We are making them all the time, whether we realize it or not. Even the decision to NOT make a decision is a decision! When we are faced with big decisions, we can oftentimes feel 'constipated' by the sheer number of options available to us, and each option that we 'leave on the table' invites the prospect of later regretting the decision that we DID make. Barry Schwartz talks about this in his amazing TED Talk, 'The Paradox of Choice,'and argues for a new way of processing information and making wise decisions. He argues that LESS choice is actually more freeing, and that by limiting the number of options we have, we can make sounder and more peaceful decisions.
Example: Is it easier to pick a bathroom cleaner if you have three to choose from or thirty-three? Is it easier to find a new partner if you have a handful to choose from (your sports club, church, hobby groups) or if you have 10,000 potential partners in your area that your online dating app presents you?
The fact is, big decisions require a lot of thought, and the bigger the decision, the more people we seek out to counsel us. While this can be helpful and necessary, it can also present us with the challenges of meeting others' expectations, not wanting to disappoint etc. One way that we can 'ask' other people is to take a look at our next decision through the lenses of our 'inner family.' Let me introduce them now:
Character One is your GUT INSTINCT. We often have a voice on the inside of us that instinctively knows what to do, one that knows what‘s important and how to convert potential into reality. This is usually the character that chimes in first when we are presented with new decisions. What is your gut instinct telling you to do?
Character Two is your inner critic. This is the voice that pops up and tells us how stupid/overly optimistic/doomed to fail our new decision is going to be. What is your critic saying about your upcoming decision?
Character Three is you at 85 years old. He/she is looking back from the end of life and remembering the decision that was made. What will he/she say about the path that you are about to take? Will he/she be proud of you for stepping out into unknown territory or will he/she regret that the chance was left untouched?
Character Four is your inner policeman. This is the voice that warns you of potential dangers and risks associated with your decision. What is endangered by making that next decision and what is the policeman telling you about how to avoid getting hurt?
Character Five is the Cheerleader! This voice is enticing you with the things that you stand to GAIN by trusting yourself and taking a chance. This is the voice that wants you to leave a legacy, make a mark, take a stand! What encouragement is this voice giving you to just go for it?
Exercise: Take a few minutes to 'interview' each of these characters and ask them about the upcoming decision you have to make. After you have gathered several arguments from each of the characters, take just a little bit more time to sort out all of their input.
These five 'family members' are there to give you a more comprehensive view of an upcoming decision, but just as we tend to listen to some people in our lives more than others, it's possible that one of these 'family members' tends to dominate the inner conversation. For example, many people have trouble putting the Inner Critic in his/her place. The voice is so loud and starts to drown out even the Cheerleader! In this case, it can be helpful to analyze the arguments that the critic is making for their level of truth. This can help you to 'turn down the volume' and start focusing your attention on your gut instincts that may be telling you to take that chance!
Making decisions, especially really big ones that will affect our futures in a major way, are always going to be tricky, but by inviting 'the family' to weigh in and by giving them all their chance to speak, you may find that the decision is just a bit easier to make. If you need help with this process, feel free to get in touch with me and we'll have those conversations together!
The Link to my Livesession: Family Conference
Interesting TED-Talk: The Paradox of Choice: https://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_the_paradox_of_choice?language=en