Every day, we make decisions. We need to. Sometimes, we choose automatically, running on autopilot. Maybe in some moments it doesn’t even feel as if we’re actually making a decision because the route we go is clear, so effortless. Yet, decisions are made throughout the day, one way or another. Consciously or subconsciously. Often, we decide on a whim, based on our gut feeling.

But then sometimes, having to make a decision feels like a burden, as we are stuck in-between going left or right. We contemplate; think; re-think. Yet, we cannot seem to make up our minds. Those are usually decisions we know will eventually change the path of life, or at least determine a completely new chapter. That brings us to the question of how we actually decide. What’s the underlying process? And how do we know it is the right decision – for us?

Head versus Gut

“Go with your gut” is a common saying. There’s a lot of truth about it, for we all know when something just “feels right”; it’s primal instincts. Yet, as humans, we tend to think – and drastically overthink – so our logic comes into play. Many of us don’t easily go with this gut feeling, for we take into consideration the circumstances. We think about the pros and cons of finances, relationships, possible outcomes, and much more. Our head starts racing – our pulse does, too. Now what? Gut pulls in one direction, head in the other. A dilemma, it seems. How to make the right decision? And what even constitutes the right decision? Deciding – it truly is an art. 

Trust your instincts, and make judgements on what your heart tells you. The heart will not betray you – David Gemmell

However, researchers have found that emotions are not as reliable as we may think. This is because we can perceive them as more intense than they may be. Our environment determines our feelings. But it gets even more complex and less straightforward as things such as underlying beliefs, prejudices, morals, ingrained values passed on through generations, the culture we grew up in, the many other things we don’t even actively notice in our daily life, shape and even limit our choosing and hence, decision making. 

We are of the opinion that our conscious mind controls every decision we make, when, in fact, it is the subconscious that leads. Therefore, if we can be aware of exactly that and learn to get out of our own heads, realize that there are a lot of micro-influences we are subject to, we can eventually decide better. 

The Crucial Difference Between Wanting and Deciding 

For days, months, years – sometimes all our life – we can long for something. We go about our day-to-day life, do what we’re “supposed to do”, act like we’re “expected to”. Yet, deep down inside, there might be a longing for more. Here’s your gut speaking again, knocking on the surface, maybe getting louder and louder throughout time. But we’re good at suppressing this seemingly teeny tiny voice that so desperately wants to tell us something – something really important. It’s our rawest, truest self speaking, yet not heard. 

Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Let’s be aware of if. Acknowledge there is a voice calling your name, waiting for your attention. You, deep down, know you want to turn to it and listen, but you also feel drawn back towards the here and now. Because that’s how things “should be”. But you want to hear what this voice has to say. Be courageous. Stop. Listen. And this is the moment you see yourself confronted with a situation you know you’ve been trying to avoid for too long: choosing. 

The Art to Decide – our decision-making process is impacted by many external factors and our subconscious plays an integral part – Kyoto, Japan

Here you are. Lending an ear – or two – to what that subconscious is telling you, while your conscious is freaking out a little bit in an effort to quiet that voice from within. You know there’s more for you than what you have and live right now. Hence, you see yourself needing to make this crucial decision: Follow the path of that inner light, the unknown way, or be stuck in the mundane, sort-of-ok daily grind? You technically know already what you want. You have known it for a long time. But “wanting” doesn’t get you anywhere. You need to actively decide in your mind that you are going to go for it. 

Now, going back to the quote above: You consciously make that decision to follow your inner “want” – and the universe will reward you. That is because you’re finally at a point where you’ve decided to set the energy you’re seeking to that specific frequency. And that is precisely the frequency you need to be at to attract what vibrates at the same energy level. Hence, higher, more fulfilling things await, and come your way seemingly automatically. Because of a want turning into an active decision. Understand that vibrations attract like vibrations.

The Right Decision or the Right to Decide

We all have the right to make decisions. It is not a privilege. Yet, many times circumstances make it seem as if we don’t have a choice at all. But we do. We just have to push through the fog and see the choices we have. Having choices and knowing you do is actually a vital part of a healthier you. It is freeing. 

Sometimes you make the right decisions, sometimes you make the decision right – Phil McGraw

So, what is a right decision? Frankly, it depends on the circumstances. But one thing is clear: Experiences, especially bad ones, lead us to knowledge and this knowledge can be extremely helpful when deciding (in a similar case). 

It is scientifically proven that we can get extremely overwhelmed when we are presented with too many options to choose from. Stress levels and confusion increase. We may end up just walking away from the whole situation more confused. In a store environment this would mean: Leaving empty-handed. Ideally, we have seven options or less. Limiting choices means we are more likely to decide. In marketing psychology, this piece of information is golden

Smarter Choices

In the course of time passing, we tend to sometimes change our minds. We don’t even notice it. This means that what may have been important to us as a criteria one day can become rather irrelevant the next. Why? Circumstance. The teeny tiny, yet powerful elements of influence in different areas of our lives – subtly, subconsciously. 

Sometimes, we change our “opinion” on things to backup choices we’ve made in the past. This is due to the fact that we don’t want to be the person with contradictory beliefs. We tend to care too much about what others think, which has, hence, another profound impact on how we make decisions. 

It is almost impossible to not be subtly influenced by something when choosing: this or that. But if you determine your preferences, create categories, and simply be aware that various external factors can impact your decision, it is easier for you in the end. The more you can define beforehand, the better and faster you’ll be able to choose. 

And so we end with wise words from Aristotle: 

Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom. 

What do you struggle with the most when making decisions? Or do you make decisions on a whim?