It is hard to know sometimes what is the best course of action to take when left with a decision. Some of us like to take the linear, logical route where we make the decision with the best statistical outcome.  Others make decisions that are more gut-based.  And even more of us make decisions without any conscious awareness at all.  As with all things, there needs to be balance. Our society tends to praise and cultivate logical, reductionist, reasoning. We put little value on the intuitive, the emotional or the abstract, which is as much part of us as the other.  We need to be conscious beings on every level. Now more than ever, we need to appreciate how our decisions affect our health, our families, and our world. The crises we face are a consequence of our flawed decisions, based on stories we haven’t fully checked out. We can’t afford to let our enculturation, biases, and worldview drive our behaviors. It is time to learn why we make the choices we make and how we can choose differently.

How To Not Find What You Are Looking For

The Internet is immense and filled with all types of ideas, opinions, agendas and the occasional fact. No matter how crazy your line of thinking, you can always find someone who will agree with you. There are facts to support even the most inane of positions. (Search smoking is good for you and you’ll see what I mean). So if you are faced with a decision, first look at facts that counter your belief. This is the best way to temper your pre-conceived notions. Many of our ‘facts’ are just our beliefs in hiding.  We are inherently biased, so as a countermeasure, seek out people and positions that are contrary to your own. See what the other side has to say first. Don’t do this from a place of opposition, but see if you can receive the information with a Beginner’s Mind. See if you can remain open to ideas and explore the range of thoughts and feelings that come up for you without skipping to a conclusion. Once you have thoroughly explored the other sides of an issue and your beliefs still remain intact, then seek out your choir.  This is a great system of checks and balances. 

Know the Source

Everybody has an agenda, including you. There is no such thing as purely unbiased information. Having been an avid listener of talk radio for more than a decade, I know that everybody can back-up his or her view with “the facts”.  For every idea you have on something, you can bet that there are 100 other people who have the exact opposite view.  This is not a bad thing. It is this that makes our world interesting. A rich array of ideas and opinions that have the opportunity to challenge and stretch us. This is how we grow.  However, when it comes to being a conscious decision maker, we need to consider the source of the information that we may be forming our beliefs, values, and opinions on. If you want to know where someone is coming from, research them and their beliefs. Do they have integrity? Are they accountable for the information they are sharing?

What is Truth?

What do we know as truth?  This is a big question. Where do we derive the information that ends up in our textbooks and taught in our educational institutions? What ends up in the headlines of the media outlets? Primarily these truths are all consequences of our research. This is where our linear, logical thinking gets to flourish, but in that there are limitations. We create boxes in which to study things. We factor out as many of the variables to look at one or two items. Does this drug have an effect; does this process change the way we learn etc.? All of these are wonderful questions to ask, but in real life, we are dynamic and multi-faceted. We are the variables embodied. So be prudent and do your research. See what it has to say, but know there are more layers to understanding something than just what can be shown in a research environment. Much of our research does a good job describing the situation at the level of a population, does it do a good job of describing your truth?

Use Different Media Formats

We live in a very exciting technological time. We have access to vast amounts of information that is presented to us in multiple media formats. Utilize them. Have an awareness of how you like to learn. This allows for better comprehension and assimilation of information. Watch a documentary, listen to the radio or podcast, read a book or look at the Internet. Seek out non-mainstream media outlets to broaden your view. Listen to opposing opinions that challenge and stretch you. They may or may not change your mind, but they can help you challenge your worldview and biases. Practice compassion while you learn, allow yourself to open up to new possibilities and ideas.  Tune into the emotions that arise while exploring them. You may be able to learn a lot about yourself and your beliefs. Also, find ways to share your ideas. What are your gifts?  What have you learned that can benefit others?  It is one thing to have a belief, but to take that and teach it to another can bring so much depth to your understanding and helps you to refine what it is you know.

Hold It In Your Heart

I suggested this to someone the other day that had a big medical decision to make. He had done all of his research, knew exactly what treatments statistically had the best outcomes and yet he was still conflicted.  I told him to take all of that knowledge and hold it in his heart. He looked at me like I had three heads and asked, “Why would I want to do that?”  My answer was, “You are an intelligent being, but not all of that intelligence comes from your mind.” Some of us will naturally make decision more from our heart than our head and vice versa. But in order to really explore something we have to at least be able to see and read the many data sets available, from intuitive/emotional and the mental realms. What do you value, what is important to you? Sometimes the physical data will contradict the what is meaningful to us. It is usually in these instances that we move into analysis paralysis or feel conflicted about our next move. Getting clear on what it is we value and where we want to go can assist us in getting clear on our decisions.

Humans are a beautiful blend of the known and the unknown. It makes sense that our decisions should be of the heart and the head. It is a challenge to see beyond our worldview, beliefs, and biases. And even more difficult to see beyond those in others. This has less to do with facts and more to do with an awareness and an understanding of who we are and how we process the world. Each of us needs to become a conscious decision maker so we can live more congruent and meaningful lives. That isn’t based on someone else’s version of what is right. We don’t want to make the external world more valuable than our own inner wisdom. It isn’t an either/or proposition, there is room for the exploration of both. Life should be a balance of prudence and awareness.