The Art of Making Decisions

Our culture fails to teach us the essential skills we need to navigate through life successfully in so many ways. As I discuss often on this site, it fails to teach us about healthy, real love. It fails to teach us about how to feel our feelings and work with our thoughts. It fails to guide us through the potholes and landmines of transitions. And it fails to teach us how to make decisions, both big and small.

Not only does the culture fail to offer useful decision-making skills but it suggests techniques that often truncate and sabotage the process. A prime example of this is the pros and cons list, which is the main tool the culture offers for trying to make a major life decision. On the surface there’s nothing inherently wrong with making such a list, but when we look deeper we see that it’s a way to try to make a decision from our heads. There are no answers in our heads. Our heads can help us solve math equations and memorize history facts but this realm of Self is largely unhelpful when it comes to connecting to wisdom, guidance, and clarity, which are the resources we need when making significant decisions. When we become caught up in making these lists the only predictable outcome is that we become caught in our heads.

The second decision-making tool the culture offers is, “Trust your gut and listen to your heart.” Again, this is unsound advice as feelings are fleeting and, as such, unreliable guideposts from which to make decisions. The culture especially espouses this line of thinking when it comes to our intimate relationships. Phrases like, “You should just know,” or “Doubt means don’t” speak to the premium that the mainstream places on the ephemeral emotional realm. The more people hear these phrases the more they spout them off to others, which is why if you dare to express that you’re struggling in your loving, devoted relationship you’ll likely hear one of these platitudes. We are a very young and very ignorant culture when it comes to understanding the vicissitudes of thoughts and feelings.

So if we don’t make decisions from our heads or from our feelings, how do we make them? We make them from our wisdom-body, the current or pool that runs beneath our thoughts and between our feelings. In essence, we make them from our Well of Self. We make them from a place of knowing, which isn’t quite intuition and isn’t quite thought. We make them from the place inside that trusts ourselves and knows ourselves, the place that doesn’t equate outcomes with self-worth, which means that we’re willing to take risks and make a mistake. When the perfectionist is at the helm of our inner ship we become paralyzed. When we believe that one particular outcome will define our worth – deeming us either worthy or unworthy – we stop dead in our tracks. When we’re trying to seek fulfillment from the outside-in and believe that making a “right” or “wrong” decision will create that fulfillment, we’re placing our flowers of devotion on the wrong altar. On the other hand, when we fill the waters of our inner well, everything changes, including how we make decisions.

But because so few people learn how to live their lives from their body they have no idea how to drop out of their heads and access this place of wisdom. That’s what I teach in Trust Yourself: A 30-day program to help you overcome your fear of failure, caring what others think, perfectionism, difficulty making decisions, and self-doubt.  Through shining a gentle yet bright light on the ways in which your self-trust was damaged, the course guides you through the information, skills, and tools necessary to reclaim what is rightfully yours. Without self-trust, decision making becomes fraught with anxiety. Without self-trust, we don’t know where to turn when life presents multiple options, as it always does. Without self-trust, we fear making a mistake and our inner perfectionist ends up running the show. Without self-trust, the fun and creativity is sucked out and life becomes very challenging.

I recently received a beautiful email from a past Trust Yourself participant who was writing to express her gratitude for this course and the work she’s done with her therapist. She shared:

I was struggling with a major life decision and my therapist wisely suggested that to make this decision I needed to turn inward more for guidance. This changed my paradigm about how I should go about making this decision, taking away the control of my mind and thoughts about the endless pros and cons related to the decision. I started to look for ways to fit turning inward more into my life. At around that time, I saw Sheryl was going to start a “Trust Yourself” e-course and decided to sign up for it thinking it could help me further the suggestion about seeking guidance from within. 
I absolutely loved the course (which coincidently my sister, whom I am extremely close with, also signed up for it making it a vehicle for her and I to deepen our relationship further as we talked about the course material and its application to our lives)! 
It would take too long to explain all the ways in which I benefitted from the course, which given I am a therapist myself had a lot of information I was already familiar with, but delivered love and wisdom in every email and gently led me to turn more towards myself and trust myself in making this major life decision. It allowed for peace and clarity, for further trust in myself and in something beyond myself.

Thousands of people have learned to connect more deeply with their well of Self by following the principles I teach in the course. Once integrated, they then have a roadmap that allows them to make decisions more easily, and a process that was previously fraught with anxiety and despair becomes a creative and even joyful experience. Can you imagine that making decisions could be joyful and creative? It’s possible! If you’d like to learn how, please join me for this eleventh round, which will start on April 28, 2018. You can sign up and learn more here.

27 comments to The Art of Making Decisions

  • CT

    What is the difference between ‘you just know’ under second decision making tool or the knowing of our Well of Self ?
    If i had a knowing for early on with my partner that he is my person and thia the man im gonna marry. I just had this knowing, and quite often i even didn’t know how to describe thia knowing but I just had it. And i had this knowing for almost 3.5 y and I couldn’t wait for him to propose. And then when he finally proposed,3 weeks after that anxiety kicked in so badly that o was just crushed down.
    So was my knowing wrong thwn all the long ?

    • CT

      I can just feel a voice coming in, saying that all the knowing i had for years has not been my truth,that its not my well of self knowing:(
      Back in my head it doesn’t make sense. I just wanna cry to even thInk my knowing hasnever been right:S

      • Fay

        Hi CT,

        You’ve come to the right place! Your knowing is not “wrong” or a sign you need to leave. If your partner is loving, respectful, nurturing etc…then the anxiety you feel is basically just you being too in your head and freaking out because the proposal you’ve always wanted has finally come! But now, the weight of the reality of being engaged is causing you crushing anxiety. The beauty is, you can work through this anxiety and come out feeling more love for yourself and your partner! Don’t give up on your love! Continue to read through the blogs, do your inner work and maybe even sign up for a course.

  • Bra77

    Thank you for this Sheryl. Lately I’ve been struggling with the fact of how many sexual partners my gf has had before me (I’m a Virgin and waiting until marriage.) I want nothing more than to say Yes you are the one I’m going to spend the rest of my life with and as I was reading this I felt the anxiety swell up in me as I thought about this. But I guess thats just fear trying to take control and be in the driver seat and sabotage this relationship with the most kind, caring, loving, good, honest person I’ve ever met who I’m scared deeply to lose even though there are no red flags and we match up I core values regarding having the same faith and reasoning our children regarding religion

    • emily

      I was in the same boat as you. I swore I would NOT marry someone who had had multiple sexual partners, or even just one. In my mind, I was waiting until marriage, so my future husband should be doing the same. When I met my now fiancé and became serious with him, we had the sex talk. His history did not bother me (at the time). Now 14 months later, we have discussed his sexual history in depth because I needed to know all the details for myself, no judgement, no accusations. I felt so much closer to him after it was all out on the floor! If you are sure about this girl, and she is sure about you, and you can deal with the fact she’s been with people before you, it’s all going to be ok. Think of it this way; she’s never been with you, so if you marry her, she’s a “virgin” in her own way towards you. You’ll have so much fun getting to figure out what each other likes! I know it can be tough, and I know it can feel like a betrayal of sorts, but I can guarantee she wishes she’d waited for you, because my fiancé tells me that all the time. You’ll be ok!

      • Bra77

        How were you able to deal with this fact. I’m trying so hard because I want to continue this relationship with the most amazing girl but it just won’t stop and I want to accept this as the past and just move on

        • emily

          Well, for me, when I would get “serious” with a guy and find out he was not a virgin, I would end it pretty soon after. But with my fiance, I just didn’t care! Mostly because I felt the love he has for me is so different than anything I’ve experienced from another guy. He admits his past was pretty bad, and he has apologized to me about it. I thought that was a really awesome gesture because I did not ask for an apology; he just gave it to me. I don’t know if you are a Christian or attend church or know anything about Christianity, but both of us are. We believe that a marriage is a direct representation of how Jesus loved the church, meaning the man (Jesus) should love the woman (The church) with a sacrificial love. 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 is a great reference for this type of love… 1 Corinthians in general is an excellent book in reference to Christian love. I found the more I read about how much Jesus loved me, the more I am able to love my fiance and forgive him for his sexual past. You should talk with her and tell her exactly how you feel. If you are a Christian, you should pray about this. I am sure she will be willing to listen and hear you out. Sheryl has a lot of blogs about this type of anxiety and they are really helpful!

  • I so agree with your thoughts about the pro and con list. I have made pro and con lists for decisions I needed to make in the past. I remember very well there would be times when one list would be so much longer than the other – the obvious winner, right? The choice I should make. It was so clear and logical. And then I would choose the exact opposite of what the lists told me to do, because my heart knew the right decision to make. Even though I don’t use them anymore, sometimes those lists are useful, if you tap into your heart after you make them.

  • ArkansasBride

    Thank you for this post and for your offerings, Sheryl! I found you when I was struggling with relationship anxiety 9 months ago. I was very much in the same place as the poster above, CT. I had said yes to the man I wanted to marry – a man who I felt right about from the beginning of our relationship – and suddenly I was in a dark space of intrusive thoughts and self-doubt. Sheryl’s Conscious Bride course and the Trust Yourself course brought me the wisdom to turn inward. I am so grateful I did! Our wedding is 3 weeks away and while I still feel nervous in the face of this big life transition, I have found a knowing about it that I can tap into again and again. What’s more, my fiance says he sees the growth I’ve had and loves it! I’ve also changed and deepened my relationship with my mom during the process and returned to a faith practice that was very important to me as a young child. Its been a beautiful transformation and I couldn’t have done it without Sheryl’s support!

  • Bettina

    Thank you Sheryl. This article is for me 🙂
    favourite topic for the last years, and still struggling.
    Beautiful words that you found! Thank you!

  • Rachel

    Please consider this typo-corrected version:)

    Thank you Sheryl for all of your work, which has undoubtedly helped many! I feel that you touched on some core truths here, as I can sense in calm moments there is a sort of wisdom or knowing which is the place I should make decisions from, yet I have trouble tapping into that underneath all of my thoughts and feelings!

    I sent a quick email last week as I’m trying to decide which course is best for me. I’ve always dealt with both purpose/ career-related anxiety as well as relationship anxiety, but this intensified following my engagement. I can see a lot of truth in the post above, which also makes me think that a course in trusting myself would be useful. Could you advise on which course you’d recommend I start with? To what extent do they overlap, and would a trusting self course be a beneficial supplement to the conscious bride/ relationship anxiety course? Thank you again!

    • As you’re struggling with both relationship anxiety and self-trust I recommend starting with the Break Free From Relationship Anxiety course then taking Trust Yourself next time I offer it in November.

  • Anna

    What is the reason that when you go against the deep inner knowing, you become unhappy/anxious?

  • backandforth

    I have been reading through the blog posts and associate with a lot of them, but there is still one thing that I am really struggling with and am interested if anyone else has been in a similar situation, and if the course could help me?
    I have consistently had doubts about whether my partner is the one and whether i am in love with him over the last few years, and it has recently gotten a lot worse and I am constantly jumping back and forth about breaking up or not.
    There are no red flags and I think if this was the only problem then I feel I could potentially deal with it more easily but I have had extremely intense feelings for someone else for the last 3 years. I have never felt this way about anyone else, including my partner, so whenever I start to think that I am getting to the point that I am truly happy with my partner the thought always jumps back into my head “but you still have much stronger feelings for —-“, and then the downward spiral starts again.
    I have started to see a therapist to try and figure things out but I am after all the help I can get to be able to make a final decision and be happy with it.

    • Mr. North

      Hi @backandforth,

      I am in a similar situation as yourself. A few weeks into the relationship I started to feel doubt whether or not my girlfriend was the one. And if I felt that I was truly in love with her. I knew from a previous relationship that those feelings can arrive later in the relationship, so I decided to stay. A year has passed now and I have grown to love her very much but every day I still have doubt.

      A few months ago I was desperate because I could not accept that what I feel towards my girlfriend is correct. She is everything I have thought I wanted in a partner. She is an amazing creature, a beautiful being. There are no red flags and we have a safe and healthy relationship. There is really not anything I miss. And I know that a future with her would be a beautiful one. Still I have doubt. It hurts. I feel uneasy every day. So I searched for answers. I searched for help. How could it possibly be that I have all that I searched for and still I’m not satisfied. Could it be anxiety? I honestly still dont know.

      I have worked through the RA-course for a while now and what Sheryl is writing hits home on so many levels but I still feel the same – although I believe I would have left the relationship by now if it wasn’t for her wise writings.

      Every time we talk (she talks) about moving in together I feel like my chest is tightening. It feels wrong. I often think that I’m holding on so tight because I have been in so many bad relationships and finally I am in a healthy one. I’m so tired.

      The only thing I feel missing is passion, to really be in love. To feel butterflies. To know that she is the one I want to marry and build a family with. I have had that knowing before. Those feelings. With another woman. But it didn’t last. Nothing has lasted. Maybe that have broken me. Sometimes I feel unable to fall in love again. I often believe I still mourn the life I could have had with mye prevoius girl. Four years have passed since we broke it off. I often wish and I sometimes believe that had it not been for tha relationship I wouldn’t have had doubt for the girl I am with now.

      I didn’t aim to give you an answer @backandforth. Only to share my story and show that you are not alone in your feelings of doubt. I hope my journey with the RA-course soon will ease my doubt and give my clarity and knowing that I’m with the right girl. Hope you can find that knowing as well.

  • Anete

    When it comes to RA, how do you know if anxiety and sadness comes from going against your knowing or not? What if your knowing scares you because it means giving up safety of a person who loves you and an opportunity to build a life together. What if you know, but just want to stay in the safety and, yet it makes you miserable?

  • Angela

    Hi Sheryl,
    I have been using my lifeline tools, breathing, walking and journaling and I feel a more relaxed and functioning person., I promised myself to do these vital tools daily religiously without fail. Just like my life depended upon it. I feel an amazing difference of how i think and feel. I do tap into my well of self, the safe place i know i can trust and navigate my intuition flow of life. The only time i stay in my head is when im in an anxiety state, fear is magnifying and distorts my thoughts, its when ego tries to convince me to run away somewhere far away to be on my own where I feel so sure of things, its like i will find the right answers there. The rabbit hole path is not a pleasant experience and its something i wanna avoid, especially after believing the work you offer, has been a life changing journey that has made me learn and grow into the woman i thought i would never be. Love you Sheryl ❤️😍🌺🌺🌸🌝

  • Starla

    I’m sorry…maybe I’m missing something but, I find this article really triggering. How is this ‘place of wisdom in my body’ different than my ‘gut’ or ‘intuition’…which I’ve read, in previous articles, is a myth? They sound like the same thing to me. How is body wisdom different than intuition and how would someone with severe RA know the difference between the two?

    The example I often use is getting on an airplane. Many people prone to anxiety “have a feeling” that the plane is going to crash. It’s a “gut instinct.” But if they breathe more deeply into themselves they can access a place beyond the fear, which helps them to get on the airplane. For those with anxiety the signals are often crossed and situations that do involve risk – like getting on an airplane and being in a relationship – become associated with true danger when in fact, when it comes down it, they’re quite safe.

    • It’s a good question, and a common one. “Gut” comes from fear and body wisdom is a place of deep knowing. It’s a subtle difference and often not easy to discern but the more you do your inner work and develop a relationship with yourself the more you will be able to identify and name the difference.

  • Brittany

    Hi Sheryl – I wonder if you could do a blog post about relationship anxiety and weight? When my relationship anxiety started, I gained a lot of weight. I was also unemployed for 6 months at the time – so could be a mix of both. I’ve struggled for 3 years now to lose the weight – I’ve also been at my current job for 3 years (which now feels like hell). Now that we’re getting married the stress of losing weight is even worse. A few months before we got engaged we broke up for a few months because of the anxiety. For those few months I lost 10 pounds. When we got back together and then got engaged the weight came back on. I’m now on a “spiritual weight journey” I truly believe that my weight is more than just food, it’s a sign that I’m not living the life I’m meant to life. I’m holding myself back from my dreams and working on being my best self. Whenever I try to focus on intuitive eating, or thinking I’m working on the problems holding me back/causing my excess weight, I think that it’s because of my fiancé. I think that breaking up would let me be in my “flow” and the weight will magically disappear because I’m living the life I’m supposed to live. I’ve even had therapist tell me it’s really because of my job. But it always comes back to my fiancé. When I read something about how eating is really about listening to our body’s, I get sick to my stomach and just think that if I listened to my gut, we wouldn’t be together and I’d lose all this weight with no effort. The therapist had told me that I focus on the relationship because that’s the only thing I can control so it’s easier to leave the relationship because I can control it. But I can’t just up and leave my job. Especially because getting married is such a huge life event and I can’t pay for it without a job. My fiancé amazes me every day. I try to focus on the best, most exciting time of my life so far and all I’m worried about is being fat in my wedding dress.

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