Often clients come to me because they are stuck on a decision. They’ve struggled for some time and it’s doing their head in. They tell me they’ve exhausted all angles, made countless lists of pros and cons, and still find themselves awake at 3am ruminating. Sound familiar?
You may be struggling with a decision right now, or perhaps you know someone who is?
What most people do when they need to make a difficult decision is to think about it – A LOT! There’s something reassuring about believing that if you just think about it more, better or differently, you’ll be able to decide, or find a solution. But this approach doesn’t tend to work.
Coming at it from a different angle can help you get unstuck.
One of my clients had an important decision to make. He realised just how much he loved to think. And think and think and think. In fact he was very proud of his logical rational abilities, which had worked particularly well for him in the past. But when it came to a life big decision, he found himself going around in circles.
The most difficult decisions cannot be ‘out-thunk’. You need to get beyond thinking and give your poor mind a rest.
Einstein had a great saying which went something like this – ‘the same level of thinking that created the problem will not get you to a solution’. How I understand this is, that most difficult decisions cannot be ‘out-thunk’. You need to get beyond thinking and give your poor mind a rest.
So how do you do that? A simple way to is take the pressure off and giving thinking a rest. Let go of it for a bit and do something else. I suggest you take yourself out for a walk and get some fresh air and exercise. But the best possible thing when you’re stuck, is to do a short mindfulness practice.
Mindfulness techniques are easy to learn (they just take practice) but the payoff is extraordinary. You learn how to get out of your own way and to let a decision arrive, instead of struggling and trying to force it. Stressing and struggling closes down your mind’s ability to offer up helpful suggestions.
Try this. Allow 5 – 10 mins to sit down in a quiet safe place. Close your eyes and take a couple of slow deep breaths and allow yourself to relax. Bring your question, issue, or decision to mind. It could be ‘how do I resolve an issue at work? How can I achieve a more balanced workload? Do I really want to take that new role?’
What-ever it is, make sure it’s within your control and frame it positively. E.g. ‘how can I get my boss to listen to me?’ might change to ‘how can I communicate my ideas to feel heard?’ Simply put your question out there and let go of thinking and trying to figure it out. Your job is to hold a clear intention in mind while you relax and to let any ideas bubble up. See what arrives. It might just be a piece of an idea, a word, an image? When you open your eyes, jot down any ideas and allow the other part of your brain (the part that’s more logical) to help you figure it out.
Every time you notice yourself starting to barrel down and trying to figure things out (you’re squashing that creativity, which needs some breathing room), just go back to your question, and return your attention to focusing on your breathing.You may need to do this more than once – or perhaps you’ll have a ‘shazamm’ moment the first time you do it – you never know.
This exercise helps to free up your mind to work more creatively.
People who regularly practise mindfulness view their decisions and thinking struggles differently. Of course they still think, but they don’t get as lost in their thinking. They learn to become voyeurs of their thoughts and to consciously let unhelpful circular thoughts go, without getting lost and tangled in the storyline.
By noticing when you’re over-thinking (which is exhausting) you can decide to give your mind a rest.