Head vs. Heart: How To Make Better Decisions

When making big decisions, which should you follow?

Have you ever thought about what your life would be like if you were the lead character in Jim Carrey’s Yes Man? Saying yes to every opportunity that presented itself? While you would certainly open yourself to all kinds of new adventures and experiences, you would also be totally over-committing yourself.

There’s also a practice of saying no to everything to learn to stand up for yourself and create boundaries. But that would certainly be a limited life.

So where’s the balance? How do you know when to say yes enough so that you’re stretching yourself and pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone? How do you know when to say no enough so that you’re creating boundaries but not false limitations?

The balance lies between your head and your heart.

What’s Upstairs?

Your head is where the analysis, logic, thoughts and that crazy monkey mind reside. It’s where you think through things, review those “pro’s and con’s” lists.

It’s also where fear resides. The monkey mind likes to disguise fear as “rational thinking.” It comes up with all the reasons to stay in your safe comfort zone. It fears change so it explains why your proposed change isn’t in your best interest.

When those fears present themselves, it’s time for your True Self to face them and determine how real they are. Until you do that, our fears will control you and greatly limit your potential.

The Landscape of the Heart

Your heart is where your intuition lies. It’s the source of that little voice that guides you, if you let it. Your heart is where your True Self resides, your Higher Self — the one that truly knows what is best for you.

Without practice, it’s hard to hear your heart. The chattering monkey mind speaks so loudly, sending you in different directions without an overall purpose. The monkey makes it hard to hear the heart.

When you’re busy being busy, the monkey rules.

When you can get quiet, you can finally hear the music in your heart.

The Process of Choice

You make hundreds of choices every day, whether you realize it or not. You choose whether and what to eat, what to say, how to see and interpret your world. Many of these choices are made subconsciously — you don’t even realize you’re doing it.

Then there are bigger choices like whether to get married or divorced, leave your job, have kids, make a big move, pursue your passions. These are the ones where you take time to consider all of your options. These are the choices where you usually let your monkey mind take over.

Pausing for Values

Before you make any decisions, from very basic to life-changing, you must learn to pause. Utilize the space between stimulus and response.

During that pause, consider whether the decision you’re about to make supports your highest values.

Do you know what your highest values are? Most people don’t ever stop to consider this.

What are the three to five most important things to you in life? These are the kinds of things that won’t change much over a lifetime.

My three highest values are health, family and integrity. Each day I practice making choices based on those values.

Sometimes going with the flow is the easier choice but, if it doesn’t support these values, I need to make a harder choice.

Simple Steps to Making Decisions That Support You and Your Happiness

While saying yes to everything that comes your way would certainly provide for some amazing experiences, you know that doing so probably wouldn’t be in your best interest. Here are some steps to follow to guide you to the best decision for you:

1. What is the choice you’re about to make? Have you uncovered all the available options?

If you’re debating whether to leave your current job where you’re not happy for another job, another choice may be to not work for someone else at a job but to start your own business.

Wondering whether to stay in a relationship or leave? Consider something in between that gives both people a chance to breathe for some time.

Get creative and be open to alternative possibilities.

2. Let your monkey mind do its thing.

Your monkey mind will drive you crazy if you don’t let him speak his mind. Let him chatter away while he lists pro’s and con’s and tells you why changing is big and hairy and scary.

Write down everything he says. Let him chatter until he can’t think of anything else to say.

3. Pause.

Take a deep breath and walk away from everything you just wrote. Take some time to simply be before you go back to review everything you just wrote.

Meditate. Pray. Take a long walk or a drive.

During this time, do your best to not think about the choice. This will be extremely difficult but try. Consider using my cloud meditation.

4. Slowly read everything you wrote and notice how it feels in your body.

If you’re considering changing jobs, close your eyes and think about your current job. What do you feel in your body? Do your fists clench? Does your gut get tight?

Take a deep breath and clear your mind of those thoughts. Think about the new job you’re considering. What do you feel now? Do you feel a sense of openness and freedom? Or do you still have that tight feeling in your gut?

This step is no place for your mind. Your heart speaks through your body, and your body will always give you your best answer — if you listen.

5. Create a dialogue with those physical sensations.

As you notice these feelings, ask them what they’re trying to tell you. Treat them as if they are another person with valuable information to convey to you.

Maybe that tight feeling in your gut related to the current job has more to do with anger over not being acknowledged. This would be supported by your clenched fists.

But that same tight feeling with respect to a new job may simply be fear of change.

6. Consider your highest values.

Consider how each option supports your highest values.

A few years ago I made a choice to take a high-paying job in a city two hours from my home and family. I thought we needed the money so I made the choice out of desperation. I lived near the office during the week and came home on the weekends.

It was one of the worst decisions I ever made. It clearly did not support two of my highest values. It had a negative impact on my health because it was a demanding job with long hours. And it had a horrible effect on my family. Every Sunday night as I left my husband and young children, I balled my eyes out. I would cry for the first half hour of my drive. It created distance and issues in my marriage. I felt like I was missing out on my children’s lives. Fortunately, it didn’t last very long. I will never make a choice like that again.

7. Boldly make a decision.

Don’t be wishy-washy about it. If you’ve taken the above steps seriously, the choice should make itself evident. Choose that and move forward.

No second guessing. No regrets. Start taking action on your choice.

8. Know that there’s no wrong answer.

If, after you start taking action on the choice you made, you’re not liking the results, simply make a different choice.

Regretting your last decision is living in the past which can’t possibly help you.

Be present to how things are playing out. If it’s not working, don’t feel like you have to “stick to your guns” for the principle of it, because it might imply that you were wrong or because it might show (to others whose opinions don’t matter) that you lack commitment. That’s just silly. Do what works for you. Do what makes you happy.

9. Assess results and make ongoing choices.

As you move forward, continue to assess how your results feel in your body and your heart. Slow down enough each day to hear your inner voice. Listen to it. Follow it. It may lead you to unexpected places, but those places will always be the best for you.

10. Enjoy the ride.

See the beauty in your new experiences. Be grateful for all the new things you’re learning. If things aren’t working out, be grateful that you’re one step closer to knowing what does work in your life.

As the old saying goes: Life is a journey. Enjoy the ride!

May your journey be more amazing than you could ever imagine!

Download your checklist for making better decisions.

Paige Burkes has come to understand that we need to find more effective ways of achieving our versions of happiness and success. The traditional methodologies are no longer working for us. In fact, they’re making us more stressed and less happy by the day. You can read more on her ideas for implementing mindfulness in your life at Simple Mindfulness.