Aug 14

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Dilemmas and stick chasing

Clients often come to me for help with decision making. “Which course should I study?”, “Which country should I live in?”, “Which type of job should I do?”. The decidee is usually after a clever tool, an advanced method of SWOT analysis, complicatedly weighted lists of pros and cons.

These tools are all useful, and interesting and worth taking a look at – with the acknowledgement that sometimes apparently ‘illogical’ choices turn out to be the very best ones.

That’s because there’s a disconnect between the laws of physics that govern the outside world (of UCAS points, coherent career progressions, sensible life planning, and the advice of our colleagues/ family/ prize-winning golden retrievers) and the laws of the universe that operate in our inner world (our calling, wisdom and reason for being on the planet).

Most of the time it appears our inner and outer worlds agree (hurray). Or perhaps the noises from our outer worlds – the howling ‘shoulds, musts and oughts’ from our golden retrievers and everyone else – drown out the gentle tug of our inner wisdom.

On really big decisions, with the attendant soul searching, the inner tugging becomes stronger. This is when we tell ourselves we “can’t decide” and look for clever tools. The trouble is, many of the tools work on the outer physics of the situation, rather than the inner universe. This can leave us is a tricky place.

I say toss a coin. Not to make the decision, of course, just to help us listen to that inner voice.

“Heads I run away to a circus. Tails I embark on a highly lucrative but morally questionable career in patio heater sales.”

Toss the coin and notice how we respond. Do we have a sense of relief, elation, dread, resignation? If we were to spend the rest of our days doing x rather than y, how would that be? If we absolutely knew z would work out wonderfully, what then? There’s no need to answer in words, just notice our response.

That tug on the heart is our inner universe making itself known, momentarily unfettered by the howling ‘shoulds, musts and oughts’ of the external world. Not to say that we should never follow the advice of our golden retrievers. Just that we do well to ask them to be quiet and still for a moment, and listen in a different direction.

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