Life is full of decisions!
From small daily choices to significant life-shaping decisions, we are constantly faced with the need to make decisions, choose, shape our path…
Saying ‘yes’ to one thing, tends to mean we are saying ‘no’ to something else…We can’t take all paths when standing at a crossroads… Knowing this can make us feel challenged, perhaps overwhelmed, by how we can make the decisions that are right for us, at any given time.
However we can learn to know ourselves, our thinking patterns and recurring feelings, and develop skills and understandings in making sound decisions. We can learn to discern our way through; that is, sift our options thoughtfully and come to sense of greater clarity and certainty.
HOW WE GO ABOUT DECIDING
The following statements suggest common ways we approach decision-making. Participants chose a couple that most resonated with them and commented on them; why they thought it was so, if they thought it was helpful, if it was effective for them and why or why not…
|I sometimes lie awake at night trying to make decisions.|
|I make (good) decisions in the shower.|
|I put off making decisions for as long as possible.|
|I like to make decisions quickly and get on with things.|
|A spontaneous decision tends to be a good one for me.|
|I like to talk to several people to help me make decisions.|
|I have a go-to person I talk to about decisions.|
|I often listen to other perspectives but then make up my own mind.|
|I feel comfortable when the decision lies with somebody else.|
|I like being the one to lead with decisions.|
|I go with a gut feeling when making decisions.|
|I have a strong sense of intuition about my decisions.|
|I can get in touch with my feelings when making decisions.|
|I can think my way to sound decisions.|
|I take a long time to decide about things, including small things.|
|My decisions have to reflect all of my values.|
|I weigh up pros and cons as part of the process for decision making.|
|I feel relieved when I’ve finally managed to make a decision.|
|I worry about how others will feel about my decisions.|
|I worry about how others will react to my decisions.|
A useful tool for understanding our approach to decision making is The Enneagram.
The Enneagram is a tool for understanding personality and supporting self-understanding and growth. Understanding one’s own personality and one’s motivations, energy, drives and modes of operation facilitates self-awareness and wellbeing. When we are able to understand our personality type, we can use this wisdom to help us with various aspects of our life, including how we make decisions. Accessing the wisdom of The Enneagram, and our particular personality type, can enable us to make well-founded decisions, whether small or big.
Attached is the handout about this:
Illustrations and some information on this handout is sourced from this website:
WRITING OUR WAY TO KNOWING
Many people find journalling a helpful way of clarifying their thoughts and feelings. Often we can write our way to a new truth or insight.
Participants were invited to spend 20 minutes, out in the sunshine, engaged in writing. We discussed and made use of a technique known as Proprioceptive Writing.
Proprioceptive writing is writing only for yourself, in your own words, without consideration of audience. It helps you become aware of everything that goes on in your mind – pictures, feelings and ideas – of which you might not usually be aware. Writing this way enables you to listen to yourself calmly and reflect on your recorded thoughts.
The concept of proprioceptive writing was originally developed by American author and educator Linda Trichter Metcalf. This summary is based on journalist and writing coach Wies Enthoven’s work. (Flow magazine, mini course 03)
Attached are the notes about Proprioceptive Writing with details of how to set up your writing session, how to get started, what to consider along the way and useful questions for reflecting on your writing session.
WAYS TO PAY ATTENTION
When we are making decision and learning to discern the rightness of it for ourselves, it can be useful to pay attention to our life in some particular ways.
Here are two approaches that you may find useful:
- Parker Palmer (Let Your Life Speak) suggests we pay attention to ‘way opening’ and ‘way closing’.
When you choose a course of action, make a decision, try to move in a certain direction – what happens? What comes back at you from the world? Does the way seem to open, allow you to move forward? Or does ‘way close’ – a door slam in your face, a direction get thwarted or have you feel like you’re pushing against the grain?
Way opening and way closing can be clues to whether you’re operating ‘with the grain of the universe’.
- Saint Ignatius (Spiritual Exercises) suggests we pay attention to feelings/experiences of ‘consolation’ and ‘desolation’
When you choose a course of action, make a decision, try to move in a certain direction – what happens in your spirit?
- ‘Consolation’ is an experience of rightness, peace, assuredness.
- ‘Desolation’ is an experience of agitation, unease, heaviness.
But this is a subtle thing, and it’s not just to do with whether a decision makes you happy or whether it’s easy or affirmed by those around you. It’s a deeper movement of the spirit. A decision can be painful and involve doubt or difficulty, and yet at a deeper level you know you ‘must’ do it, or it’s ‘right’ – the consolation isn’t at the surface. Likewise, a decision can seem superficially right and well-approved, and yet leave you feeling ‘desolate’ at a deeper level.
Learning to get in touch with and trust these deeper dynamics of the spirit, enables us to discern our own path with great confidence.