Whether seemingly big or small decisions, when it comes to making them I have one main rule: Listen only to myself. In other words, a decision for my own life is my own decision to make. It is my choice so I must trust my gut and not ask for other people’s opinions. Sometimes I gather factual information to help me to make a decision, but at the end of the day, I am the sole (or should I say soul) arbitrator. This rule has served me well, though I can’t say I have been perfect about implementing it. Because even if you make your own decision about something, you will undoubtedly get feedback from others, whether you have asked for it or not. And that can easily cause you to second-guess your decision. But if your decision comes from your inner knowing, don’t dismiss it. You know best what is right for you, though you may not always find it easy to access your gut.
For some people trusting and listening to their inner self is easy and natural. When they get to the right decision for them, they explain that any anxiety they had seems to dissolve from their body. And the saying “trust your gut” is often really about physical sensations in their gut. A decision is true for them when they feel calmness in their stomach. Or their heart feels open and happy or their shoulders relax and their breathing slows. Body knowledge is very helpful for tapping into what is true for you. That might not be easy for you so don’t give yourself a hard time if you are not skilled at making decisions or not in tune with your body. (I can never stress enough how being kind to yourself is important. We are generally better trained to be kind to others than we are to ourselves. Practice both 🙂 )
Getting to a place where you can trust your gut takes practice and requires that you get to know yourself. It starts with simply noticing. When you think about something that makes you anxious or undecided or confused, notice where that tension resides in your body. Tension is a clue that you should steer away from that choice. Whereas calmness or a sense of peace means you are in harmony with that choice. Just practice noticing and over time you will have a better understanding of where and when your body knows what the right decision is for you.
Because I work with people who are making transitions in their life, be it from one career to another, from a career to retirement, or any other big life change, I often hear the frustration from my clients about people questioning their decisions. It doesn’t necessarily matter what the decision is about, but if the decision is to do or be something that is different from the norm and less accepted in your culture, community or family, you will get more push back. Often people question your decision because it is different from their decision and they assume you are judging them about their decision by choosing a different path. Sigh. What is right for them is right for them. What is right for you is right for you. Such a simple idea and yet so difficult because we humans are very adept at making judgments.
So how can you navigate the reactions of others to your decision? For one thing it helps to find your peeps. Hang around people who support your perspective on life decisions that are important to you. That doesn’t mean you must stay in a bubble of only like-minded fellows and ignore your family and friends if they don’t support you. It just means that you have at least someone or a small group of people who support you and your personal choices. When you are around your friends and family who don’t quite understand, create some short explanations to have in your back pocket when you are questioned about your decision. They can sound something like this: “I have made the decision to ______ because I know that is what I want in my life. That doesn’t mean that I think my decision is right for everyone. I just know that it is right for me.”
Respect is important. When you show that you respect your own decisions and also respect other people’s personal decisions, you are encouraging everyone to act on their own behalf. If we all do that, then we will all get along much better. And you will be living in tune with yourself.