Wednesday, March 20, 2013

5 Things To Do When Making a Big Decision

When it comes to making a big decision, I take my time. I always want to go where my gut points me, but since my gut doesn't always communicate clearly (no Mexican food jokes, please) I can't decide right away. I have to take days, even weeks to think it out, talk it out, and sometimes put it aside. And then the moment will arrive: my gut instinct will kick in, and the decision will just come to me. This happened to me when I decided to break up with my college boyfriend (the one before my husband, if you happen to know we met in college). It was in the back of my mind for weeks, and then one day I was closing my flute locker (yes, I had a flute locker) and I just knew I was going to break up with him. And I did. And because I was so certain, I didn't even feel bad about it. (He was definitely not the right guy for me, though I'm sure he is/will be for someone else.) It's been 13 years and I still remember that exact moment of truth.

Here are some tips for things to do when making a big decision:

1. Talk about it a lot, with many different people. 
Talk about it with people affected by the decision and people who aren't. Have long discussions about it, even if much of what you discuss has been said before. Sometimes it takes several times hearing the same thing for it to truly sink in. And it's often at the end of a roundabout conversation that the gut feeling kicks in.

2. Write it down.
Depending on the type of decision to be made, some or all of these may work: journaling; making a list of pros and cons; mind-mapping (or "bubbling"); free association; stream-of-consciousness.

3. Do something physical.
It doesn't have to be exercise, though that works for me. It just has to be something repetitive and mind-clearing. You need to be able to get into a "zone" where your mind separates from your body. Then your thoughts will start to re-arrange themselves, and you'll find clarity.
Do something artistic.
Play an instrument; draw; do needlepoint. These serve the same purpose as doing something physical: getting you in a zone.

4. Take care of yourself.
Eat healthily. Take your vitamins. Get lots of rest. If you get sick, you're going to be focused on how you can't breathe out of your nose, not the decision to be made.

5. Occasionally, forget about it. 
Take a day off from thinking about it! This is probably the hardest thing to do, but it's worth it. Just like the "shower principle," it's when you stop thinking about something that clarity comes.

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