Landing a great job. Choosing the company where we want to grow. Finding the person we want to marry. These are big moments in anyone’s life. Big moments require big decisions. Big decisions aren’t easy. The fast-paced lives that many of us live require us to make key decisions and too often, we aren’t well prepared.
We can choose indecision — which leaves us right where we were — though this has a habit of affecting us in the long-term. We can jump in hastily and make a decision without gathering all the facts. We may rely just purely on our intuition without thinking ahead to the future. There are ramifications and ripple effects that both indecision and decision will have on our lives and our loved ones.
The best way to prepare for a big decision is to stop over-analyzing your situation, which clouds your mind, and actively concentrate on clearing your mind. A great way to do this is to seek time in solitude — to find your place, which could be in nature, at a coffee shop or even your room. Be present in the moment without all of life’s distractions.
The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision. — Maimonides
A clear mind enables us to remove biases, worries, fears, and overly-analytical thoughts. This is our respite away from the thoughts that race around in our heads. Here, we can slow the game down. This later helps us by “trimming the fat” and stripping down to the bare bones of the facts and information at hand.
We remove the emotion from the situation, which enables us to objectively weigh all of the factors that will influence or affect our decision. We take the aggregate of all the input we’ve received and rely on our intuition — to trust what is in our hearts.
Look into Your Heart
Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. — Carl Jung
The process leading up to a big decision often plays back in our minds at breakneck speeds over and over. We keep analyzing the same thoughts, convincing ourselves of outcomes that we don’t yet know, and playing devil’s advocate with ourselves. Initially, this is a good analytical exercise. When we persist and obsess over these thoughts, they can become toxic.
Take a step away. Try and clear your mind by turning your attention to a movie, sporting event, or a get-together with friends. Get outside and breathe in some fresh air. A new setting is helpful for changing your perspective and allowing you to refresh and revitalize your thoughts. When we do this, we remove that which clouds our mind and we clear the way for our intuition to empower us with its wisdom.
In his book, Strategic Intuition, Columbia Business School professor, William Duggan, discusses the breakdown of intuition in three ways: Ordinary, Expert, and Strategic:
“Ordinary intuition is just a feeling, a gut instinct. Expert intuition is snap judgments, when you instantly recognize something familiar, the way a tennis pro knows where the ball will go from the arc and speed of the opponent’s racket… The third kind, strategic intuition, is not a vague feeling, like ordinary intuition. Strategic intuition is a clear thought… That flash of insight you had last night might solve a problem that’s been on your mind for a month.”
Ordinary intuition sometimes is the way to go. But when we have time to make a decision, strategic intuition is best. This helps us think clearly and with mindfulness about what is in front of us. It enables us to extract that which matters most — the substance of what we feel is in our best interest — and guides us toward self-satisfaction.
Otherwise, we’re just going on a whim.
Emotionally intelligent leaders know the big decisions of life are best left to a prepared, clear mind. Eliminate the bad fears and take some time to chill. You’ll find that everything from the smallest to the biggest decisions in life will come more naturally to you.