Mindful decision making

Recently I’ve had a few difficult decisions to make. I’ve found myself running different scenarios through my mind trying to work out which outcome would be better. There are times when this is pretty easy. Some likely outcomes are way better than others and that makes the decision making pretty straightforward. Yoga class or washing up? You can probably guess which one I choose... simple! The problem comes when the result is completely and utterly unpredictable. Neither outcome is necessarily ‘better’ .. they both have pros and cons. There are so many variables and so many different possibilities that the whole picture becomes a muddle. How then do we choose which path to take? 

This is often when it is natural to get a bit anxious. I have been there myself and I see it in my clients frequently. What happens if I make the wrong decision? How do I know the implications of that decision when there are so many variables? Frequently when we are in this place we become ‘stuck’ and our unease increases. In fact I have seen many clients with acute anxiety triggered by the uncertainty they feel around difficult decisions. 

This is where I think we are often missing the point. What if we have been barking up the wrong tree and looking for the solution in the wrong place? What if the decision making process were the real problem? What if the problem were nowhere near as great as the anxiety it generated? 

Often what we tend to do when we feel like this is delve deeper into our conscious ‘problem solving mind’ to desperately fix the problem and find an answer. After all we don’t want to feel anxious. It’s uncomfortable. Ironically the more we try (and fail) to find the ‘right’ answer we find ourselves diving deeper into confusion. More possibilities and unanswerable questions arise. The anxiety increases and our sanity goes down the plug hole!

So I wonder .. what if we were to accept the inherent uncertainty of where we are in life right now? That is not to say that the situation is ok but rather that it just ‘is what it’ is right now. It is also not to say that the difficulty will remain because the reality is we just don’t know. If we knew what the future held we’d all be lottery winners for starters!

Ironically by embracing the uncertainty and allowing it to be here right now, we shift into a different part of our mind. The process of letting go allows our conscious problem solving mind to rest and our unconscious mind to open and process the wider picture. It is from this place that we often have ‘light bulb’ moments and access our most valuable insights. Think Newton’s sudden realisation about gravity whilst relaxing under a tree. 

For me as I let go of needing to find the ‘right answer’ I realised there was no such thing. Either outcome would be fine. More importantly I realised that by accepting the uncertainty of life I was better resourced to deal with its many twists and turns. 

As we let go of the need to find a solution we can come back to the here and now with a deeper sense of presence. Life really is right NOW and the answer is most likely here too. We just need to accept that problem solving isn’t necessarily going to help us find it. 

Kate Delaney