Make Big Decisions You'll Never Regret
Lissa Rankin, M.D., is the New York Times bestselling author of "Mind Over Medicine," "The Fear Cure," and "The Anatomy of a Calling." She is a physician, speaker, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute, and mystic. Lissa has starred in two National Public Television specials and also leads workshops, both online and at retreat centers like Esalen and Kripalu
Life is filled with choices, and we’re not even aware of many of the ones we’re actually making. For example, when I was expected to see 40 patients per day in my old job as a doctor, I thought I had no choice. I had asked if I could see fewer patients so I could have more time with each person, and my boss told me no.
So I felt helpless, at the mercy of a ruthless system. But actually, I was making a choice every day — choosing the comfort and security of my job over listening to my own integrity, that voice that said, It’s not right to give a patient only 7 ½ minutes!
I finally realized I had a choice. I could quit my job. It didn't feel like a good choice, because my then-husband wasn't bringing in a paycheck, and I had a newborn daughter and a mortgage to pay. But it was a choice. I was choosing to violate my integrity as a healer in order to pay the bills and feel secure. Trading integrity for security made me sick and depressed. So I finally made a different choice and quit my job.
But jeez — it was scary! At the time, most of my loved ones and colleagues thought I was being reckless. Looking back, we all realize it was the best choice I ever made, because instead of being ruled by my fear of uncertainty, my financial fear, and the fear of what everybody would think, I trusted my soul’s guidance. It was a leap of faith, and it got pretty hairy for a while there. But now I'm grateful that I listened when my soul (and my body) asked me to leave.
Are you in the process of making a similarly scary decision? Here are some tips for how to make aligned decisions that you’ll never regret.
1. Be aware that you have a choice.
The first step is to realize when you’re making a choice! If you feel helpless or victimized, you may not realize that you're making an unconscious choice. Make the unconscious choice conscious. For example, if you’re unhappy at your job, you may be choosing security over happiness. Recognize that you’re in choice and that you can always change your choice.
2. Question your choice.
If you’ve been making a choice (consciously or unconsciously) to do something that doesn’t feel good, be sure to inquire within yourself whether you wish to continue to make the same choice. When I realized I had a choice whether I saw 40 patients each day, that choice became conscious, and it hurt to keep choosing to violate my soul’s integrity.
When you question your choice, you can simply be curious. Stay open. Don’t judge yourself. Notice your thoughts. Pay attention to what hurts and what feels good. Don’t attach to even finding an answer. Just be curious.
3. Be aware when fear is taking the lead.
The Small Self (some call it the “ego” or the “protective personality”) always wants to be in control. It wants to weigh in, vacillate, doubt, argue, make lists of pros and cons, and, most of all, avoid uncertainty and loss at all costs. The Small Self is terrified.
If you’re not aware that your Small Self is making decisions based on fear, you’ll keep choosing what your Small Self deems certain and secure, even at the expense of your health, happiness, life purpose, and financial potential.
4. Surrender your decision.
When you decide to let your soul make your decisions, you’ll likely have to drag your Small Self with you, kicking and screaming. It does not trust that we live in a friendly universe where the soul can make even better decisions. It can help to practice the art of spiritual surrender, which Tosha Silver teaches in her new book Change Me Prayers, for which I wrote the foreword. Surrender your decision to the Divine. Ask your soul to help you make your decision. Then be on the lookout for inner and outer guidance.
5. Ask for help.
Once you’ve surrendered your decision to Something Larger than your Small Self, ask for help. I imagine that on the other side of the veil between the human world and the spirit world, an army of unemployed spirit guides are just lolling around, waiting for us to ask for help, as if they’re not allowed to guide us until we make the request. Something magical happens in the wake of the request. It’s as if spiritual guidance leaps up and smacks us in the noggin sometimes!
Sometimes we need human help, too. A good therapist, life coach, or spiritual counselor may be able to hold up a mirror for you and skillfully guide you to the decision that already lies within you.
6. Be present and look for signs.
Spiritual guidance is everywhere, but often we miss it, because we’re not paying attention. Once you’ve surrendered a decision and asked for help, be on the lookout for signs.
For example, I was recently trying to decide whether my "soul twin" Dennis and I should lead a writing workshop in Peru. I didn’t want to leave my daughter behind. He had some other commitments. But we had put money down on reserving a space, and we only had 24 hours to get our money back. So we remembered to surrender the decision, ask for help, and watch for signs. About 15 minutes after we made our offering of the workshop to the Divine, I was in an airport, and I walked into a coffee shop where a big sign literally read, “Say yes to Peru.” I’m not kidding! They were sampling new Peruvian coffee. Within the next 24 hours, I got three “YES” signs. Dennis got two. So we’re teaching the writing workshop in Peru in August, and we feel certain that this is the decision our souls helped us make.
Look for synchronicities, billboards with messages, song lyrics with answers, unexpected emails, and people with messages for you. I’ve even gotten answers from bumper stickers or license plates!
7. Trust your intuition
Intuition comes in many ways. Some people just know. Some people get visions. Some people hear a little voice in their ear. Intuition has a flavor to it, and you start recognizing it. Like, “Wow, this tastes like mint.” Once you learn how intuition shows up for you, and once you’ve started collecting evidence that things go well when you follow your intuition, you’ll recognize it more easily and trust it more. (Not sure how to strengthen your intuition? Start here.)
8. Pay attention to what your body is telling you.
Your body is a compass that steers you toward that which is aligned with your soul and guides you against that which is out of alignment. Many people in our culture are completely disconnected from the body.But you can learn to listen to your body.
When you’re trying to make a decision, start noticing how your body feels when you think about Option A. How does it feel when you visualize choosing Option B? Sometimes a choice will feel scary, so you might be confused by butterflies. But are they the butterflies of excitement or the flutterings of dread?
9. Look for answers in dreams.
Often, your unconscious knows the right decision, even if your conscious mind feels confused. Pay attention to your dreams. Sometimes clear answers arrive in the veil of Dreamtime.
10. Notice what hurts.
As physical therapist Val Zajicek told me, PAIN signals Pay Attention Inside Now. If something hurts, it’s trying to send you a message, and this can aid your decision-making.
When I was trying to decide whether to quit my job, I was in a lot of emotional pain, but I didn’t trust the pain. How could I quit my job? How would I pay the bills? Ultimately, those things become less important when the pain of violating your soul’s integrity becomes too great. People often ask me how you know when it’s time to take a leap of faith. When the pain of staying put exceeds the fear of the unknown, it’s time to leap.
Learn To Discern Your Soul’s Voice
Kitchen Table Wisdom author Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, and I are teaching a free virtual workshop today about how to make aligned decisions. The free call happens May 19 at 1-2:30pm PT/ 4-5:30pm ET. (Register here. We’ll be recording it, so if you can’t make it live, we’ll send you the recording.)
Now more than ever, we need to let our souls take the leads so we can make decisions, as individuals and as a culture of humans, that benefit humanity and Mother Earth. Rachel and I hope you’ll join us for our free class!