I love to read and learn more about how the brain and our bodies work. You may call me a research nerd or anatomy geek. I know there are others of you out there! Each month I am going to share some of this here on the blog along with how I am integrating it into my practice and my life.
I was recently reading the book, Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath. I am a big fan of the brothers Heath and their blend of readable research and real life application. I am in the middle of redesigning my website and it is a lot like remodeling a house. There are so many decisions to make--colors to choose, designs to approve or tweak and the big question . . . will I be happy with the results when I am all done?
When I can't make a decision or I flip flop on the choices, it takes more time and leaves me less confident about the decisions I've made along the way. This is only building a website. Translate that pattern of thinking to real life. We all make bad decisions from time to time--the Heath brothers site a study showing that top CEOs are sometimes more likely to make bad decisions than the average teenager--and we all have moments when we struggle with moving forward. How can we be more confident and realistic in our decisions? How can we do this better?
The book is well worth the full read, but here are some things I took away from it and am already integrating:
1. Give yourself more than one choice.
We often are stuck between an either/or when there are many more possibilities. When I first started the design process for my website, I thought I knew what I wanted, just like you may make a "must have" list when shopping for a house, a car or a new wardrobe. But I didn't really have a clear picture of the details. I would look at a design I was sent and think that I had to either approve or discard it. So in one conversation we looked at about 12 different designs and talked about what worked or didn't in each one and we came up with something brand new that I feel happy with.
2. Take the blinders off and hear other points of view.
My web designer is really good at this. I'll say I want something and she will educate me on why that may or may not be a good idea. I've learned a lot about the effects of my choices before I even put them into action though this process and it has helped me clarify what I really want. We want people in our lives that support us, but not people who only say yes to everything we suggest.
3. When others ask you for advice, follow the tips above.
A yes or no question often leads to either debate or agreement. When students or friends ask me for advice and it starts with a "should I do", I ask an open-ended follow up question. What else have you considered? What would be the advantage or disadvantage of choosing something different? I find that it takes me out of the equation and helps them find the answer they can be happy with.
4. Develop your own inner guidance.
The mind gets stuck in its ways of thinking. In yoga, we call this samskaras--falling into the grooves of old habits. When we allow ourselves to consider a variety of fresh ideas, we begin to discern what is right for us. This is our intuition guiding us.
After my conversation with the designer I went on the internet for inspiration for a photoshoot. There was a lot out there that wasn't me and I could pick it out right away without necessarily being able to explain why. Slowly, through the process of exploring and refining, a thread began to emerge of what I was looking for. When I look at my life I find a similar pattern.
There is no real rational reason for many of the choices I have made and many of the most heart opening decisions have seemed crazy to my rational mind. But through it all there is a thread of guidance that leads me on to the best choice for me.
I can't say that now I will make perfect decisions or even that I will always have a clue what to do, but I feel like I know which way to go when I am waffling or stuck. My biggest suggestion if you want to feel more confident in your decisions is to try practicing with small things. We are constantly making daily decisions that shape our lives. If they aren't supporting you, ask what would. Create some daily practices that take you out of your patterns of thinking and allow you to see with fresh eyes all the possibilities that are within you.