Do you find it hard to make decisions?

Have you ever said “On the one hand I think I will do X… But on the other hand maybe I will do Y…”?

As we make either/or statements like this we often use our hands to show one choice in one hand and another choice in the other hand. We may notice our colleagues doing the same thing when trying to make a decision. This ‘weighing up’ of choices is a much needed step before deciding a way for ward but sometimes we really can’t chose and are stuck where we are. Then what do we do?

Often during career coaching sessions my clients find themselves in this ‘stuck’ position and when we explore, they may have revisited this decision (e.g .do I stay in the bank and work my way up or do I start my own business?) many times and over several years! A part of them, a little voice inside just won’t go away. It keeps popping up to show them another way whenever they are disgruntled with their current path. Some people are better at ignoring this voice than others, however the voice within is not the enemy. We all have our own version of this little voice and it ultimately wants us to be happy. Sound familiar?

All too often this little voice is drowned out and pushed back down by a more dominant part of us that is keeping us ‘on the straight and narrow’ on a ‘safer’ path.

Personify your inner voices. What are they saying to you?

So when I’m with a client who can’t make a decision, whatever the context, I ask them to personify the dominant voice: What is it saying? If it were a character, what would it look like? What tone of voice does it have?

I then ask them to personify the little voice – this is sometimes much harder because this part of them has often been neglected, feared, hated or simply ignored and unseen. Once they can put a character to each voice, we can separate them out and begin to work on the relationship between each voice and my client and the relationship between the two different voices. At first my client recognises that these two difference voices have been arguing and it’s clear which one always wins!

Make each inner voice equal in volume…

The process of making each voice equal in size, equally heard and seen, then allows the client to appreciate what each voice is trying to do for them. Often one voice is wanting long term happiness, through ensuring the client always takes the ‘safe’, ‘sensible’ road in life. The other part wants short term happiness for the client by tempting the client to take a more risky but fun, exciting, life-giving road. The client needs to listen to both and find a third solution that both voices are happy to agree with (e.g. stay in the bank but explore what I’d need to do to set up my own business and reassess this in two months).

To allow us to still be ‘safe’ and also fulfil our potential in life we need to make sure our inner voices can negotiate and agree on a middle path that is reasonably ‘safe’ but not restricting. (A psychiatrist once said to me, ‘we all hear different voices in our heads but schizophrenia sufferers don’t realise that they are all part of us and not separate identities.’)

Is your body trying to tell you something?

Those of us who continue to ignore the little voice that wants to do something more ‘exciting/risky’ will often find that we take risks in other areas of our lives to compensate. The suppressed voice will eventually burst out and rebel against the ‘safe’ voice causing activities such as excessive spending (retail therapy), drug taking, binge drinking, having extra marital affairs etc… Alternatively if we live our lives completely ruled by the ‘safe’, ‘sensible’ voice with not outlet, we may find that our bodies have become ill in some way (often stress related) or we eventually have a nervous breakdown. This is the body’s way of telling us something is not in balance and needs to be addressed. So I believe that learning strategies to allow a negotiation between the two voices is more likely to lead to a high- achieving, healthy and happy life!

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Image credit: Pablo Garcia Saldana