Decision-Making: How to Use Creativity to Make the Right Choice
We all make decisions every day. From the smallest choice, such as ‘What will we have for dinner?’ to the largest choice, ‘Should I quit my job?’. Decision-making is a huge part of life, and we make decisions every second of every day. Why? Because we have creative control and autonomy over our life, our time and how we spend it. Even when we think we have no choices, we need to become aware that this is not true: we always have a choice.
So often, though, we make decisions on autopilot based on our conditioning. We don’t even notice that we’ve made a choice. And this can be a reason why we find patterns repeating in our life, because we so often do what we have always done. If we repeat similar behaviour without thinking, we reduce our chance to grow. If we do the things we have always done, we will get the things that we have always got.
Our everyday lives can be mind-numbing at times, with dull habits of routine and sameness. We often have varying levels of stress hovering over us too. Stress clouds and masks our ability to be creative and make good decisions. And creativity is vital to our ability to make choices. So often we think decision-making is only analytical. We weigh up lists of pros and cons, but it is our creative mind that will first help to unleash the possibility of choice to us. It will enable us to imagine different paths to explore that we might not have considered. This is why it is so important to give our creative mind the time to run free and have some fun. When decision-making, we should merge the analytical and creative parts of our self. But first, let’s get creative to expand our mind a little.
Applying creativity to decision-making provides us with options we never knew we had. This is very liberating. When we make a choice, we first resolve to do something (e.g. I want to go to university). We then gather information (e.g. I will research the top courses and universities). We think it all over (e.g. I will weigh up the best options). We get inspired and excited (e.g. I will look at the best courses and read success stories from other graduates). And then we act (e.g. I will apply for this course at this university). At this point, we get out there and do it!
But often, when we are unsure what it is that we want, we can find it impossible to decide. For example, ’Should I stay in my current job or change career?'. We put things off so that we don’t ever need to decide at all. Why? Because we are afraid that we will make the wrong choice. Because we are afraid of the unknown. Because we don’t know what it is that we want. Fear, anxiety and worry all stop us from making decisions. So, we need to put our mind and body into a more relaxed state. Fear can lock our mind in a negative rabbit-in-headlight mode and make us stagnate. And when we relax, we open up the realm of the subconscious. Our creative impulse flows from this source of power that is within us all the time, even if we don’t realise it. And it will guide us to generate great ideas that will inspire our decision-making.
8 Simple ways to ease our self into a state of relaxation
Always being contactable, especially for work, can be stressful. The constant interruption of beeping phones intrudes on our time with loved ones. It even cuts into our ‘me time’, reducing our focus and flow when we are enjoying doing something that we like. And the blue light emitted from our devices can also interrupt our sleep patterns. And we need sleep to feel relaxed.
Writing in a journal is a powerful exercise of mental detox. It allows you to dump your thoughts, stresses and successes down on a page. As you write down your feelings and experiences, you will engage with your self more. You will understand and manage your emotions better. You will gain clarity and better appreciate yourself and what you want from life.
Communicating your feelings using art can help you to process and make sense of your world. For example, painting, acting, singing, crafting, dancing. And many forms of self-expression do not rely on spoken or written language. So, this can be helpful for those times when we have no words to express how we feel.
Working out will relieve stress and anxiety. It will boost our ‘happy chemicals’ and increase our confidence and self-esteem. This recharging of our energy levels will also boost our creative faculties.
A walk in a local green space never fails to relax mind and body. The benefits of being in natural surroundings are well documented. Find a local park, beach or woodland area and explore. A stroll through the forest makes you happier, healthier, calmer and connects you to the wild. To find out more about ‘forest bathing’, or Shinrin-Yoku, read my article for Creative Countryside Journal here: http://www.creativecountryside.com/blog/the-call-of-the-wild
Letting your mind wander can relax you and help you achieve goals if you channel it in a positive, active way. It can be less helpful to daydream about fantasies (for example, ‘One day I’ll win the lottery’!) as this can be depressing when they don’t come true. But SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-limited) are the way forward. Goals that you can achieve with effort are worth daydreaming about. Imagine yourself doing the thing that you want to do and all the little steps you will take to achieve it. Imagine any challenges you may encounter and how you will overcome them. This is even a technique used in sport psychology. Athletes achieve 'personal bests' by mentally rehearsing what they need to do. Other ways of daydreaming are by doing puzzles or using colouring books. These activities will occupy the mind. They will help provide focus by distracting you from stressful, negative internal monologues.
The benefits of meditation are well known. It will reduce stress and anxiety. It can lower blood pressure and heart rate, slow down brain waves and still the mind. Focusing on the breath will reduce tension and you will find yourself relaxing.
Sleep is so good for us. We all know that when we sleep, our bodies rest and repair, and when we have had a good night’s sleep, we feel recharged. We have boosted energy, focus, concentration and health. Even taking a short 20-minute power nap when you can will revitalise and reboot you. And when we sleep, our brain processes our memories and emotions. And this organisation of our internal ‘filing system’ should boost our creativity.
The relaxation that we experience will shake off stress. Reducing our fear response is important because fear holds us back. Relaxation will enable our subconscious mind to awaken. This will help us to imagine a cornucopia of positive possibilities.
10 Simple Tips to Guide our Decision-Making
It is good to research our options. but what we don’t want to do is to over-research every little thing so much that we bog ourselves down in detail. And very often when we research something, we may find differing information. This can leave us feeling confused and reeling. One person’s experience or opinion of something may be very different from another person’s. This is because our experience of the world and our experience is subjective. So find out the facts that you need to know but don’t become preoccupied with research. Don’t slow yourself down too much. Discover what is necessary and then move on to the next stage.
Don't ask everyone's advice
We often want to discuss our options and the decision-making process with people. This is understandable as we want validation that our decisions will be the right ones. And we want comfort and reassurance. But rather than talking to everyone, select a few people whose opinions you trust. Or seek out people who have relevant experience who can give you better advice. Talking to lots of people can leave you more confused than ever.
Don't think too long
Take time to think, but set a time limit. Don’t rush into making decisions. Jumping into something without proper research and thought can create problems for you. But you don’t want to waste time by procrastinating, over-researching and worrying. Decide how long you will take to think about the decision you will make and set a time limit on it. You could think about your options in a few hours, a few days or a few weeks. Either way, set a time limit and stick to it.
Don't decide until you know your values and life vision
To make the best decisions, you need to know yourself very well. Work out what it is that you value (see my post on Values). Know what your goals are. Have a life vision. See if the decision you are thinking of making will fit in and align with this. If it doesn’t, you will need to re-tune your ideas so that it becomes a better fit. But if it does fit, however, there’s a high chance that your decision will be right for you.
Don't forget the answers lie within you
Sometimes it can help to be a little imaginative. It can be helpful to imagine asking your inner wise woman for advice. The answers you need are within you anyway. Using a little imagination to get in touch with your deeper self can be very helpful. Imagine that your 80-year-old self is writing a letter to the current you. See what insight and wisdom comes from your ‘inner elder’. Or imagine that you are giving advice to a good friend and see what thoughts you come up with.
Don't limit your options
Take a piece of paper and a pen and think about what all your options are and write them all down. Then add in options that are the opposite of what you would usually do. We have lots of internal programming and conditioning that we pick up over our lifetime. We tend to think in ways that are typical to us, and this can be limiting. Think about your expectations and assumptions and reverse them. For example, if you are trying to decide on which university to go to, another option you might not have thought of is not to go to university. Instead, you could do an internship or apprenticeship. You could take a vocational qualification at a college, or travel and find work abroad. Open up your possibilities by seeing how infinite your options are.
Don't forget to visualise
Let your mind imagine the outcomes and experiences of each of your decisions. Write down anything that comes to mind such as thoughts and feelings. See what your imagination can come up with. Especially when guided with positive and constructive intention. Narrow down your choices to the top three for further consideration.
Don't ignore the analysis
Now is the time to merge the analytical with the creative. List all the pros and cons of your top three options. And see which options have more listed in the pros column. This can be a good visual way to weigh up options.
Do Trust yourself
The most important part of the decision-making process is self-belief. Have some faith in yourself. Trust in yourself and your decision and commit to it. You have researched it, thought about it, imagined outcomes and weighed up pros and cons. There is nothing left for you to do but to commit to your decision and trust yourself. The more you make decisions, and the more you tune into your gut feelings, the better and faster you will become at it.
Now that you have made your decision, don’t hesitate. Don’t delay, don’t second-guess, doubt or question yourself. Do it! There are never usually any right or wrong decisions. They are all just decisions – and you can change many decisions if needed. And we can never test everything because we don’t have a crystal ball. We cannot evaluate the future and the effects of something that has not happened yet.
American aviator Amelia Earhart said, ‘The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.’. Take heart and have faith in yourself. Live with confidence. Know that no matter what decision you make, you will navigate its course with boldness. It will be the right decision for you.
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