Decision making can be elusive, especially when we face challenges or forks in the road of life. Technology can also bombard us with images of what life should look like and how we should think, behave, and feel. Emotions can overflow and we are left with jumbled thoughts, conflicting feelings, and an overwhelming sense of uncertainty about the future. Sometimes we become paralyzed at the thought of making decisions. As a psychotherapist, I know how decision making can be anxiety provoking for many. For these reasons, it makes sense to become more conscious about how we make decisions. Maybe you may recognize one or more of these familiar expressions.
Follow your heart.
Make up your mind and stick to it.
Sleep on it.
Listen to your family.
Pray for guidance.
These sayings serve as guideposts and offer some wisdom for those with decision making dilemmas, but ultimately a one sized approach does not fit all.
Ways of Knowing
We all know differently depending on where we have lived, our culture/ ethnicity, how we were raised, the type of education we have, and what our spiritual values look like. For people who believe in a specific religion, there are certain truths embedded in their belief system. These beliefs drive their understanding of the universal laws and how life flows. Faith is a form of knowing that is indeed powerfully influential for many. In addition, past experience also informs our views about people and situations.
For those who are more cerebral, philosophy and the scientific method are other ways of knowing that rely on logic, linear thinking, and scientific proof that something is true. As a doctoral researcher, I have been trained in these ways of knowing and expertly using these processes. However, I also know the limitations of detached logic within my cultural group, spirituality, and in my relationships.
An additional way of knowing is through intuition. This way is often neglected and has real potential for helping us make good decisions. Intuition can lead to enlightenment, an educational awakening of sorts, and can open our minds to choices we never thought possible.
Looking closely at different types of decision making strategies are worth it as we seek to improve how we make choices that profoundly affect our lives. Based on the mind, body, spirit approach, I will describe three types of influences on our decision making processes. The first two, logic andlove, tend to be more widely embraced and understood by many. The third, however, is often overlooked for fear of appearing foolish or irrational. Some of the greatest minds in history have taught us that making decisions through enlightenment, or intuitive understanding, can lead to tremendous growth, broadened perspective, and often the greatest good for all involved.
Logical decision making incorporates an analysis of information and helps us weigh out courses of action and potential consequences. Using logic, we rely on cause and effect relationships to determine possible outcomes and to explain our choices. Thinking logically helps us process information and distance ourselves from the biased influence of others. Logic allows us to clarify our thinking and figure out what makes sense to us. Then again, logic has its limitations. Too much prevents us from focusing on how our decisions may affect others. Being overly logical can also lead to rigidity and a closed mind. At its worst, the extreme use of logic can keep our lives confined to a small box filled with limited problem solving strategies, a lack of ingenuity, and restricted choices.
Love makes us do many things. Love can cause us to marry, divorce, make babies, fight, kill, and even make great sacrifices. While love is a great gift, it can also be a double edged sword in decision making. Using a love-informed approach to decision making can push us to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to a choice, but it can also blind us to the extreme nature of our behavior. Sometimes we put the other person first and ignore our own needs or rights. Sometimes we act in the hope that we can make another person happy or solve their problems. With love in the decision making driver’s seat we can also act from emotions such as fear or naïve fairy tale expectation. These powerful emotions can severely cloud our judgment and make us disregard the potential risks and consequences of our actions. However, love that is mature and grounded can help us commit to decisions with ease, and can help us overcome challenges and obstacles that help to heal and lift others up. Successful decisions made from love can inspire others to fight for the rights of others.
Ah, the glorious revelation from Heaven where information appears in a flash and gives us life changing visions of possibilities previously not considered! Enlightenment comes from the world of spirit and works through the means of intuition. Dreams, meditation, visions, random thoughts, bodily sensations—especially gut feelings, prayer, artistic inspiration, and the like can open us up to sudden realizations that provide direct information we can use to inform our choices. Intuitive insights seem to pop up spontaneously and send a lightning bolt of awakening directly into the soul. With enlightenment, a situation can suddenly be clarified and our outlook transformed.
Intuitive information is often sent in mysterious ways to help us get our lives on track. Like Moses on the mountaintop, we get a glimpse of something beyond this world and wake up to new visions of the future. Acknowledging intuitive guidance can make a world of difference. For example, in the book When Heaven Touches Earth, I write about several dreams that impacted me while I was completing my doctorate. My mentor, who was helping me with my research, passed away before it was complete. It was a challenging time for me, but I altered my perspective and course of action after dreaming about her. In the dream, she kissed me on the cheek and let me know she could see everything I was doing. I awoke with a big smile and an intense feeling of love, knowing that she was cheering me on from another place and time.
Embracing this newfound confidence and source of information, I melted the fear that prevented me from continuing my research. I chose to proceed with the spirit of my mentor in my heart, knowing that she believed in me. She visited me in later dreams, encouraging me to fulfil my dream of becoming a writer with the aim of helping others to reach for the stars.
Food for Thought
Even the most rational people including doctors like myself, cannot rely simply on logic to make life decisions. Nor can love, infused with unrealistic and romantic notions, be the only other mechanism for making choices. Without embracing enlightenment, we simply aren’t able to envision the endless possibilities that Creation has to offer. Enlightenment allows us to see the complete picture. We can learn other ways of seeing a situation, new means to reach our goals, and gain fresh perspectives of the people involved in our decisions. I encourage you to open your mind, body and spirit to intuitive awakening in your daily life.