Finding your gut decision with fun, mindfulness and self-observation

It is one of our everyday small or bigger challenges: Some decision has to be made and we have the impression that both options are equally attractive - we cannot make up our minds.

For example, you've tried on a few dresses during your shopping trip and you particularly like two of them. Do you take the green or the blue one? Some of us resolve the conflict by simply buying both.

Or, as a reward for a special effort, you might want to watch a movie. A thriller or a romantic comedy. You liked both movie trailers - which one is the right one for tonight? Watching both movies in one evening is not an option for you.

These are examples of a small quandry, your decision is of little consequence. But how about something more challenging, like finding the ideal holiday for you?

You want to go on vacation and your favourites are on the one hand a relaxing holiday in France and on the other hand a discovery tour by car through England, Scotland and Wales. You have fond memories of beach holidays in the south of France, you have been there three times and you can't really go wrong. You know the beautiful landscape, the pretty villages, the holiday home is great, the weather anyway and there will be no unpleasant surprises. However, it has occurred to you that there are already a lot of familiar and routine things in your life. Starting with your everyday life at work, the way you spend your free time and your weekends, the routes you take by car and the people you deal with. There is little variety, little positive challenge in your life. You may wonder if it isn't time for new discoveries, time to leave the comfort zone and get involved in something new and unknown.

At that thought, a feeling of youthfulness and adventurousness comes up in you and you remember how, at 18, you spontaneously got in the car with your friends and drove to Amsterdam overnight. Without planning, without having booked accommodation, without thinking that it might be uncomfortable. You remember that attitude to life that you had back then: That the whole world is open to you, that anything is possible, that you can get by anywhere, that you need nothing but a little money, the rest will be there. So much fun! And suddenly you feel like doing things a bit more like back then, focusing on the possibilities, the discoveries, the fun, instead of the predictable convenience. And you have always wanted to take a round trip through the U.K., see Cornwall, walk in the Scottish Highlands, marvel at the Roman buildings, experience the enchanting English countryside with its mansions, cottages and stone walls. By car, free to move around, decide each morning where you want to go. Freedom! Adventure! Left-hand traffic! No fixed abode! And now you feel unease rising within you and the conflict is there. You're tired, in need of rest, in the last few months, maybe years, you've only been making ends meet in your job from weekend to weekend. The idea of sitting on the veranda of this comfortable holiday home in Aquitaine in the summer, with a view over the Atlantic Ocean, enjoying the resinous scent of silver pines, the sun above you, the coffee latte in front of you and absolutely nothing to do but sit there and relax - that has helped you to hold on a little longer.

So you've been weighing both options against each other for a while now and are still undecided and, in the meantime, a little annoyed. This is about your summer holiday and you don't want to mess it up.

In the beginning you were still in touch with your feelings through the anticipation, a pleasurable, expansive feeling of having different options to choose from. Then, without realizing it, you went into the mind, assuming that this was the right tool to determine the ideal vacation for you.

In all three examples mentioned, you have the impression that both options are equally attractive, it would be a fifty-fifty situation. However, this thought comes from the head, not the gut. Your mind makes you believe that you can come to a good decision making with pro and contra lists. In fact, a lengthy intellectual weighing of pros and cons is hardly ever a good way to reach a good solution (unless you are sitting in a math test). It separates us from our gut feeling, our instinct, the much older and more reliable instance in us in terms of developmental history. Our mind has only a very limited amount of relevant information at its disposal and no possibility to optimally weight it.

In contrast to this, the information pool of our subconscious, conveyed by our body and our feelings, is almost limitless. Our gut feeling shows us what is currently coherent and beneficial for us. By the way, this is also how the kinesiological muscle test works, a diagnostic procedure that makes the "unconscious knowledge" of our body accessible to conscious understanding.

A good friend or psychologist would advise you now to go back to your feelings and find out which option makes you feel a little better, lighter or more joyful. If you now answer that this is the problem, that you can't tell the difference, here is a little exercise that can support your self-observation …

... if you like, continue reading Making decisions - using your gut feeling (2/2)

The blog became longer than I expected. For better readability there are 2 parts.