Have you ever had a difficult time making a decision? Perhaps you have rushed into a decision and then regretted it either instantly or months later. Maybe you are so indecisive that decisions simply never get made and you are left feeling stuck in your situation. Maybe you have made decisions that were in direct conflict with your long-term goals or vision for your life. With the countless decisions you have made in your life, have you ever stopped and wondered how these past decisions have impacted the trajectory of your life?
impulsive vs. indecisive
In our busy lives, decisions are made at rapid speed and they are often made without adequate thought and consideration of the consequences. How many times have you made an important decision while multi-tasking or, worse yet, when you were tired, hungry or emotional? I will be writing on more on this topic soon. Suffice to say, I am quite certain that if you have made decisions under these conditions then the results were less than stellar.
On the other hand, your decision-making skills may lean away from impulsive towards indecisive. Wavering minds have a tendency towards uncertainty, anxiety and self-doubt. If you are inclined towards indecisiveness, you probably spend countless hours lost in a barrage of ‘what ‘if’’ thinking that ultimately leaves you feeling anxious, depressed, tired, stuck and hopeless.
No matter which is your dominant decision-making style, chances are, you have made some good decisions in your life and you have made some poor ones as well. Let’s contemplate the circumstances that lead to those good decisions or bad decisions? By exploring your past, you have rich and valuable information for your future.
Below is an exercise that you can use for the purpose of self-discovery. As always, when setting off on a journey, you want to be prepared. This is as true for today’s journey as it would be for setting off on a road trip across the country. Preparation for today’s journey of self-discovery should include setting aside ample time for completing the exercise, being well-rested and comfortable in your setting and being prepared to take notes. To get the most out of this experience, you will also need to set aside time in a few days for reflection on the experience.
Step 1: Start with free writing. Just jot down all those thoughts swirling around your mind, whatever they are. Those ‘things’ that if left unattended will distract you from being present in this moment. Once that list is complete, put it aside knowing that it will be there for you when you are done. Give thanks for the time are you taking for yourself and quiet your mind.
Step 2: Create two lists. One list will consist of the ‘good’ decisions you have made in recent memory. A good decision may have led a good night’s sleep, an awesome date with your spouse, paying off a debt early or saying no to someone or something unsavory. The other list will consist of all those ‘bad’ decisions you have made. Those decisions which moved you out of alignment with your goals. This list may include decisions that catapulted you further into debt or added 10lbs to your waistline or ended a healthy romantic relationship.
Step 3: Review these lists. What immediately comes to mind as you read and re-read them? Jot these intuitive thoughts down. If they do not make sense now, they might later. Remember, as part of your preparation, you are setting aside time to reflect on this experience later this week. Never dismiss your intuition. Do you see patterns of behaviors that repeat themselves overtly or covertly as you reflect and review? Whatever your reaction, it’s important to honor and acknowledge it.
Step 4: Now you are ready to delve into just one experience from each list. Start with whichever list you prefer and remember to take notes! Begin by recalling what was going on at the time you made this particular decision. Were you focused and thoughtful or were you rushed, harried or impulsive? Were you well-rested and clear-minded or were you tired and pushed for time? Did you consult with someone you trusted before making this decision or did you trust only yourself? Did you listen to your intuition or did you ignore it? Were there red flags you chose to ignore? Did you consider how this decision aligned with your long and short-term goals? Were you multi-tasking or daydreaming at the time you made your choice or were you fully present in the moment? Carefully consider these questions as they will provide you with personal insight and a chance for transformation and growth.
Step 5: Now that you’ve recalled this experience, reflect on the end result and consequences of your decision. Were you surprised by the results? Did things happen as you planned? Did you get the result you were hoping for or did you miss the target? What advice could you offer your younger-self about this topic knowing all that you do now? What did you do well in this decision-making process? Has the impact of this decision been less or more than you anticipated? Sometimes the most surprising thing that we learn is that you spend entirely too much time worrying about the wrong thing! Complete this exercise again choosing one event from your other list.
Step 6: Lastly, think about a decision you need to make now or in the near future. How can you apply the information you gleaned from this experience to your current situation? Do you have a new perspective on this situation? Do you have new insight into your decision-making patterns? Do you have a new skill or tool to use that you didn’t before? Is your intuition crying out to be heard or is fear’s voice the loudest? Is there a friend or mentor you can reach out to for advice? Has anything shifted?
sleep and assimilate
Wherever you are at this moment with your pending decision, take time to care for yourself by delaying your choice until you have slept well. Yes, you heard me, sleep first, decide later. Neuroscience and sleep research make it clear that decisions are best made after a good night’s sleep. The simple reason is that during sleep the brain eliminates distractions from the day by filtering out the ‘useless’ information and stimuli you received during the day to make room for the important information to emerge.
Just think of all the colors, sounds, and images you experience as you scroll through social media for a few minutes. Our brains are constantly processing this information and storing it until we sleep when these stimuli can be filtered, filed, or let go. This clearing process, which happens during deep non-REM sleep, allows the important information of the day to come forth. Following a good sleep, you will often have a fresh perspective that biologically could not have existed the previous day.
For more on the importance of quality sleep, I highly recommend the movie “Sleepless in America” by National Geographic and the National Institute of Health. The entire movie is available for free on Youtube or DVD from your local library.
stressed? need help?
One reason why people like you seek the support of a life coach is to learn effective decision-making skills. Poor decision-making skills adds immeasurable stress to your life and ultimately robs you of the peace you deserve. If any of the above scenarios resonate with you, life coaching can help. As your coach, I will come along aside you to offer space, time, fresh perspectives, empowerment trainings, brainstorming exercises and guidance as you determine if your current patterns of thoughts and behaviors are aligning you with your goals or moving you away from your desired outcomes.
Decision-making skills can be learned and re-learned. They are teachable, adaptable and extremely important in your adult life. As a life coach and mental health therapist, I have borne witness to the impact a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ decision has on the trajectory of one’s life countless times.
It is my greatest desire to assist you in making conscious, intentional and healthy choices for your life. Want to know more about the benefits of life coaching, click below. I will be happy to offer you a complimentary first session so that you can experience the power of life coaching first-hand. You can reach me, Carrie C. Mead, by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or at LinkedIn.
Carrie C. Mead, MS
Professional Life Coach
Certified Seasons of Change Coach