Decisions, Decisions....

Image: ma3ahmed

Image: ma3ahmed

Are you aware that the act of making a decision can actually improve your mood and increase the feel good factor in your brain?

We can agonize over the "best way", or what the "best choice" is, often leading to weeks, months, even years of indecision, that in turn can take us into a downward cycle contributing to depression, stress and anxiety. 

Without a crystal ball, which even the most highly intuitive of us don't have, we never truly know what the outcome of a choice will be, however making a decision that is "good enough" can actually lead us into having a much better quality of life. 

Often when we weigh the pros and cons of a situation, we can feel overwhelmed by what the possible negative outcomes could be, while never being 100% guaranteed that there is a positive result, so we could end up doing nothing at all. 

Sometimes we just have to pick a direction, and know that when we make a decision that is 'good enough' helps us to feel more in control, as deciding on a solution calms our system.  It can actually physically change the way you see and hear the world in front of you. 

Personally, I don't believe there are any 'wrong' decisions.  We can make a choice that doesn't turn out the way we expected, or wanted, however I like to see them as learning curves.  We can course correct, change the path and make another choice.  And if you need to go back to where you started from, there will have been lessons gained and positives to take out of the experience, even if it is just to know that you now want something different. 

We may even find the so called choice that we perceived as bad leads us to something that we could never have imagined, and discover a learning about ourselves that contributes to a much brighter outcome in the future.  

And while we may not always make what are perceived to be the 'right' decisions, they are 'your' decisions which gives a greater sense of control, whereas indecision can lead us to feel out of control and negative spirals. 

Hence the act of choosing also brings increased confidence, in fact it is proven that when you make a choice, rather than having a decision made for you, that it increases the dopamine in our brain, leading to a sense of pleasure.  Often the decision, and the steps towards it can give us more joy than the actual outcome!

In coaching, we encourage our clients to decide what goals they want to set for the future and what they want to achieve.  This simple act of making a choice gives a feeling of empowerment to people and inspires them to take action.

However this is another important point.  Taking action, or a first step, is key in any direction you choose, as having a thought about doing something but then not acting or making a move, in the end is just a thought.  When we make even small inroads down any particular path, it leads to increased belief in our ability to achieve our long term goals.

Life these days offers such a myriad of choices, many more than our ancestors ever had, in our careers, our life partners, what activities we participate in, even what we are going to eat for lunch, and that is so wonderfully exciting.  However it has also been shown that all these possibilities, when they are so broad, increases our stress load to the same degree. 

Therefore it's also vital to base our decisions on what we want, rather than coming from the fear of what we don't want in our lives, as coming from a positive standpoint leads to a more beneficial outcome.  This is why working out what we really value, what will make us happy and is important to us, decreases the brains stress response, as it helps make the path clearer.

Making a decision narrows our focus, so it cuts out a lot of "noise", we stop seeing a lot of the periphery that was leading to the confusion or unsettledness.  We are able to see the target, so we are able to direct our attention more efficiently towards the outcome we desire, which also takes a lot of the anxiety out of the equation.

So yes making decisions can be tough, but making one, even if it is just for today, can bring us more peace and contentment than sitting on the sidelines of our lives.  Trusting in ourselves that the decisions we make are right because we made them at the time, regardless of outcome, builds more confidence and ultimately upward movement. 

* The facts I reference have been proven within neuroscience and while I have left out how the brain specifically works in this article I highly recommend further reading "The Upward Spiral  - using neuroscience to reverse the course of depression - one small change at a time", by Alex Korb PhD