There was much talk about the difficulty of making decisions lately, so I thought this was a good time to contemplate on the the subject of choices and making decisions.
This is what it comes down to – making a choice. To go left or right, to do this or that, to move or to stay, to engage or withdraw, to be joyful or miserable. We are making choices each waking second of our life. We make conscious choices involving our intellectual capacity – or reason – and we make unconscious choices based on our conditioning or acquired preferences. Even if we leave the choice to someone else – we make a choice. There is not a single instance in our day, when we are not making a choice.
To be alive means to make choices and it seems natural to look further into the decision making capacity. It appears to me, that a decision is of a higher organising principle than a simple choice. A decision seems to involve deliberation, pondering, reason. A decision seems to be so much more firm and serious than a simple choice. The Latin “decidere” means literally to “cut off” and this is already giving us a hint, why decisions are in general regarded substantial. Basically, decision making is a mental, cognitive process, resulting in the selection of a course of action among several alternatives. Every decision making process produces a final choice and the output can be an action or a firm opinion.
So the operative word here seems to be final. Once I made this decision, I basically have to stick with it for some time and consciously experience the effects of my decision on myself and the world around me.
And here we are already coming across that agonising quandary of any reluctant decision maker: “What if I am not going to like it”.
Decisions are a tool to bring about change and we do have certain expectations regarding their outcome. When I decide to take up yoga classes, I may have the expectation of being more relaxed. When I decide to start an education, I may do so with the expectation to improve my professional skills and do a better job. When I decide to read a book, I may have the expectation to be educated, entertained or stimulated. When I get married, I may have the expectation to raise a family and when I file for a divorce, I may have an expectation to be free again.
Expectations are a snapshot of our view of the future. It is where we see ourselves today and where we want to be tomorrow. Expectations inherently hold a prospect of the future, and they are tied to the decision making process. I am making a decision to get from point A to point B, and I have a certain expectancy what that will do for me. So along the way, I will do whatever I can, to make sure my view of the end-result does pan out right. Just observe yourself closely, following through with a decision and you will see what I mean. We tend to manipulate our environment based on our expectations and this does cost a lot of energy in the process.
To give you an example – let us say you go on a weight loss program. Your expectation may be to lose a certain amount of unsightly fat and it also includes the expectation of a more attractive, healthy, glowing you. So the decision to eat less is not based on a need to give your body what it needs, but an expectation of how your life will improve once you have lost the excess fat. And this is how diets fail to work over and over again.
Expectations are directed towards the future, but they are rooted in the past. So whenever we are in the process of making a decision, we also have to ask ourselves, what is the basis for wishing to make a change. Is it that my life situation demands it, is it something I need, or want? Always remember, that not making a decision is making a decision too. I often come across people who have a really hard time, making up their mind and often let a decision drag on, to a point it generates actually a lot of drama. So we really have to look at our own way of making decisions and ask ourselves, what is driving us – a real need or a sense of purpose, or is it rooted in – fear.
Many decision we take – and that again includes the decision to stay put – is simply rooted in naked fear of change. What will happen if I leave an unhappy situation, an abusive partner or a stressful job. What will happen to me if I stand up to the bully, or speak up for myself. What will happen, if I go with what I feel is right for me, as opposed to continue doing things in my old way, that are exhausting and take the life out of me.
This is the reason why so many people have a hard time to make a decision. The outcome is not guaranteed to be in line of the view of ourselves and very often we project our own unwillingness to change on to others: “What will happen to my partner if I leave”, “I cannot leave my job now”, “ I cannot disappoint my friends”.
Well, guess what – it is never about the other. It is always about yourself.
So it is a good practice to actually ask yourself what you gain from staying where you are right now. Mostly it is about wanting to keep a sense of security and control – it is a bad situation, but at least it is a bad situation I can count on being there tomorrow.
I think we all have made these experiences. Decisions that were hard, took a lot of analysing and deliberation, had consequences. Then there are those instances everything in us wants to move on, but we never make the decision to change and follow through with it. And then there are all those other decisions we do not even think about. Like what we put in our mouth, what we say, how we treat others and what we think and how we judge. Each judgement is a decision.
For myself I am arriving more and more at the insight that I do not need to make decisions so much, but rather work with intent. This again drives the choices I have to make and it is always straightforward and clear. It is not always easy or expected. For example, one surprising choice for me has been to withdraw for a certain period of time, without really knowing why. For quite some time I struggled with my own image of myself of being in charge and in control. What I have learned going through this process is, if choices are based on intent, as opposed to expectations – the choices I make are aligned to the intent and not rooted in my desire to manipulate my reality. This has been a very surprising insight for me, because it made me see and understand how much I had struggled all day, to keep a certain image of myself alive. It was not true and what is emerging now feels a lot more authentic to me. I have replaced the desire to control – or manipulate – the outcome, with the process of letting go.
So decisions may not be necessary at all, if we live aligned with truth. We make choices according to the need of our body and the greater purpose of our life. Agony and deliberations are not necessary and things fall in place effortlessly.
Worthwhile to reflect about it.
Awsome Michaela. Thanks a lot for sharing.
I very much agree that the fear to make a decision may lead to an unnecessary drag on which creates enormous amount of pain all around. BUT… what to do to trascend that fear….?.
It seems to me that in the case of a relationship that is not working since long, for example a disfunctional relationship which ending is clearly the best for both the parts involved, the disfunctionality itself creates a kind of “addiction” to the relationship, which is making extremely difficult the decision making process. The decision is endlessly dragged on and the parts are exhausted in the end; and because of this, the final decision (which always comes in the end…) has often terrible consequences that would have been easily avoided if the decision would have been made before.
But what to do with that “addiction”?. When I say “addiction” I mean that at least one of the parts sees clearly that the relationship is not fulfilling or even deeply damaging for him/her, but he/she is so acustomed to the damaging situation that is deeply and unconsciously identified with it, and is unable to go away from it because he/she feels a part of him/herself is “dying” with it in a way; so he/she finds all kind of excuses to delay the decision to do it, or to make that decision real, which is even worse and more damaging (decide to do it, and then take the necessary steps to make that decision real, otherwise you are very much damaging yourself and the other part too)….
In real life this is tranlated in something like this: “I do want to leave you because I’m not in love with you and this is not working since long ago, but in a way I cannot, … and the worse is that I don’t know exactly why I cannot because I clearly see I should have done it long ago…!”. This is real; I have witnessed it, although to me it seems almost unbelievable, but it happens, and the parts involved suffer a lot in the process…
What do you think about all this…?. Is it making some sense for you…?.
thank you for your comment. It makes a lot of sense to me and I have been in such a situation too. I can relate.
You ask ” what to do with the “addiction” – or the attachment to a situation that is damaging to your sense of well-being. But the answer is already in your question – there is a feeling a part of you is “dying” – and that part is the egoic conditioning that keeps you in that situation and does not allow for it to self-correct, because we keep holding on to our own pattern and conditioning.
The first step is to recognise that that sense of conflict actually exists. That a part wants to stay, another to leave. And then to unravel it, step for step, until you really see.