Creating a less stressful life often comes down to making difficult decisions easier.
Decisions become difficult when we don’t know what we want. The paradox here is that one of the best ways to clarify what we want is by making decisions and taking action.
That doesn’t resolve the fact that some decisions leave us feeling restless, anxious, and downright stuck. So, let’s take a look at a few hacks to make any tough decision a little bit easier.
Ask Your Future Self (Zoom Out)
Imagine yourself 5, 10, 20 years into the future. You are living your dream life and super clear on what’s important to you. As you transport yourself to this future place, imagine what it would be like to reflect on your current situation.
As your future self, you can ask any of the following questions:
- What was the most important thing to keep in mind when making this decision?
- What’s the bigger picture I wasn’t seeing at the time?
- How long did the pain, sadness, worry, or joy last after making this decision? Was it worth it?
Identify the Smallest Decision (Zoom In)
Sometimes it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all of the variables and potential outcomes wrapped up in a big decision. This is especially true for those considering a career transition – add or remove any number of variables and you may be going down a completely different path. It’s no wonder the process can seem daunting.
The key here is to focus on what you do know, instead of getting preoccupied with all the things you don’t know. You will rarely be forced to make one big decision that you’re completely unsure about. The problem is your mind is freaking out – so take a breath, relax, and write out your answers to the following questions.
- What do I know for sure?
- What do I feel strongly about, even if I don’t know for sure?
- What is the next smallest decision I can make?
“Act As If”
If you are debating between a couple of different scenarios, a really helpful exercise is to “act as if” you’ve already made a decision one way or the other.
The fact is our brain can’t really tell the differences between imagination and reality. Think about a person in your life who means a lot to you. Imagine that person sitting next to you; their mannerisms, energy, smile, and how they make you feel. Are you feeling some of that now?
Our decisions are driven by our feelings, or how we think we’ll feel. By acting as if we’ve already made a decision, we can get feedback from our physical and energetic body (and the intelligence centers in our heart and stomach). While it might be difficult to imagine the full scenario playing out and experiencing the spectrum of emotions along with it, we can often get a glimpse of something that helps guide our decision-making process.
Try it out:
Act As If you’ve made the decision and followed through on the action. You could play this out for 5 minutes with your eyes closed or pretend that you’ve made this decision for an entire day. Make it as real as possible, and pay close attention to any and all sensations that arise. Don’t try to make sense of them, just notice.
Pay special attention to feelings of expansion and contraction. Do you notice any relaxation, lightness, or excitement (energy)? Do you notice any tightness, heaviness, sinking, or stuckness?
More times than not, you will experience one and not the other. Maybe you experience the same type of sensations with both decisions? What does that tell you?
This is a bit of an advanced technique that requires practice, but it is so worth it! Building this skill of intuitive decision-making can literally change the way you navigate through your daily life. For example, pay attention to feelings of expansion and contraction the next time you’re browsing in the grocery store. When I’m tuned in, I can look at different food products on the shelf and notice my body expanding or contracting in response to it. Of course, I override it at times, but the more often I pay attention the more likely I am to let my body make decisions for me.
When Nothing Works
Keep in mind that if a decision still feels REALLY difficult after trying various approaches, it usually means there’s a separate unresolved issue lingering. You might actually be trying to solve deeper problems, and since the decision you’re wrestling with doesn’t fully address these, you remain gridlocked.
Consider this post a reminder to stop thinking so hard, and to start feeling, listening and taking action.
On a final note, sometimes you need to talk to someone who can remain objective. As a professionally trained coach, I can help you cut through the noise in less time. If you can’t seem to stop wrestling with your mind and are ready to dive deep, feel free to reach out for complimentary consultation. Sometimes all it takes is one focused conversation to clarify exactly what you want.