So, You Have to Make a Decision…

Being a college student, there are naturally multiple high-stake decisions that I have to make. For example: What college to go to, to stay or to go, what major to pursue. All of these decisions deal with setting up the rest of my life basically, or so it seems. Even if things go a different way in the future, a smart decision still has to be made now.

These sorts of decisions continue the plague us throughout out lives: Should I change careers? Should I marry? Have a family? When? Should I move? And the list goes on. One thing stays the same in this life and it is that everything changes. Stress introduces itself to us when we have more options and are aware of our responsibility to instigate the changes in our own lives.

Therefore, I have spent hours trying to find answers and trying to figure out how to make these decisions, so I’ve decided to compile a nice little list of decision-making tactics:

1. Be psychic. My best case scenario is that I encounter someone who can tell me these answers or somehow become endowed with these powers myself.

2. Use my subconscious. By now, we all know that the subconscious is the part of ourselves that actually wears the pants in the relationship. Reading through The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, I came across a chapter regarding having your subconscious aid in your decision making process. One way is to think about the question and the options before sleep and to affirm that you know the answer. Hopefully after a week or two you wake up with the answer through your dreams or clear knowing.

Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/68984.The_Power_of_Your_Subconscious_Mind

3. Change perspective on decision-making. I recently watched Ruth Chang’s talk on TED, How to Make Hard Choices, and it provided a completely new look at making decisions. I have found that when making decisions that carry quite a bit of weight and consequence, I become filled with anxiety. I try to analyze myself, include lessons from the past, integrate all components that affect the decision, and also try to predict to the best of my ability what will happen. However, there are sometimes so many options and factors that it would be impossibly to weigh everything out and come to a sensible conclusion in that manner. And as mentioned, I can’t predict the future. Her video asks us to change our perspective from one of trying to make the choice that will yield the best outcome with a bucketload of anxiety. To her, making decisions should be one in which you GET TO construct your future. You make the decision not with a fear of making a misstep because as we all know, things go wrong. You make a decision with the excitement of being able to shape who you are. After looking at my choices this way, the useless feeling of anxiety that hindered my decision-making process left me.

Link: http://www.ted.com/talks/ruth_chang_how_to_make_hard_choices

4. Pretend you are in a video game. Some people say that our experience of reality is actually simulated in a sense, and I agree with this because I think that there is a bigger picture than this. However, you do not have to believe this to use this technique. Playing a video game or board game is very similar to the game of life, or so its called by some people. In the game, we are removed yet also engrossed. The main point is to use strategy. Sometimes we get so emotionally invested in our issues that we don’t focus on utilizing logical process to make decisions. Take a break out of your day and pretend this is a video game, just more complex. Look at your objectives and then look at the problems. Breaking it down in this manner can actually make it much easier for you to make better long-term decisions– then you can go back to living your life as life.

5. Pretend you are giving advice to a random person. I find that when we are confused and ask for advice, we actually know what we want to do and are just looking for an outside opinion to confirm our thoughts. Nobody knows you or your life better than you. In many cases, you are fully equipped to make a better decision for yourself than anyone else. So here is the process: write down your questions, answer it objectively as if it was someone else’s problem, and lastly integrate this advice into your own life.

And it cannot be said enough, no decision IS a decision! As my dad says, “Make a decision, whether it’s right or it’s wrong. You can change it later.” If you find yourself paralyzed by decision-making, use some of these tips and remember to MAKE THAT DECISION and don’t be scared of making a wrong turn. If you do, you can weather it and get back on track, because that is what we do!

Freeing Yourself From People’s POSITIVE Opinions of You

People often talk and write about freeing yourself from others’ opinions of you–usually referring to opinions inhabiting the negative part of the spectrum. However, that is not where this piece of advice ends. Recently, I have been going through some works by Anthony de Mello, S.J.–and unlike many of the spiritual and self-improvement books out there nowadays, his work was actually worth stopping and taking the time to think about. These kinds of books are too often too long-winded and fluffy so that you spend so much time reading book after book without getting the necessary impact. With de Mello’s book, Call to Love, I found myself meditating on his meditations! A topic in one of them was letting go of opinions and judgments on yourself–especially the positive ones.

When a judgment is placed on something, it puts that thing into a box and cuts off all its curves and all its edges (tribute to John Legend there–couldn’t help it). As mentioned in the Liposuction post, these judgments could never compare to the full reality of things. Let’s say you are a child going about your business and having fun with the things around you. You start talking to this other kid. After a while, this kid says, “You’re funny!” You are immensely pleased that you have gained the acceptance of your peer and have even impressed them with just being you. By allowing that to make you pleased, you have also subconsciously allowed yourself to gain a fear along with that. That fear is the fear we all naturally have of not being accepted or liked. From there, you fear that you may lose this person’s good opinion of you. And so, you do things that will keep the good opinion that was bestowed upon you. You become the funny one and everything you do is guided by being funny to keep other’s approval. You have trapped yourself and put yourself in a position where you are not free to be not funny, not free to not be entertaining others.

Unbeknownst to you, you fashioned your own bars of imprisonment. This is not meant to tell you not to feel pleased when you are complimented; rather, the goal is to be aware of this. In this awareness, you can make better judgments and live more authentically. You can realize that– yes, that person said you were funny. That is their opinion of you that is really just all about their own judgments and themselves. It really has nothing to do with you. You can feel that pride, but remind yourself that whatever they say about you or what you say about yourself could never fully describe who you were, are, and who you are becoming. Once you have realized that their opinion of you has nothing to do with you, you will be free.

Liposuction Your Outlook

I’ve recently been reading some work by Anthony de Mello, S.J. One of the meditations in his book, Call to Love, caught my eye. In it, de Mello says that in our daily lives, there is a “layer of fat” that clouds how we see and experience things. He emphasizes how important it is for us to remove this fat so that we can see the world for how it really is– hence the “liposuction”.

What is this layer of fat that he is talking about, really? When you are a small child, you just interact with the things around you;  kids ‘soak things up like a sponge’. There is just a massive download during this time of pure experience. After we get more and more experiences though, we start relating these experiences to other things. It is the experiences that we have had and the judgments that we make on things that constitutes this “layer of fat”. If we are unaware of this, these experiences and judgments naturally cloud how we see things and what is going on. For example, you may see a person one way due to how they have acted in the past. Although this is natural and can be helpful, it is not accurate. If we want to see the world for what it is, we have to remove that judgment that we have made and experience things for how they are now, as that is the only thing that is real in the moment.

Removing this layer of fat is not easy since using past experience to inform current events is one of the most natural things for humans to do, as well as one of the most helpful in our evolution. Therefore, it cannot and should not be discarded completely. However, it is essential to keep in mind the “layer of fat” that this creates. As long as we are aware of this, we can take the necessary steps to attempt to see things clearly and make the best decision possible for the situation.

It is not so much that we need to change ourselves and go against our nature. Going against nature is futile and will hinder your progress. Just by bringing the awareness into your days, you can begin to see the world more clearly, live in the now, and fully experience your life. After all, this life is meant to be experienced NOW in all of its beauty!