The Key to Making Better Decisions—for Writing and Life

Filed in Finding & Following Your Voice by on May 27, 2014 • views: 512

Summer LightningAre you facing a decision but just aren’t sure which way to go?

Here’s one thing that may help: calm any emotions you may be feeling.

Emotions have a way of interfering with the internal signal from your inner voice, or intuition. Think of your mind as a radio, and the inner voice as a distant station coming from another town about 100 miles away. If everything is calm and quiet, you can hear it just fine, but if there’s a storm going on—that is, an emotional storm—all you’ll hear is static.

Meanwhile, other voices—whether they belong to your loved ones, friends, colleagues, or an old gym coach telling you what a loser you are (why is he still in your head?)—will try to take over. The longer your own intuition stays quiet, the more these other voices will seem to have all the answers.

“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice,” Steve Jobs said at the Stanford University commencement speech in 2005.

Keep in mind that emotions can be tricky. You may not even realize they’re getting in the way. But if you’re agonizing over a decision, you’re likely weathering an emotional storm of some sort.

Let’s look at some of the different “weather systems” that can interfere with the reception for your own, wise inner voice.

Thunder and Lighting (Anger)

You grumble, growl, rage, and throw things, striking out with your own flash of deadly lightning at anyone who dares cross you. When you’re in the midst of this storm, the inner voice takes shelter to wait it out.

Danger: Any decision you make now will reflect your angry energy and will hurt you or someone else.

Storm tracker signals:

  • Your job. Maybe you’re angry at your boss, co-workers, or the state of the industry. You may even have some hidden anger at someone seemingly unrelated—your parents, for instance, if you feel they pushed you into a career path that doesn’t feel right for you. You don’t know how to make things better.
  • Your relationship. You may be angry at your partner, yourself, or the difficult situation you’re in, and just don’t know what to do next.
  • Your lack of progress. Your book isn’t selling. You’re diet isn’t working. Your business is faltering. You don’t know how to fix it.
  • Your lack of progress. Maybe your story didn’t place in a contest. You got another rejection. You’re shouting to the ceiling about those stupid judges, editors, publishers, etc., feeling powerless to change anything.

Safety Protocol: Scan your body for signs of thunder and lightning—tense muscles, headaches, clenched teeth, shallow breathing, and/or flushed skin. Then, do something with that angry energy.  Go for a walk or run, climb the stairs a few times, or get outside. If you can’t break away, do some jumping jacks or jog in place. The worst thing you can do is sit and stew. You need to burn those sparks out before you can make a good decision. Once the thunder and lightning pass, the answer will likely appear in your mind like a rainbow over the horizon.

Rain (Depression)

You feel blue, downtrodden, and soaked to the skin. Everywhere you look it’s gray, with no relief in sight. Tomorrow is forecast to be just as dreary as today. When you’re in the midst of this storm, the inner voice falls asleep.

Danger: If you make a decision now, it will reflect the dampness in your spirit and will likely move you backwards instead of forwards—away from what you really want rather than closer to it.

Storm tracker signals:

  • Your job. You were passed over for a promotion or failed to get that raise you were hoping for. Your last project was a flop with the higher-ups.
  • Your current work in progress.  You’re not sure whether to trash it or keep working. Today, “trash it” seems the smarter solution.
  • What to do about a family problem. You just don’t know how to solve a family issue, and you’re feeling like there is no solution, and everything is just going downhill.
  • Your next step in life. Maybe your kids have moved away from home, you’ve lost someone close to you, or you’ve experienced a big change in your lifestyle as a result of a job loss or serious illness.

Safety protocol: Scan your body for signs of rain clouds—droopy eyes, brain fog, achy joints, and a powerful desire to go back to bed. Then do something you enjoy. Pamper yourself. Forget about being selfish—you need a better state of mind to make a good decision. Tune your focus to those things that make you happy. A night out with a friend. A weekend by the lake. A new outfit. A walk in the park. Get out in nature, spend some time with a beloved pet, or engage in some other activity you enjoy. Don’t think too much about it—just do it! Once you feel that spring in your step again, the answer will come to you clear as a bright blue sky.

Snow (Apathy)

It’s cold, and the world is unforgiving. You hardly notice the difference between one day and the next. Family self-destructing? Oh well. About to lose your job? Didn’t want to work there anyway. Writing not happening? It’s just impossible.

When you’re in the midst of this storm, the inner voice seems to be buried deep under the snow, frozen and dormant like mammoth DNA.

Danger: During this storm, you may not make a decision at all—which is actually making a decision. You’re deciding against change, and will continue living life the way you already are—in an endless, blanketing snow storm.

Storm tracker signals:

  • Your job. You may feel trapped in your current situation because the economy is tough and you don’t know what else to do, so you’ve just accepted it and learned to live like a zombie.
  • Your relationship. You may feel trapped in a loveless partnership, which has left you feeling hollow and lifeless.
  • Your passion. You may have spent years working at something like your art, music, or writing, and have yet to experience any real success (as you define it), which has left you feeling useless and without purpose.

Safety protocol: Scan for signs of winter—heavy  muscles, time lapses where you don’t remember what happened, significant weight loss or gain, a messy appearance (lack of attention to hygiene, clothing, or hair), and/or a dulled sense of taste and smell. Then do something that you’re good at. The key is to reconnect with your strengths so you can rekindle your confidence. Maybe you’re an adept baker, woodworker, musician, volunteer, quilter or other type of crafter. Choose anything you know you can do and do well. It will help wake up that voice inside you that believes you are capable of making changes in your life, and will likely inspire you to decide to take a small step forward. As you start to feel your own power and interest coming back to life, the decision will form like a friendly snowman in your mind’s eye.

Sun (Exuberance)

Believe it or not, jump-off-the-couch happiness (no offense to Tom Cruise, but we all know how that one turned out) can also drown out your inner voice.  You’re just so gosh-darned happy you can’t stand it! Maybe you’ve found a new love, gotten that encouragement you’ve been waiting for on a project, or received that promotion you were going for.

Danger:The danger during this weather pattern is making decisions based on the “everything will turn out great!” picture that may not be complete. If you make a decision without quieting your mind first, you’re likely to take too big a risk that you’ll end up regretting later.

Storm tracker signals:

  • Your job. You’re thinking, “Hey, I’m going to make millions on my book, so I can quit my job, now.” Or, “Well my job is going great, so I think we should buy that new house that’s way out of our price range!”
  • Your relationship. Maybe you’re thinking, “Man, that hot girl (or guy) just gave me the eye. I know I could find someone way better. I’m out of here!” Or, “Things have been great between my partner and me. I’m sure he (or she) won’t mind if I quit my job to write while he (or she) supports us.”
  • Your next step in your publishing career. “I got a contract! Whoo-hoo! Nah, I don’t need to look it over—where do I sign?” Or, “I just finished a book. Now, let’s get it up on Amazon. Who needs editing? it’s great!”

Safety protocol: Enjoy your high spirits. Go have fun. Celebrate. Spend time with friends. Ride it out until it starts to taper off a bit. When you feel more “contented” rather than leaping off the walls is when you’re ready to make a good decision.

Getting in Touch with the Real You

Meditation is often recommended as a way to get in touch with your inner voice because it helps you take a step back from any emotional storms that may be raging inside you. It can also help you become more aware of your own weather forecast, particularly if you’ve been feeling physical symptoms, but you’re not sure why.

Even the smallest change in your daily routine can help your storm subside. Tame your emotions first, get yourself into a better state of mind, and then your inner voice—and the best decision for you—will come through loud and clear.

The Voice

There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
“I feel this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.”
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What’s right for you–just listen to
The voice that speaks inside.

Shel Silverstein

Try it and see—and let me know if it works for you!

© Pru1977 | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

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