35,000. That’s how many conscious decisions we make, on average, every day.
While relying on facts and data helps make the best ones, there are times when we must forgo conventional wisdom, ignore the obvious, and rely on something much more intangible and immeasurable.
These 3 strategies influence decision-making.
In my life, I have make my fair share of hard decisions:
Do I stay home in a cozy medieval town in Slovenia, or accept an invitation to move to New York City to play NCAA D-1 basketball? Do I return to play pro, or start a new life with my husband?
Do I look for another job or start a business now that I was let go of just as we found out we are expecting a baby, and have a brand new mortgage?
Do I dissolve this successful business and start over in something that is more aligned, fulfilling, and will allow me to heal from burnout?
Each of these scenarios is different, yet they all have something in common: neither one could be made solely based on quantifiable data alone.
Leaders who are working hard to meet the expectations of their clients, shouldering the weight of responsibilities towards their teams and organizations while trying to keep shareholders happy, know this well too well. Especially when added to the mix are also the commitments towards their families, and expectations of the society.
Over the years, I have learned, refined, and developed several strategies and tools that I not only utilize on a daily basis, but I also teach them to my clients (who are some of the most remarkable thought leaders) as well as to my daughters.
Today, let’s look into three that I turn to when making emotionally-challenging choices.
STRATEGY #1: FUTURE PACING
In short, future pacing means deciding from the space of where we want to be instead of our current circumstances. This is one of the most powerful ways to help minimize doubt, fear, and other lower-vibrational emotions that oftentimes stand in our way and could potentially cloud our judgement.
- With your eyes closed, imagine yourself in time when the things you are deciding on are already done. When the goals you have, have already been accomplished.
- Imagine yourself looking around, notice your environment. Notice how you feel. What do you know? Who have you become? What would this version of you do, how would they decide?
- From this space of clarity and calmness, you can now make better decisions with greater confidence, and reverse-engineer the strategic and tactical plans to help you get there.
Now, this exercise will also help bring to the surface fears, concerns, and resistance you might not have been aware of. Notice them, and give yourself an opportunity to examine and process each one of them with a neutral mind.
For example, one of the most common concerns my clients express when we are working on realizing their big goals and dreams, is that doing so would somehow crush their capacity to hold it all. That they would run out of energy to sustain it, will burn out, and lose it all. That the money and time will run out. And also – that it is all too easy, so clearly, they are doing something wrong, not working hard enough.
Not only can future-pacing help visualize the version of the future you get to design, it can also put your mind at ease because it allows you to see how all the current worries, responsibilities, and heaviness of all the disconnects no longer exist; all that no longer belong and support you can be released to make space for that which is that you are working towards, calling in, deciding on. And remember – that which is in alignment, which is your truth, also feels lighter.
STRATEGY #2: TRUST
Just like pretty much anything else, trust is complex and multi-layered. Regardless, it can be summoned on demand; we either choose to trust, or we don’t.
I was dancing this tango for a while when working with one of my mentors. On one hand, I knew it in my heart that the vision I was holding would come true. That everything that was coming my way, and that I was supported on my journey. And, that I simply got to trust the process.
On the other hand, I kept doubting myself. Was I working hard enough to “deserve” it? What was I doing wrong? Why wasn’t I there yet? I would chant various mantras on how I am totally surrendered to the flow and in the same breath, try to negotiate terms with the Universe.
We instinctively place our trust into the future based on our past experiences; we either remind ourselves, or are reminded by others, of all the mistakes, all the missteps, shortcomings, and failures. The antidote is therefore in visualization and future-pacing.
Whether it’s trusting on an intellectual or spiritual level, the choice is always ours; we get to do the work required to heal, to forgive, to transmute and transcend the doubts.
And just a side-note: at times when we do forget to trust ourselves, and to believe, it’s powerful to lean on the people around us who believe in us. Who hold space for us. And whose courage we can lean on until we (re)build our own. This is the reason why I, in addition to having amazing family and friends, choose to always surround myself with mentors and coaches and teachers who see me in a different light, who hold me to higher energy.
STRATEGY #3: LEAN INTO FEAR
“Fear is hollow on the inside, and non-existing on the outside!” is a rough translation of what my grandmother used to tell me to help me overcome some of my fears. Polar opposite to her fierceness was my grandfather’s tendency to foresee all the worst possible scenarios.
As leaders, we must be able and willing to evaluate all possibilities. Because fear can keep us paralized from making decisions, we can choose to lean into it, to simply move through it. Can you give yourself permission to explore the worst possible scenarios?
This is how I play with this:
- What is the worst possible thing that can happen? Awesome, I love knowing this!
- What is the worst thing that could come out of it? Fantastic! And then?
- With worst case scenarios out of the way, what do I choose to focus on now?
Unless we are willing to peel back, feel into, and examine all of these layers, and see for ourselves that most of our thoughts have simply snowballed out of perceived fear, our mind will have us believe otherwise.
It’s not our mind that controls us – we are in command of our mind, so let’s alchemize these disempowering energies into the energy of trust, knowing.
I often hear from people how they really wanted to make something happen, but challenges kept coming up; they wanted to devote a whole, uninterrupted day to writing but one of their kids didn’t feel well and stayed home; they needed to hire more people in order to fulfill the demands, but didn’t have the cashflow to grow; they needed to fly to a meeting that might change the trajectory of their lives, but flight got cancelled; they wanted to move but now a new opportunity came up to make it compelling to stay.
It would be easy to perceive these as clear signs to stop, to quit, right? Perhaps it simply wasn’t meant to be…
What if we gave ourselves permission to see resistance and unpredictable challenges simply as a test of our commitment? To see just how serious we are about what we said we wanted? To explore better ways, adopt a different attitude?
What if the resistance is unrelated to the goal we are working towards, nor the path we’re taking, but instead linked to our beliefs and perceptions around is waiting on the other side?
Instincts versus intuition
Last but not least, I want to mention the quote that inspired this whole piece: “Sometimes, all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage. Just literally 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”
Let’s make a distinction between instincts and intuition.
Instincts are designed to keep us alive. Instincts would prefer you to stay under a warm, fuzzy blanket under a glass dome, and probably not move anywhere out of your comfort zone, because it could be dangerous. In the decision-making process, instincts are what keeps us stagnant.
Intuition, on the other hand, is kind of a whisper of your heart, whisper of your soul. Sometimes it’s felt in our belly. Sometimes, in our heart. Hearing it requires us to quiet our mind. Not only that, we only have a few seconds before our protective, reasoning minds kick in! So, pay attention.