As a career counselor, I encounter and work with pivotal decisions my clients are facing. I assist them in the reflective process that brings greater perspective and awareness to the various sides of a given situation they are grappling with. Perspective and awareness help my clients to identify possibilities and map out choices from which they can freely make decisions and take appropriate courses of action. I also believe in helping my clients understand the anatomy of their decision making and encouraging the deliberate exercising of decision-making muscles which includes the practice of being present. Let me elaborate.
The Anatomy Of Decision Making
Clients often present with a specific situation - very much grounded in their present lives - that demands a decision. Clients will ask for assistance in analyzing and reflecting upon the possibilities before them with the hope that the right decision will emerge and enable them to move forward in an area of their lives. Younger clients may be undecided or fearful about what they will study at College or University or which direction they may want to pursue in terms of work and career. I hear the frustrations of other clients who are feeling stuck, disconnected and dissatisfied with the work they are doing but unable to make decisions that would lead to the actions and movement necessary to unlock desired change(s). As for clients who are facing an unexpected career transition, they can be stymied by this uncomfortable or unwanted reality and become paralyzed. In each of these examples, the experienced pressure to make the right decision is often overwhelming and can easily lead to avoidance and not wanting to be personally and solely responsible for any decision.
Making decisions very often involves a process that includes: reflection and deepened awareness, realistic deliberation, acceptance of the position or choice we do eventually make, and then the integration of our decisions into our lives. This is a personally experienced and practiced process. Some decisions are made quickly, easily and without doubt. Others are “leaps of faith” confidently made despite the risk of error or mistake. Decisions can become ruminating sticking points, and still others can produce agonizing stalemates or procrastination. We have all experienced these variations as we feel and think our way through the numerous decisions we make in life. None of us is exempt from making a tough or agonizing decision and all of us have experienced the comforting flow forward that follows an empowering decision.
Decisions are made in the present but are future-oriented. Decisions are made within the specific contexts of our present lives. They are made with the capacities we have accessible at our fingertips in the present moment. Decisions simultaneously point forward, they set a course of action or move our lives forward in some way. Our deliberations when making decisions often include goals we are striving towards or what we envision and hope for in our lives. The practice of being present and strengthening our awareness of our experiences and personal resources keeps our decision-making muscles flexed.
Exercising Our Decision-Making Muscles
Every encounter we have in life challenges us in terms of our response, our attitudes, our subsequent actions. We have the capacity to evaluate situations we encounter, reflect on how we are experiencing them, and assess what our response will be and what actions are possible. We weigh what might be possible with what might be needed, demanded or appropriate in a specific moment or situation. We can ask ourselves: what choice will I make, what stand could I possibly take towards this situation, what kind of attitude will I adopt as I engage and participate in this situation? We individually weigh all of this amidst the backdrop of multiple contexts (personal, social, familial, economic, cultural) that shape and influence our lives. Every decision we make is grounded in our present contexts AND directed or oriented toward a future point in our lives. Every decision made requires a degree of personal acceptance and responsibility while being simultaneously shadowed in possible doubt, risk or error.
The practice of being present strengthens our capacities to take those leaps of faith, to make decisions and accept the outcomes or the paths our decisions open up for us. The capacity to “weigh” and to exercise our decision-making muscles is a life of practiced engagement, action and commitment. This practice includes: being involved, being fully present, feeling a deepened sense of “aliveness” and connection to ourselves and to the world around us.
The Practice Of Being Present Includes:
- Developing our capacity for self-reflection – the ability to place our actions, thoughts and feelings in context - strengthens our muscles to make decisions and to choose a course of action within the realities and contexts we participate in.
- Being attentive and connected to our individual experiencing in the present moment helps us rely upon and to trust our capacities. This moves us towards accepting responsibility for ALL our decisions, right or wrong.
- The practice of being attentive, engaged and connected to both our internal (personal) experiencing and the experiences we have with the world around us deepens and strengthens our self-awareness.
- Giving ourselves space and time for reflection helps us to integrate and process our experiences, and to ponder their meaning, value or purpose. Incorporating these reflective discoveries and deepened awareness back into our day to day lives enriches our engagement and commitment to both the reality and possibilities of our lives. Once again, this gives us a greater sense of confidence in our unique capabilities and trust in the flow and movement of life.
- Being decisively active in creating and constructing our lives is a reciprocal process of participating in the world, integrating the world around us, while also giving unique and individual shape and form to all that we experience and strive towards. This active creating also includes the attitudes we adopt, the stand or position we take. It includes our ability to weigh the unique choices we may or may not have and ultimately to make decisions.
- Being open, receptive and accepting of BOTH the reality (specific contexts) and potential (possibilities) of our lives. Every present moment of our lives is grounded in specific contexts and simultaneously open to possibility and our infinite potential.
We want to experience our lives as purposeful and meaningful both in the present and pointed towards the future. This is the arena of choices and decisions. When we feel authentically engaged and active in life, when we feel connected to life, we build an experiential confidence in our choices and decisions despite the possibility of doubt, risk and error. Being fully ourselves in authentic engagement, in the present, is the basis for making decisions and accepting our decisions both simple and complex.
Britt-Mari helps clients create personally empowered solutions to career transition, burnout and building meaningful careers. She is an integrative career counselor with an extensive background in existential psychology, career counseling and teaching. To inquire about a free consultation contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org