Do you struggle when it comes to making decisions?
I used to. I could make lists of pros and cons for just about anything. I could see both sides of most options. I made exhaustive lists of features and benefits so I could compare one option against another.
In fact, I once thought I had a superpower of being able to brainstorm options and ideas and pros and cons and see both sides of everything. Well, I’ve since come to realize I didn’t have a superpower. In fact, I had a super energy-draining approach to decision-making.
One of the reasons we struggle to make a decision is because we think there is ONE right one. There’s one right choice and we need to figure out what it is.
We often try to do this with lots of analysis, like those lists of pros and cons, that can lead to paralysis in making any decision at all. We try to make decisions by polling friends and family about what we should do. And when none of that really works and leaves us more uncertain than ever, we fall into a limbo state of confusion.
This does not feel good. It’s energy-draining. It leaves us feeling disempowered. And, unfortunately, there can be a lot of momentum around confusion, as odd as that sounds. This confused, unclear-in-your-mind, I-can’t-decide state takes on a life of its own.
And the decision you’re struggling with could be about anything. Big stuff and even small stuff.
- Should you go for that promotion?
- Should you try counseling?
- Should you downsize?
- Should you start your own business?
- Should you move across country?
- Should you ask for a raise?
- Should you start dating again?
If you’re someone who has struggled in the past to make decisions easily or if you’re facing a decision right now and feeling stuck, I want you to know this: Any decision can be made with ease, with confidence, with a certainty about the “rightness” of the decision.
I’m going to share two tools you can put in your toolkit when it comes to easily making decisions. Big ones, small ones.
The no-lose decision
The first approach comes from a classic book from the ‘80s called Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers.
Susan says the problem is we’ve been taught to be very careful because we might make the wrong decision. We think that we should be perfect and need to control the outcome of events. And we fear a wrong decision will deprive us of something we value, like money, friends, or status.
Susan explains there are two different approaches to decision-making: The No-Win Model and the No-Lose Model. I’m sure you can imagine which one is going to feel better!
The No-Lose Model says when you’re at a choice point in your life between Path A and Path B, they are both right because of what Susan calls “goodies” along the way. Goodies are “opportunities to experience life in a new way, to learn and grow, to find out who you are and who you would really like to be, and what you would like to do in this life.”
With the No-Lose approach to decision-making, each path is filled with opportunities, despite outcomes.
In contrast, most of us make decisions—or at least try to—from the perspective of what Susan calls the No-Win Model. Doesn’t that feel heavy? I’m sure this will sound familiar because I think we’ve all been here and done this.
You’re at a choice point in your life, struggling to decide which choice to make, Path A or Path B. You’re convinced one path is right and one is wrong, but which is which?
You drive yourself crazy trying to decide; you feel paralyzed with anxiety as you try to predict the future to know which choice is right. You don’t trust your intuition, so you get everyone around you to weigh in about what you should do, which never works because everyone has a different opinion. Can you feel the heaviness of making a no-win decision?
Abraham would agree, I think, with Susan and her No-Lose Model.
“For good-intentioned people making decisions, there’s no such thing as a bad choice. So it doesn’t matter what you choose. Choose something, then deliberately line up with the choice you make. This is the art of alignment and allowing.” —Abraham
Isn’t that just such a breath of fresh air?
The pressure of ONE right decision
Let me be clear: The first time I read Susan’s book, I had never considered the idea that there was anything but a “right” decision. I thought, you’re faced with Path A or Path B and if you think about it long enough, you’ll figure out which path is truly the right one. Can you say pressure?!
And like I said, my approach to figuring out Path A versus Path B was to get out a notebook and make long lists of pros and cons. Logical? Perhaps, I guess. But I seem to have a special talent for being able to generate pros and cons, so I was always left with these long lists, but no clear decision.
My long lists of pros and cons might have reflected, on the one hand, sound reasoning or analysis, but they didn’t help me actually make a decision. In fact, usually they just left me more confused than before I made the lists.
Well, Susan said there will be great stuff waiting for you along Path A and there will be great stuff waiting for you along Path B. What?! AND, she says, sure, perhaps there will be some not so great stuff along Path A, but guess what? Same is true for Path B.
It sounds so simplistic, but it’s a totally different way to approach decision-making. The No-Lose model has a very different energy than oh-my-gosh-this-decision-is-so-important-and-I’d-better-pick-the-one-right-answer. Yikes, talk about stressful. Especially if you don’t happen to have a crystal ball to see into the future.
So I felt liberated when I first learned about this different way to think about decisions. It felt energy-giving, empowering, optimistic. I liked it!
Making decisions in real life
Then came time to make a big juicy decision. Theory is one thing, right? Reading a book is one thing. But now, I have a real-life decision to make.
And I admit, at first I went to my go-to approach of pros and cons because my default was the No-Win model with its ONE right choice. And I made myself a little bit crazy. The decision was whether to sell the company I had co-founded and move from Chicago to Ann Arbor.
Well, whether to say yes or no to the opportunity was really unclear to me. And for awhile I hung out in that place of confusion—pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages swirling around in my head. Writing down long lists. Don’t forgot those lists!
I was very much afraid of making the wrong decision. And I was VERY confused about what the “right” decision was.
And then I remembered Susan and her No-Lose Model for making decisions. I instantly felt relief, which was so encouraging. Now, this was pre-Law of Attraction for me, so I didn’t know how important relief is in guiding us to better-feeling thoughts. But I knew the relief felt amazing.
I could choose not to sell and stay in Chicago and I could choose to sell and move to Ann Arbor. Wonderful was waiting ahead on either path. Either path was the right one.
And, sure, there might be drawbacks along either of the paths. This is where Susan encourages us to lighten up. She believes, and I agree, that most of us are taking ourselves and our decisions way too seriously.
It’s very empowering—and empowerment is on the high end of the emotional scale—to embrace you can handle whatever comes your way and every experience is valuable. And now with the context of Law of Attraction that I have, I know any negatives related to a decision I make are just the contrast of life pointing out what is wanted.
But there was no one right decision. There was no decision where I’m losing. Instead, there were two fantastic options. There was win-win.
That way of thinking totally took the pressure off. The tension I was feeling trying to make this decision just disappeared.
Susan says, “One of the biggest fears that keeps us from moving ahead with our lives is our difficulty in making decisions. As one of my students lamented, ‘Sometimes I feel like the proverbial donkey between two bales of hay—unable to decide which one I want, and, in the meantime, starving to death.’ The irony, of course, is that by not choosing, we are choosing—to starve. We are choosing to deprive ourselves of what makes life a delicious feast.” —Feel the Fear…and Do It Anyway
This No-Lose model of decision-making is a paradigm shift for most of us, for sure. Most of us have been taught or believe that we do need to figure out THE ONE RIGHT PATH when we make a decision. Which is such a constricted, fear-based way to live.
I’m sure you’re curious…so then how DID I make my decision?
Well, I’m looking out my window right now on downtown Ann Arbor, so obviously I chose to sell the company and move here from Chicago. And that’s been 10 wonderful years ago. But how DID I actually decide?
After embracing Susan’s model of there not being a decision where I could lose, how did I decide?
Well, it actually became very simple and intuitive when I put aside my lists of pros and cons and stopped asking those around me for their two cents about my decision.
I realized I’d already experienced so many of the goodies associated with owning my company and living in Chicago. And I decided I’d like to experience some of the goodies along the other path, the path of selling the company, the path of Ann Arbor.
Again, this was pre-Law of Attraction for me, but I now realize I was following Abraham’s advice to:
“Make a decision and line up with it. It’s the lining up with the decision that’s responsible for the wellbeing not necessarily the specifics of the decisions that you lined up with.” —Abraham
I made the no-lose decision and then lined up with it. And THAT has been a really beautiful thing.
The magical question
I have two tools for you to put in your decision-making toolkit. Here’s the second. And it may sound counter-intuitive at first, but stick with me.
Recently I worked with a client who was struggling to make several decisions.
- Should she change jobs?
- Should she sell her home?
- Should she downsize?
- Should she stay in the city where she currently lives or move to another state?
- If she moves, she has a couple of states in mind, but which one?
My client said she was ready for a change for her next chapter, but was unclear and confused about what that change would be, what it would look like.
As if there weren’t enough possibilities, she tossed another into the mix: The change could be to stay put—in her current home and job and city—and choose to fall in love with her life where she already was. Maybe she didn’t need to sell or move or change jobs, but just have a new attitude and outlook.
Well guess what? She’d been driving herself a bit crazy with all these perfectly wonderful options. It wasn’t a choice between Path A and Path B, it was a choice between Paths A, B, C, D and so on!
So she was living in limbo. Not that you would have noticed if you’d seen her. After all, she was well-situated in her current beautiful home in a very lovely city with a great job, but she WAS in limbo nonetheless—in her mind.
Her thinking was muddled. Should I do this or this or this? Her emotions, of course, followed her muddled thoughts. So she was feeling overwhelmed, confused, scared. AND irritated with herself for not being able to decide.
I shared the No-Lose Model with my client, but I can’t say it really landed for her. It doesn’t for everyone, and that’s OK. We can know something intellectually, but not really feel it. It doesn’t really resonate on a useful level.
And then my client had a clarity-filled spark of genius. Which was totally her intuition speaking to her.
She told me the story of a decision she’d been faced with in her past, a decade ago, that initially she’d also struggled with. A very big, important, life-altering decision.
Back then, she’d also been in limbo, unclear what to do. To make matters worse and even more confusing, her friends and family had very clear ideas about what she should do. So she wasn’t just hearing her own voice, but also a chorus of other opinions.
This went on for some time. And then someone suggested, What if you decide not to decide?
And you know what? She experienced instant relief. Again, we have that sign of relief, which is always telling us our thoughts are headed in the right direction.
What if you decide not to decide? is truly a magical question. You DO make a decision, but that decision is NOT to decide.
It doesn’t really matter whether you give yourself a month or six months, the point is for some period of time you choose not to make a decision.
Here’s what happens: With this decide-not-to-decide decision, you release yourself from limbo land. From straddling the fence between Path A and Path B. You give yourself grace. No more pressure, no more angst, no more treading the water of indecision.
Instead, you give yourself freedom, which just happens to be at the high end of the emotional scale. By taking the decision off the table and giving yourself margin, you allow the Universe to flow your answer to you. Intuitively. With ease. With love.
An empowered decision you will appreciate making. Can you even imagine that? A decision you are appreciative to make. That’s what deciding not to decide can do for you. It gives you the space to get in alignment with a decision instead of begrudgingly, fearfully, doubtfully making one.
What I love about this recent coaching conversation with my client is she had evidence in her past of the magic of this question: What if you decide not to decide? It had worked in stunning fashion for her before, offering so much relief and eventual clarity, so why not use it again?
That’s the really cool thing about tools we put in our proverbial toolkits. They’re not right for every job. You don’t use a screwdriver to pound in a nail. But when that certain situation comes up in your life, it’s really nice to know you’ve got the tool you need.
In my client’s case, if it worked before, why not try it again? This time she’s giving herself the entire summer free from the need, the urge, the pressure to decide. She’s leaning into this summer as a time to relax and recharge, to play and have fun.
And from that aligned, feeling good place, my client fully believes—and I do too—that her intuition WILL speak loud and clear once she’s given herself the grace of a pressure-free decision. In fact, I’m guessing it won’t be so much a decision, as a knowing. And that’s even better!
And while this is a different version of No-Lose, whatever choice my client makes at the end of her summer—to move or stay put—it truly will be a downstream, no-lose decision.
I hope I’ve expanded how you think about making decisions. I encourage you to try the two approaches I shared, especially if you’re struggling right now to make a particular decision about something in your life.
Here’s a recap:
First, there’s Susan Jeffer’s No-Lose Model where you stand at the choice point in your life and embrace that both Path A and Path B will offer goodies along the way. You listen to your intuition, pick a path, and then line up with all the opportunities and experiences and lessons along the path you’ve chosen.
“Make a decision and then make the decision right. Line up your Energy with it. In most cases, it doesn’t really matter what you decide. Just decide.” —Abraham
Second, postponing your decision for a period of time may be just the margin you need. What if you decide not to decide? can be a magical question that offers grace and creates an opening for the Universe to flow a decision to you.