I don’t know about you but I have a tendency to overthink things. After a while, having worn through all the options and scenarios I am able invent, I’m no closer to making a decision. Too many choices tend to become like ropes that wrap around each other and become entangled. If there’s one thing I dislike more than not being able to make a decision, it’s having another choice to make during the day. I’m getting to the point of disliking lunchtime – what do I eat today?
So how do you make good decisions? There’s a story about a Hindu sage who was leading morning prayers. Suddenly, in the middle of meditation, he rose and ushered his students away from the monastery. Running around them, he shooed them into life like little ducks, proclaiming, “The day is to be experienced, not understood!”
Life isn’t about making all the right choices. It’s about experiencing every day to its fullest. The only thing worse than making a wrong decision is avoiding making a decision. It’s perfectly fine to make a decision not to take action in a matter. But make that the decision and move on. One of the best practices for making serious decisions is the Ben Franklin method.
- Specifically define what needs to be solved.
- Make a list of all the possible options available – including taking no action at this time.
- Write each option at the top of its own piece of paper.
- Draw a line down the page to separate the right side from the left.
- On the left side, write down all the positive outcomes for choosing that option. On the right side, write all the negative outcomes for choosing that option. Pretend you are advising a friend on the potential outcomes. Try to be objective. Don’t leave out any positives or negatives. Do this for every option.
- You will recognize which options can be eliminated quickly. Set them aside.
- You may feel yourself leaning toward one option, but there’s uneasiness about going that way. You may start to justify why one is a better option, but it still may not “feel” right. What has happened is that your mind is trying to decide based upon what you’ve been conditioned by society or your upbringing to believe is the right thing to do as opposed to the choice your heart is telling you is right for you.
- Invite your heart into the process. Put the reduced list of options on the desk before you. Read all the positives and negatives of each. Listen to your inner guidance. Which option gives you a sense of calmness, confidence, empowerment, relief, inner peace? Do you feel uncertainty, anxiety, hesitation, a sense of heaviness for the work or that worldly gain is taking a higher priority than harmony of all who are affected?
There are some people who will tell you that it’s more important to take care of yourself than to take care of others. If that’s not where you heart is, then ignore them. If you are a people pleaser, there’s nothing wrong with that. Don’t beat yourself up because you want to make someone else happy. Start enjoying the fact that you like caring for others. Make yourself happy by making someone else happy. Accept yourself for who you are and be who you are. You don’t have to fit someone else’s mold.
- Select the option that brings relief and peace to you. Then act on it and don’t look back. Trust your heart. You’ve made the choice that is right for you at this time in your life.
 Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening.