9-Step Strategy to Make a Decision
By Tamara Lechner
It’s no secret that adulting is harder than you thought it would be when you were growing up. Children assume adults have all the answers. As a kid, this leads you to draw the conclusion that when you grow up you will automatically have them all, too.
You may have been educated into believing that you don’t know yourself best. This begins in school when you are taught to listen to the rules rather than your own internal guidance system. You can no longer eat when you are hungry, move when you feel fidgety, or rest when you feel tired. In following the schedule designed for you, you begin to believe—because it is implied—that your teachers know what is best for you.
Sure, you might want to color the sky green, but when you are told that the sky is supposed to be blue, you think that your impulse to use green was wrong. Eventually, you begin to subtly believe that you don’t know what is best for yourself. And this tiny shimmer of self-doubt grows as your coaches, parents, and peers point out that your music, clothes, sleep schedule, and food choices aren’t good choices for you. By the time you are college-aged, it’s amazing that you can make any choices at all.
Finding answers becomes a process of looking outside yourself for advice from experts who can offer experience and an educated opinion. It can also be about making pro/con lists. After you have gathered all the information you need, you frequently find yourself stuck in analysis paralysis—that place where rather than making a choice, you want to keep getting opinions from others. It seems you have lost the ability to trust yourself.
Here’s a simple guide to reconnect with your self-trust, keeping in mind that nobody has your answers except you.
Listen to Your Body
Your body sends you signals of what is good for you and what isn’t. Practice hearing them. Sleep when you feel tired, eat a reasonably sized portion of healthy food when you are hungry, and move when your body needs to move. Be mindful of what your body wants.
HALT…Hungry. Angry. Lonely. Tired. I realized early on in sobriety that being in HALT explained a lot of unhealthy thoughts and actions I had. So when I flipped you off on the freeway or vomited out hurtful words that were supposed to remain in my head, I had better get a bite to eat or take a time-out. Today I strive to stay out of HALT by practicing self-care prior to getting to that stage.
Meditation allows you to tap into the inner wisdom you were born with. Like any muscle, the more you flex it, the more comfortable it becomes with being used. Listen to these guided meditations (http://www.chopra.com/articles/guided-meditations#sm.00075k7e71eb0fe7rd51mmcjg2a5w) to get you started.
Don’t Buy Into the Panic
When a decision feels rushed, your brain sends out chemicals that signify it is in a state of alarm. These chemicals actually turn off the brain’s ability to process. This was great when our big urgency was that a dinosaur was about to eat us, but choosing who to date, what to study, or where to live shouldn’t create that same panic. Take slow breaths or if time allows, a quick little walk. Allow your body to return to a more balanced state.
The alcoholic in me wants to check it off my “to do” list NOW! The newly-found spiritual person in me says to stay in the moment, be mindful, get back centered and right-sized. Being mindful of the perfect moment in front of my nose gets me back to being grateful and humble. It brings me back in touch with the greatest gift I’ve been given in sobriety, a Power Greater Than Myself, over to whom I can turn my will and my life.
I can remember that I am not in control. That my god is in the driver’s seat and I am just along for the ride (a magic carpet ride of a lifetime!) to learn and experience what is meant for me right now. Ssshhhh! Quiet my head… Remember, Dee, everything happens for a reason. There are no coincidences. You’ll miss it if your brain is all over the planet.
When confusion happens, instead of deciding not to decide, experience and embrace your uncertainty. Repeat your choices slowly as many as six or seven times. The time and the process of repeating the options will allow an unfolding of what you want.
And once I embrace the confusion or some negativity that has entered (or I have allowed to enter) my life, I thank it for coming and then ask it to leave. In my perhaps imaginary head I can imagine the confusion or negativity being whisked off into the clouds…softly…gently.
I am in that mindful present moment with my Higher Power remembering gratefully that I am not in control and when the student is ready, the master appears, as shall the answers.
Flip a Coin
Heads is one choice, tails is the other. Usually as you flip it, you will root for heads or tails. This quick process allows you to access information at such a quick speed that there is no time to process, just to listen to your gut. This is called quick logic, and it gets you out of your processing and directly to the answer.
I’ll use this method to decide who will go first in a game. Or Eeny-Meeny-Miny-Moe. Maybe even Rock-Paper-Scissors. But for decisions with a bit more weight, I’ll use my God Box, patience and faith.
The more comfortable you are in your own skin, the easier it is to make choices that align with who you are. Being a student of how your body works (https://store.chopra.com/dosha-quiz), and what your core values are can help.
This is a gift I’ve been given by getting sober, allowing a Power Greater Than Myself to guide me through life, and by working the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous with a person I trust. I have learned that most of my life had been driven by fear. Most of it I do not understand as it makes no sense to me. However, by learning today to live through my feelings and not my thinking, I no longer have to, nor wish to, expend unnecessary energy on the reasons.
By learning to live without fear and with the faith that a Higher Power has my back, I have grown to become more comfortable in my own skin. The person who looked in the mirror and called herself a loser while in active addiction has finally accepted who and what she is, with all her gifts…and flaws. And by staying in the present moment, learning and growing and becoming a better human being because of my past, and having no fear, but faith, regarding the future…all is perfect. I am perfect!
Remember a time when you made a hard choice successfully. The stories you tell yourself about your ability to make successful choices will either buoy you up or weigh you down in future choices.
I’m getting older by the minute (and let me add, I wouldn’t go back a second from this content state of being I’m in now!). It’s taking a lot more energy to accomplish things the older I get. So today I choose to expend all my energy in a positive direction. When I have a hard choice, I’ve embraced it, thanked it for coming, and given it to my Higher Power, I know I still have to do the foot work. I need to get it done, cross it off my list, and move forward.
I have a 50-50 chance that it will go my way. If it doesn’t, learn, embrace, let go and move forward. I can’t afford nor choose to have anything weigh me down. It does not serve me. I’ll be fine. I’ll be a better person when I can move forward.
Take a Musical Interlude
Spending a moment blasting your favorite rock n’ roll ballad or listening to a peaceful song takes you to a different part of your brain. When the song finishes, it’s almost like gaining a fresh perspective.
Aaahhh, Grasshopper. Such a true statement. I have bunched my favorite songs together on my computer, phone, and other electronic devices so that at a push of a button, I am a new person. My body moves. My blood flows. I’m in my happy place. And when I sing, I breathe. Sometimes unknowingly I am not breathing. Go figure.
Give yourself a vacation from decisions. If you can wait until tomorrow, sleeping on it allows your brain a little respite from the work of decision-making. It’s amazing that your brain continues to work on integrating information to help with choices while you sleep. You just might discover that the answer is more obvious after a good night of rest.
I love being married no a “normie” (doesn’t have a problem with alcohol or drugs). He has chosen to not attend, learn about, have anything to do with any support groups, such as Al Anon. However, he has witnessed me living a life of sobriety, having relapses, working with others, doing homework, reading, etc. And he has picked up on so much of the spiritual way I strive to live. And I love it when he makes fun of me on that path I have chosen. We have good fun.
When I have a decision to make and it’s too late to call my sponsor, he suggests that I sleep on it. Huh? I want to get this done NOW! So I sleep on it and awaken with the answer as clear as day. These crazy kind of things happen to me a lot and I can’t explain it. It makes no sense. Like having the obsession to drink and drug removed one morning when I walked out to the patio. So bizarre! (And thank you, God!)
Life is full of seemingly impossible decisions. In the present, they can seem like obstacles to overcome, but your choices define not only who you are, but also how you want to spend your time. Have gratitude that you have the freedom to choose, and know that no matter how your decision unfolds, you have made the right choice for you in that moment.
As Anne Frank said, “Our lives are fashioned by our choices. First we make our choices. Then our choices make us.”
My life has been altered by my being an alcoholic. In 1998 I did not have choices. I HAD DO DRINK. I had to drink everyday. My life revolved about drinking. Today my journey has brought me to a calm and beautiful life where I do have choices. Today I do NOT have to drink. I can if I want. But I respect the disease of alcoholism enough to know that ONE IS NEVER ENOUGH. I’ve tried it. The first drink caused my brain to yell “MORE!”
Treatment programs and, more importantly, Alcoholics Anonymous (for whom I do not work nor represent, but am a true believer that this program works…for me) has given me a life beyond my wildest dreams. I have contentment that I never even wanted, but I got it anyway. I feel good in my skin and love myself for who and what I am. I make positive choices and practice self-care.
Dang! It’s all such common sense yet I had to go through various chapters in my life to bring me to this page of my book. I encourage you to find this place of gratitude and serenity in your life whether you struggle with substance abuse, physical and mental abuse, depression, or just life itself. It’s not easy but you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be!
Embrace your journey. Make positive choices. Know that you are not unique and are not to blame or be guilt-ridden. Together we can all find peace in this crazy world we live in and share our unique gifts with others in need. Today I have a purpose and that is to share my Experience, Strength and Hope with all who enter my Dee Bubble.
I’m glad you made it! And thank you for reading. I encourage any comments, concerns or feedback on anything. I live a rigorously honest life today, but I’m gentle and compassionate.
With warmest aloha, Dee Harris
For those interested in Art with a Message of Hope and Inspiration, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com. Mahalo and enjoy!
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About the Author
Tamara Lechner (/bios/tamara-lechner) Certified Instructor: Meditation
Tamara Lechner is a happiness expert and Chopra-Certified Primordial Sound Meditation (/articles/what- is-primordial-sound-meditation) Instructor. Her mission is to be so happy that those around her cannot help but step into her light. She enjoys writing, speaking, and teaching about how a positive mindset affects business, relationships, health, and life satisfaction. Tamara is often found throwing epic parties or walking barefoot in the sand. Join her on The Happiness Trajectory (http://www.ahamoments4u.com/free-online–the-happiness-trajectory.html), a free online mindset reboot, or find out more about her at… Read more (/bios/tamara-lechner)
The Chopra Center 3/28/17