When we make big decisions in our lives, we go through a mental dance of to-ing and fro-ing, trying to weigh up which direction is best for us. But in this process, how can we know which thoughts to listen to? Many people rely on their intuition.
Intuition is sometimes called your ‘gut instinct,’ or heart. It’s the voice inside that is sure, centered, and wise.
We have different ways of making decisions
When faced with a decision, some people gather as much information as they can to make a well-reasoned choice. Other people prefer to process the decision externally through sharing their feelings and insights with others. And others are helped through this process with spiritual guidance in the form of fortune tellers or oracle– such as the I Ching.
Whatever the process, ideally, we are seeking the arrival of a place where we feel “right” in every sense — mind, body, and spirit — then we can confidently make our move.
This can be a difficult process that takes time, especially when there is an element of anxiety or emotion attached to the decision. Once anxiety has joined in the mix, we begin to focus on our fears rather than our opportunities, and the risks may appear dauntingly large.
It’s therefore important to acknowledge which emotions are being stirred up and why. Writing this down in your journal will help to give you insight into what is influencing your choice, so you can reveal what is truly right for you.
Making good decisions using intuition
Making good decisions is a balancing act between life experience, wisdom, common sense, knowledge, and also intuition. The best place to be, when making decisions, is walking on the road of calmness, self-trust, and listening to your inner voice.
In this video, Laura Koniver, M.D, discusses some tips on how we can decipher when our thinking is stemming from our emotional brain or from our intuition.
These tips may be helpful to you when you are feeling overwhelmed and are unsure about how to interpret the floating thoughts in your head:
Is this intuition or just thoughts?
- Are my thoughts originating in my head or further down in my heart or solar plexus? Laura shares that if it’s from the head, it’s more likely to be the head talking, while further down, it could be intuition.
- Is my thinking linked to an emotion, or is it a quiet and sure voice? Laura says that intuition is often quieter, but feels as if it is factual, whereas the emotional voice is fueled by emotion.
- Am I over-thinking this? Your intuition is more likely to guide you once, then disappear. The voice of thought, on the other hand, is repetitious — it could be habitual thinking, such as fear, self-doubt, or unnecessary negativity.
- Did your thought ever give instant relief or bring instant stress? Often intuition will “feel” right and will give you an immediate sense of faith that a resolution can be made that you can live with — the mental-emotional voice. However, it has the ability to create more questions, as it makes you second guess yourself.
There are no right or wrong answers here; look at it as a process of learning more about yourself and to work with yourself.
Walls that block decisions
In the article Effective Decision Making by Skills You Need, some of the factors that inhibit effective decision making are identified as:
- Too much information: Causing you to feel swamped. This decision should be straightforward; could I be complicating things?
- Too little information: Causing you to feel uneducated about the decision you are about to make. You could do some research by calling a friend who may know more, or an information service to ask more questions. With more information, you will gain some perspective.
- Too many people involved: You feel accountable to others. Unfortunately, there are times that you need to make a difficult decision that may negatively affect someone else. Perspective and advice may be needed in these situations.
- Vested interests: Be clear on what your inner vested interests are; this is crucial information and is likely to influence your decision.
- Strong emotional attachments, or no emotional attachments: Both extremes can be problematic. Ideally, you should try to strike the right balance here to be fair to everyone involved, including you.
A time to wait
There are times that we are simply too stressed and worked-up to be able to make a call on whether we are hearing the voice of reason or simply listening to the voice of our fears. In these instances, you can wait for the emotions and stress to die down.
There is an ancient saying from Daoist Master Lao Tzu that relates perfectly to this situation: “Wait until the mud settles and the water becomes clear.”
At its core, the issue may be about patience — it’s not yet time to make this decision.
Words of wisdom from Tao Te Ching
Do you have the patience to wait till the mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?
The Master doesn’t seek fulfilment,
But not seeking, not expecting, is present, and can welcome all things.
It’s your journey
It takes courage to make choices and decisions in your life, as no one else can do this job — only you can say what’s right for you. By the same token, we all make mistakes and wrong choices, but you can choose to see these as learning opportunities.
It’s not always about which path you take; maybe it’s more about the process of taking your next step forward.