I watched someone stressing out to the point of being frozen because he couldn’t decide what expert to choose. He felt that this had to be the right decision or he’d ….. I didn’t know – something terrible would be the result of any mistake on his part.
I never knew how his decision went, but do know from personal experience that whatever choice he made under stress was likely to be the wrong one, except by accident. I know this, partly because I’ve been there, and partly because of science: when we’re stressing, we simply can’t think well. Our stress-response system is wired to shut down any and all systems that might get in the way of either fighting or fleeing, and making decisions that don’t involve the immediate moment’s emergency is one of those functions that could get in the way.
The only way to decide between alternatives is when we’re calm and relaxed, when we’re open to the information we need to choose wisely, and flexible enough to add or subtract from that choice when needed.
Experts in stress and mindfulness suggest that we get stressed because we expect or anticipate a certain result that will hurt us. For instance, referring to my story of the person who froze in indecision, he may have believed that anything less than the perfect choice will lead to a disaster in his life. More realistically, if he’d been in a better state of mind, he might have been able to weigh the pros and cons of each expert, come up with a backup plan if his choice ended up not going as well as he desired, and then choose.
Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be (Wayne Dyer). Whenever we lose focus on what actually is in front of us, and wander into what might be (usually worst case scenarios) we lose our peace of mind. (Marie Forleo has some tips. For her tips, view this.)
Here’s a 4-step process that might help you negotiate your next important decision
- What does your gut say? What we “know” is what we feel in our gut, not what we think. Thinking is something we do when we don’t really know. Gut knowing isn’t verbal, it’s felt – a heaviness, or lightness; a slight nausea or fluttering. When you consider a particular alternative, does your gut lighten or grow heavy in some way?
- Consider the pros and cons. If both alternatives leave you feeling about the same, then maybe you need to back off for a few days, if you can, and then revisit it. Then consider the worst case and best case – realistically – of both alternatives. How realistic are both? And if each happened, how would you deal with it, and could you deal with it? Then look at the next worst and best case scenarios in the same manner – how probable are they of occurring? How would you deal with them?
- Try it out. If it’s possible, limit the time and effort you need to try it out. And when you do, have criteria to determine how successful the trial was.
- Review your learnings and try again. Yes, this step always happens, because no matter how successful your decision was, there is always a next step. Even if the venture was a total seeming “failure”, if you come away with lessons that help you next time, it isn’t really a failure at all. This may seem “polyanna” to some, but it isn’t – it’s the way we learn and grow in everything we do.
Coming back to my friend who couldn’t decide between experts, this is what he might do: First, check in with himself to see how each expert, after meeting them, makes him feel – somewhat relieved? Somewhat agitated? Nothing at all? I’m not talking about credentials, or experience, or anything else other than his gut knowing.
Then, if still not sure, he might ask himself how bad it could get with the wrong expert: Would he end up hurting himself? Or simply waste some time? Or how good it might be: speedy results? Ending up on a trajectory he never expected and isn’t prepared for? Is he prepared to deal with any of these – which ones “Yes” and which “No”?
Then, having decided tentatively on one, try him or her out, with an understanding between him and the expert that this is a trial – what criteria is he going to use to determine how it went? A sense of well-being? Hopefulness? Increased revenue? Finally, what next – no matter the outcome? Because there’s always that question at the end of a process.
Isn’t life wonderful!
Eagles – Take it Easy
Quote of the Week
If you want peace, stop fighting. If you want peace of mind, stop fighting with your thoughts. – Peter McWilliams
At times we need more – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my websitewww.thejoyofliving.co/programs or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org