Be a Better Decision-Maker
Move to a less expensive town, or stay in the pricey big city?
Quit my job to do something I love, or stick it out for a few more years?
Get married, or keep our relationship as it is?
Life is full of big decisions like these. There are also many more, smaller choices that you’ll need to make, of course—from what kind of car to drive to what to eat for breakfast. And then there are other, broader questions that can really give us pause: How will I better spend my time to add meaning to my life? What will I do to feel happier and healthier?
“Oftentimes, guests at Canyon Ranch will come to me and say, ‘I’m having a hard time making a decision,’ and that’s why they’re interested in having a spiritual session to begin with,” says Stephanie Ludwig, PhD, MA, MDiv, Director of Spiritual Wellness at Canyon Ranch® Tucson, who goes on to say that for on-the fence types, fear is typically at the root of indecision.
“They may think, ‘If I go down this road, what is my life going to look like? Am I going to make a mistake?’” She adds that this can also relate to a fear of commitment—the fact that choosing one thing precludes other options.
Lessening those fears and feeling confident in any decision comes with a balance between mind and spirit. If you’re determined to make an educated decision—one based solely on logic—you can get overwhelmed by facts, research and pro/con lists, ultimately resulting in you doing nothing (otherwise known as “analysis paralysis”).
While our logical, practical left brain does have its place, “we shouldn’t forget the importance of the right side, which is more connected with our spirituality and emotions,” Ludwig says. “When you depend on the rational mind alone, you’re neglecting your intuition.”
But trusting your intuition doesn’t come easily to everyone. If you hesitate to go with your gut, Ludwig recommends adopting a spiritual practice that helps you cultivate that trust, such as a creative endeavor (working on your photo albums, taking an art class), meditation or prayer.
“Take some time in the stillness of your practice to let go of distractions and really listen to your inner voice,” she suggests. What you hear may not align with what logic tells you, or with the research you’ve done about the “best” course of action, but it will likely point you back to what is really of value to you.
Another approach to better decision-making that Ludwig encourages is seeing your choice—whatever it is—as less about right or wrong, or black or white, but as part of a continuum. After all, there’s no crystal ball to gaze into; no one knows how things will actually play out. The job you’re afraid will mean 60-hour weeks could be the most creative, interesting work you’ve ever done; or the relationship you thought was rock solid might feel a little shaky once you’re sharing the same home.
“When we’re just focused on having our agenda met, we tend to feel more disappointed with some decisions we make,” says Ludwig. “Whereas, if we can look at decision-making as a journey or a process, rather than just outcome-based (I will get these things if I choose this), we can be happier.”
Additionally, Ludwig says “it’s always good to ask yourself, what is my intention? Then it’s not as hard to get pulled off-track.” So if your larger intention in life is, say, to live in a way that allows you enough time and energy to take care of yourself, and a new job means you’ll be working an extra 20 hours a week, that may not be the ideal choice.
“People often forget to set an intention, but that’s a big part of making good decisions. What could be a good choice for someone else, may not be for you,” she says. “If a decision is not really aligned with your personal intention, what you need, then it’s probably not a good one.”
Ultimately, Ludwig believes, asking for guidance from God or Spirit helps surface the best decision. “It’s common for people to look for a sign or validation that the choice they’re making is right, or that they’re on the right track,” Ludwig says.
“You can ask for help by saying, ‘I’m not exactly sure what’s right, but I want to be open to that which is larger to help guide me, and I’m open to any signs that might be there.’ It’s as simple as that.” Then, she says, pay attention, and be patient, for a sign. Or, you may just need to talk things out with a friend and voice how you feel, which can provide some clarity.
It’s also worth emphasizing that what seems like a wrong decision at the time may not turn out to be so. “There could be a hidden gift in it,” Ludwig notes. “It’s like taking the wrong exit off the highway but then finding out that you avoided an accident, or volunteering for a difficult project at work but making a friend during the process. Life is a lot like that, and it reminds us that we’re not always in control,” she adds.
A good sign that a decision is right? If you simply feel happy, says Ludwig. “Even if it doesn’t seem to be the best on paper—there’s just something about it that feels right.”