You Already Know the Answer (Decisions Redux)

A while back I wrote about how hard it can be to make decisions. After some further musing on decision making, I’ve come to the realization that most of the time when you’re faced with a choice, you already know the answer. By “the answer,” of course, I mean that you know the choice that will work best for you in this situation. There are often several choices that will be perfectly fine.

At the moment when you’re faced with picking from two or more options, though, you already have the answer within you. You might just need to uncover it.

When a member of a group I’m part of was seeking advice about a fairly major business decision, she detailed her thoughts and feelings about the choice she faced. After some discussion, one of the women spoke up. In her experience, she shared, she found that in making decisions you should always follow your first intuitive impulse, because that’s the one that you’d eventually come back to anyway.

It’s an intriguing idea. See if you can come up with a couple of examples from your own life. Are there times when you sort of knew what you wanted to do, but you went through a whole long logical process before finally settling on what you knew all along? What about when you had an initial longing, but you made a different decision? Did you regret it, or even reverse the decision later?

With some reflection, you can see how your deepest self knew what was best, whether or not you followed its advice.

But how do you know what your first intuitive impulse is, especially if you’re not accustomed to listening to those quiet inner voices?

Here’s a little experiment you can try. When you have a yes or no decision, or you’re considering either of two options, get a coin. Assign one option to “heads” and the other to “tails.” Now flip the coin, and in that moment while it’s twirling through the air, think about which option you’re hoping for. When the coin lands and you uncover the results, pay attention to how you feel. Are you elated? Disappointed? Ready to flip again, two-out-of-three? This will give you an inkling of which decision you really prefer.

Here’s another technique to help you follow your intuition when you’re making choices. This works best when you’re deciding what to do with your time. Say you’re invited to an event, asked to volunteer for a cause, or deciding which project to tackle next. Think about the option in front of you, and feel your way into it.

Do you want to go to the party?

You might get an immediate and enthusiastic “yes!” that you can feel in your body. This could be followed by mental rationalizations, like all the other things you have to do, how you don’t have anything to wear, and so forth. But your intuition has already given you a clue, that “yes!” feeling. It works the other way, too – your first response might be “no, I don’t want to.” This could be followed by guilt or obligation, thinking of reasons why you should go, how it could be a great chance to meet new people, or whatever.

But you don’t really want to go, and that’s okay. Don’t overthink things.

Even the old standby of making a list of pros and cons can illustrate your intuitive first choice. Start to make your list, but pay attention to how you feel about each item you add, and which column you’re drawn to most. The “cons” might make logical sense, but if the “pros” feel amazing, it looks like you have a green light in that direction. Your emotions are your soul’s guidance system, leading the way to choices that are best for you.

Going with what feels best isn’t the advice we usually receive in this culture, but it works. Following your authentic longings won’t lead you astray. When you choose what your inner self already knows is right for you, your life will be much more fun, creative, and fulfilling.

And you won’t have to spend so much time backtracking.

Tell me what you think!