It’s obvious why we want to make good decisons. Yet, it’s also obvious that too many people make too many wrong decisons, from taking the wrong job, marrying the wrong person, to selecting the wrong college. How does this happen?
There are many reason we make wrong decisons but through my clinical, counseling, and coaching experiences, I have found a major culprit for many is the tendency to listen to the advice of others instead of using the natural intuitve decision makers that Mother Nature has provided to all of us. Using these natural decisions makers is the act of applying what is commonly called “intuition.”
If you are in the process of making an important decision, here are five tips to help you surface your intuition and thus help you decide your best course of action.
1. WATCH YOUR FACIAL EXPRESSIONS
Use your facial expressions when making an important decision. Emotions are directly linked to facial expressions. Before an important decision, stand in front of a mirror and think of the decision you are to make. Does your face show fear, anger, happiness, anxiety? If your face does not look happy or satisfied when you think about the decision you are to make, you better think twice, because you will be ignoring your instincts.
I had a client, a young lady do this who was about to become engaged. When she spoke about her engagement, she said it was right for her, but when she saw how she looked in a mirror, when she was discussing her relationship, she opted out and soon came to realize that she would of been making a huge mistake. Her facial expressions helped her realized that she was fooling herself. Later on, she told me that deep down, she felt something was wrong, but tried to convince herself other wise because she didn’t want to hurt her boyfriend. The mirror on the wall helped her become the fairest of them all.
2) IT’S NOT WHAT YOU SAY BUT HOW YOU SAY IT
Listen with your 3rd ear…the practice of “listening to your voice,” is based on the fact that sound carries emotion, which is why some sounds of music make you enthusiastic, others scared, others depressed.
When a patient would tell me they were feeling great or happy about something, I would often notice that their voice communicated the opposite. You say you are happy but you don’t sound happy, or enthused.
Talk about a decision into a tape recorder or out loud and ask yourself, “how do I sound” often brings forth the incongruency between what a person says and what is really going on. Sounds of silence, when the person cannot talk about their decision enthusiastically often indicates not listening to one’s instincts/intuitions.
3. ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS
Emotions are complex systems with three components: thoughts, physical arousal, behavior. Many times, with our thoughts, we “lie to ourselves,” but our behavior speaks the truth. You might tell yourself you have found the perfect mate, that the uncomfortable feeling is just your normal nervousness, but your behavior will speak the truth. One woman told me she found the perfect mate, but when I pointed out that her behavioral avoidance of sex didn’t match her thoughts, she finally confessed that she felt she knew she was kidding herself. Observe your behavior and if it doesn’t match what you say or feel, think about why and you will get closer to your intuitiveness for helping you decide what action to take.
4. INCREASE YOUR “SENSORY AWARENESS”
Intuition is defined as stimuli that is below your conscious awareness. Thus, you can get closer to your intuition by increasing your awareness to sensory data. In a therapy session, a husband and wife were sitting close together. The husband said something and in a micro second, the wife moved away. I said, “Did what your husband said hurt your feelings?” She said, Doctor, you are so “intuitive.” The fact is, I saw her move and my question was just validating my “intuition.” Exercise–when you go for a walk, increase your awareness to all the sensory data-noises, smells, colors. When you drive, off with the radio, open the window, you will be bombarded with sensory data. Next meeting, before it starts, check out the sensory data of people and see if your “interpretations” will prove to be valid.
5. Listen to hesitancies in speech, take in facial expressions. The more sensory data you tune into, the more you can get in touch with your intuition. If you interview someone for a job, and you are “uncomfortable,” ask yourself what the sensory data is that is making you uncomfortable–you are responding to something and by knowing what, you clarify your intuition.
5) Visualize & Feel The Outcome of Your Decision-Making
Many times, when we are anxious (uncertain) about a decision we have to make, we can help ourselves by visualizing and feeling the outcome if we were to decide one way or another. Ask yourself, “How would I feel in year if I go down this path? Answers of Joy, engagement, interest, are telling you it is a path to take and that you are in turn with your nature. If the answers are different, you are going against your instincts–the “bad feelings” are saying, “This isn’t for you. Don’t do it.”
Not long ago, I was giving a presentation to the 200 most successful women in a major financial institution. Shortly after my presentation and while I was waiting to be driven to the airport, one of the participants approached me and asked if she could ask me a question.
“Go ahead,” I told her.
She told me that she worked in Florida and had been offered a new position in a new firm with great opportunities in LA. “Sounds good,” I told her.
She told me it was everything she wanted but for some reason, felt uncomfortable about taking it. A few questions later, she told me she had lived in Florida for several years, had good friends, and had moved there from NY because she wanted to be close to her parents who lived in a retirement community in Miami. She saw them frequently. She said she had to make her decision in a week and didn’t know what to do.
We sat down and I gave her the following instructions. “Imagine yourself living in LA. It is six months from now. How do you think you will feel about not seeing your parents frequently? How will you feel about not seeing your friends? Does it make you feel good to think of yourself in Los Angeles. Does the type of work you’re doing excite you much more than your current work?”
After these mini-visualization exercises, she exclaimed, “I’ve decided…When I think about how I will feel if I took this job and moved so far away, I realize that it would not make me happy. What does make me happy is being close to my parents–after all, they are not going to live forever, my good friends, and the truth is, I like my work a lot but these other things are more important to me. I think I was feeling the pressure to take a move up position, but it wasn’t making me comfortable; that is the nagging feeling I was having. It was telling me something was wrong. Now, I feel good about my decision, she said.”
Decision making is a task throughout life. Now you can use Mother Nature’s intuitive decision makers help you make your best choices.
To find out how pressure adversly affects your decision making, check out the recent New York Times Bestseller, Performing Under Pressure: The Science Of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most (Crown, 2015) and the new online empowering E workshop: http://pressure.hendrieweisingerphd.com