Welcome to our very first Ask Lynn! This week's question comes from Desiree. She asks:
I seem to find myself constantly caught in indecision, concerning everything from what new laptop to buy to what career path to follow. It's as if I don't trust myself to make the "right" decision. I hate letting fear guide me, but what do I do? How do I regain my confidence after making some very bad decisions?
First things first, you made an excellent decision to ask these questions—brava!
Here's the good news: very few decisions are bad.
Yes, you have atypical decisions. You have decisions that can cause a lot of pain in the moment. You have decisions that are embarrassing, or shameful, or piss off your family, or any other number of less-than-desirable consequences. But in the end, each decision is simply a precursor to the next thing.
Here's more good news: most "bad" decisions can be fixed with a new, "better" decision.
At any point in time, you have the power to make a new choice that totally changes your current situation. Whether that choice is small, like daring to wear red lipstick instead of pink, or large, like quitting your job and moving to Fiji, the choice is yours.
So how do you learn (or relearn) to trust your own judgment?
1. Forgive yourself
So you made a decision that ultimately sucked. You, however, do not suck.
When you release the self-judgment, you can then move forward in making a new, awesome decision.
To release self-judgment, I personally turn to ho'oponopono, a forgiveness method rooted in Native Hawaiian culture. Ho'oponopono works with all manner of things and follows the following basic order:
- I forgive you for ...
- I'm sorry for ...
- Thank you for ...
- And I love you
This order first recognizes that some thing sucks, then allows you to take responsibility for your part in it. You follow up with gratitude for the lesson learned, and wrap it up with that ultimate transmutative power, love.
2. Look at your past decisions as learning opportunities
Ask yourself, "What made this decision a bad one?"
If you can identify what part of the previous decision wasn't right for you, then you can avoid that aspect in the future. Which leads us to ...
3. Start small going in a new direction
Think of it like a hypothesis: you have an idea of what wasn't working in your life before, and now you must test that idea.
Each small action you take in the new direction builds up your confidence and informs your next decision. Which leads us to ...
4. Listen to yourself and course-correct when necessary
Your body is a powerful discernment tool when it comes to making decisions. If something feels icky, there's a chance it's not the right thing for you. And if it feels wonderful? It just might be the best thing for you.
Before taking each small action, ask yourself, "How does this feel?"
If it feels good—and scared-but-good counts—go for it.
If it feels slimy, or trapping, or, as Martha Beck likes to say, "shackles on," take a beat. Pause and figure out what feels wrong, then use that information to make the necessary adjustments.
As you constantly make small decisions, note the feedback, and listen to yourself, your confidence in your own judgment steadily builds. Little by little, you wiggle free from that feeling of stuck-ness, and eventually, you're dropping $50K on an around-the-world ticket, no sweat. (If that's what you want to do, of course.)
In the end, you break the cycle of indecision by taking action. Sometimes, you just have to get out there, take a chance, and know that you can handle the results—even if they suck.
If you're still spinning your wheels, I recommend the Emotional Freedom Technique, also known as EFT or tapping. Rooted in acupuncture, EFT uses a series of meridian points to release the pent-up, stuck emotions that unconsciously hold us back. Brad Yates, a top EFT instructor, has a wonderful video on clearing fear:
Thanks for writing in, Desiree! I look forward to seeing the results of the amazing decisions you're getting ready to make!
- ChrisGuillebeau.com: "How to Make Decisions"
- Steering by Starlight: The Science and Magic of Finding Your Destiny, Martha Beck (aff)
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