Should we send the children to the large, public elementary school, or to a smaller but expensive private school? Should I accept an offer for a higher-paying managerial job and give up the hands-on involvement, or stay at my current level and salary, but do work that I love? Should I go to graduate school now and finish in 18 months, or enter the workforce and go to grad school at night, but finish in 3-4 years?
We all face decisions in life. The more difficult ones often leave us stressed and exhausted. We struggle with making “the right decision” — choosing the path in life that leads us to success, satisfaction, and fulfillment. Wouldn’t it be great if we could choose without pain and struggle? Is it possible to pick a course of action in life without pulling our hair out and driving the people around us to the brink of insanity?
Let’s begin by creating some distinctions. Do you use the words “choose” and “decide” interchangeably? I would like to suggest that they have different meanings. The word “decide” has similar origins to the words homicide, suicide, and genocide. Therefore, the meaning of the word “decide” implies “killing off” possible alternatives. So “deciding” means using our logical minds to analyze different courses of action, examining the pros and cons of each one, discarding approaches that don’t appeal to us, and proceeding with the lesser of all the evils examined. This is intellectual violence. A course of action “decided-upon” by using this approach has certain consequences: it can leave us feeling dissatisfied and uneasy. When we over-privilege the logical mind, there’s a feeling that something is missing. There’s a sense of betrayal and remorse in having killed off possibilities.
On the other hand, “choice” implies going beyond our rational mind: it includes and transcends rational decision-making. In choosing, we begin to tap into other ways of knowing beyond our language-based rational mind: we begin to include the domains of body and emotions – our intuitive side. In essence, we begin to use more of our entire being: the logical and the creative, the left brain and the right. Whereas decisions are subtractive – they’re like using a cognitive knife to “slice away” options – choices are additive: they bring together the domains of language, emotions, and body to arrive at a course of action that is in greater alignment with who we are.
My wife and I struggled for a couple of months around what school to send our children to for the next academic year. Although their existing school had great teachers, a caring staff, and a wonderful community of parents, we felt it was becoming too small and lacking in the resources of larger, more established schools. We considered moving to a better school district, putting our kids on the waiting list for a science-oriented charter school, sending them to an expensive private school, or just leaving them at their current school for another year. Each day, we would grapple with the decision, look at the pros and cons of each approach, pick a course of action, only to reverse it the next day. We struggled like this for a few weeks until, one evening, we understood what we truly wanted for our children: that they receive a good education in a loving, nurturing, and resourceful environment, one that would inspire them to learn while helping them unleash their gifts and true potential.
The next morning, we woke up and realized that the decision had been made. There was no struggle, no angst, no effort – we just instantly knew the right course of action to take: leave the children at their existing school. We instantly felt peaceful, with a new sense of lightness and freedom that we had not experienced in weeks. We had arrived at choice.
Here’s a simple exercise to help you unleash your intuitive powers for arriving at a place of choice. Begin by listening to your body and your emotions – your intuition talking to you. In most cases, you “know” the right course of action before your brain has an opportunity to register it.
Begin by taking a few slow, deep breaths. Relax and get centered. Then, considering each of the alternatives in the challenge you are facing, ask yourself the following questions and pay attention to the answers that you receive:
As we practice using our mind, body and emotions to help us arrive at a place of choice, we become more and more effective at aligning ourselves with actions that are congruent with our being and our true purpose. This leads to greater fulfillment.
Can we do better than arriving at a place of choice?
We can truly choose a course of action by including our logical minds, our body, and our emotions, while also going beyond it all.
However, there’s a more powerful place that we can arrive at, a place that in the coaching literature has been called “being with.” Simply stated, when I’m “being with” a given choice, I’m open to experiencing it and fully being with that choice, and any other choice that shows up. In other words, we don’t exclude anything, thus beginning to experience profound satisfaction with whatever shows up. It’s about being unattached to the outcome.
For my wife and I, “being with” showed up in the following way. As we settled into the peacefulness of our choice to allow our children to stay at their current school, we found ourselves relaxing and being open to possibilities. In the next couple of weeks, a friend reminded us of another private school that we had not seriously considered as a possibility. We toured the school and felt very good about it. It was also in alignment with what we most wanted for our children. Although it would be expensive, a new source of funds was now becoming available that would make the transition possible. In other words, the pieces of the puzzle were beginning to fall into place effortlessly. So we simply recognized the opportunity and took action to align ourselves with it. There was no struggle or despair – just a natural unfolding of a new direction to move into.
In summary, the power in these three distinctions, “decision,” “choice,” and “being with,” lies in their ability to help you align yourself with a higher purpose in your life, which then makes the matter of picking a course of action fairly intuitive.
Ultimately, “being with” a course of action requires three key components: knowing yourself well at your core (your values), being clear about what you really want, and having faith in the machinations behind the events and circumstance in your life, as they magically align themselves to produce your ideal outcome.
Eddie Marmol is a LifeCoach.com™ affiliated coach and co-founder of MasterCoaches, Integral Architects, and Corporación Coaches En Español – all executive coaching and leadership development organizations. Eddie is a graduate of Coach University, The Newfield Network, and The Coach Training Alliance. He lives in Melbourne, Florida, with his wife and two daughters.