Part 2 of Trust Your Choices
Not a day goes by without the need to make choices. Big and small. What am I going to eat? What do I want to wear? Do I take the kids to the park or play in the yard? Which high school? Which college? Which degree? Which job? Marriage? We can make decisions that move us toward life-giving choices and honor our unique gifts and talents.
Decisions can feel overwhelming if we feel the need to find the correct, perfect, or right answer. Discernment is an approach to decision-making that suggests “getting it right” may not be the goal after all. Instead the goal of this process is growth. We can only make the best decision for ourselves when we lean in to choices that energize us instead of drain us.
In Pierre Wolfe’s book, Discernment, he discusses a framework that assumes every person has the tools to make the best choices for him or herself. The tools that make up this framework are time, values, head, and heart.
- Time: To the extent the situation permits, try not to make a decision in a hurry. A good rule of thumb is, “The bigger the decision, the more time we need to give ourselves.”
- Values: We focus on priorities and the things that are most important to us. Some examples include compassion, kindness, courtesy, cooperation, loyalty, forgiveness, gratitude, friendship, honesty, hope, patience, love, humility, etc. Our values can form an umbrella under which we make our decisions and help us honor others and ourselves in the process.
- Head (logic): This is where we collect and investigate information about each option. We can make lists and t-charts listing out the pros and cons. We can seek advice from trusted friends, teachers, ministers, mentors, family members, etc. Be careful of those that say “you need to”, “should”, or “must.” Obeying other’s “shoulds” and “musts” drains the life out of most people, and is correlated with anxiety. Someone else’s choice may not be the best one for us. We all have unique gifts and talents that are life giving.
- Heart (feelings): One way to think about heart is to ask the questions: “Does this choice feel energizing? Does it light me up inside?” or “Does this choice feel draining? Does it suck life out of me?” Ultimately the goal of making decisions is to choose those that feel life giving (energizing). Once all options are weighed, ask, “How do I feel about each one?” Take the example of buying a house. At the end of the house hunting process, there are two or three possible homes that meet the criteria (square footage, bathrooms, etc). Friends may like one or the other better. But, in the end, the selection comes down to a feeling. Which house feels better to me? If there is still an uncomfortable or anxious feeling about a decision, it is not a good time to settle. If at all possible, take more time to work toward a feeling of peace or comfort with the decision.
Each one of us is worth the time of making decisions that honor our own unique areas of strength. As we make decisions we begin to grow and learn more about ourselves.
If you are in the midst of making decisions and feel stuck, Fuller Life Family Therapy desires to help you work through this process. We can work together toward life giving choices that honor your own unique strengths and talents.
Resident therapist at Fuller Life Family Therapy Institute