Exercises Archives

 

There are times in life when everything seems to go wrong. And you wonder how to persevere.

Performance decreases.
Miscommunication leads to problems.
Things break in the house and in the office.
Cars need repairs.
Friends leave or die.
Family problems arise.
Health is challenged.
Kids catch bugs and need extra care.
Job is threatened.
Bureaucratic errors occur.
Systems you rely on break down.
Procedures go wrong.
Internet is gone.
Orders go miss.
And so on.

There are mental, emotional and physical challenges. On all levels. And you feel as if run by a truck.

The winds of difficulties blow in your face and they blow strong. There is an emotional turmoil. There is so much work but despite all the work you do, there is hardly any progress. Whatever you touch to manage, correct or handle, things don’t improve and often become worse. You take action but the results are little or even adverse.

And then you begin to wonder.

How am I going to handle this all? How am I going to persevere?

Has this ever happened to you?

Yes?

 You are not alone. Welcome to the Club 😉

Breathe it out and persevere

If sudden events come to your life, the first thing is to pause and breathe. Especially, the out-breath is important. Please follow the Red ribbon exercise. This simple focus on breath forces your Conscious Self to be present in the moment. And this gives you the control back.

The clustering of challenging events has always intrigued me. How is it possible that they come one after another?

Surprisingly, even if I think that I can’t handle them any more, I do. Even when I get kicked-off my balance, hurt, torn and misplaced, I am back to my center. I persevere.

I was originally poor at facing life challenges and my usual tactic was to close down, get depressed, sit in the self-pity pit and complain. With years of my conscious growth, however, I have become better and better at handling life setbacks.

I still get hit. I am still overwhelmed. And I still get hurt. Yet, after the initial shock or surprise, I find my peace and begin action from within. This is because I’ve developed practices that allow me to regain my balance and re-define my center. And I want to share them with you.

There are two main learning points with respect to your calmness and peace in the eye of a tornado. The first learning point is that the overall balance and feeling in control strongly depends on the centering and balancing of your physical body. And you can learn to practise that. Secondly, your mental and emotional balance depends on an undisturbed flow of emotions and practising detachment. This can be learned as well.

Practice I. Physical center and balance

Staying balanced and centered refers to a basic position in marital arts. Balance is attained when the weight of the body is distributed evenly, right and left, forward and back,all the way from head to the toes. Center is practised when the bodily awareness is concentrated at the center of the abdomen, say 2cm below the navel. All movement is initiated from the center.

Exercise. Regain your center and balance.

1. Warm up.

Stand tall, feet parallel, slightly wider than at shoulder width, knees slightly bent. Warm up your body with little stretching exercises. This should take 5min and is not meant as a warming-up to a demanding exercising session.  This warming up is meant for you to 1) bring your awareness to the body, 2) get the feeling of various parts of the body and 3) exercise flexibility of movement. It is not necessary though.

You can choose any warming up exercises you know. For instance, you can do the following:

  • Rotations of joints. Flex, extend, and rotate each of the joints:  fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, trunk, hips, knees, ankles, feet and toes.
  • Neck movements. Repeat 3-5x.
    • Tuck your chin into your chest, and then lift your chin upward as far as possible.
    • Lower your left ear toward your left shoulder and then your right ear to your right shoulder.
    • Turn your chin toward your left shoulder and then slowly rotate it toward your right shoulder.
  • Shoulder flexibility. Repeat 3-5x. Raise your left shoulder towards your left ear, take it backwards, down and then up again to the ear. Make smooth circles in both directions.  Repeat it for the right shoulder.
  • Arm swings. Repeat 5x. Swing both arms continuously to a position above your head, then forward, down, and backwards. Then swing both arms out to your sides.
  • Side bends. Repeat 3-5x. With hands on your hips, bend smoothly first to one side, and then to the other. Avoid leaning forward or backward.
  • Forward bends. Repeat 3-5x.
  • Hip circles. Repeat 5x in every direction. With hands on your hips, make circles with your hips in a clockwise direction, followed by an anticlockwise direction.
  • Leg swings. Repeat 5x. Put the weight on your left foot. Swing your right leg forward and backward. Repeat for the other leg.

2. Find your balance.

Stand tall on the ground with a straight spine, feet a shoulder apart, parallel to each other. Eyes are facing forward, shoulders flexible and knees bent just a little bit. You feel connected to the ground. You stand securely imagining your feet being strong as roots of an oak tree. Arms hang loosely at your sides.

Now, distribute your weight evenly. This sounds easy but may be difficult to attain.

Feet. Stand with feet a shoulder apart, parallel to each other. Spread the weight equally between the legs. Keep shifting weight from one foot to the other until you find where the middle point is. Then stop.

Knees. Keep knees bent a bit. You should feel firmly attached to the ground yet flexible, prepared to move if needed.

Head. Keep your head straight, facing forward. Imagine a flexible cord attached to the middle point of your skull. Since the tendency of many people is to slouch or look down, the goal of this imaginative cord is to pull you up. Check that your chin is parallel to the ground.  Your spine needs to be straight and your head needs to be an extension of your spine.  This is where the pull of the cord is.

Why is it important to keep the head in this position?  A head weights usually between 4.5 and 6kg. It is a heavy burden on both the atlas and axis, the first two cervical vertebra of the spine, where the head rests. A misalignment on this level carries on through the whole spine and usually results in various subluxations which lead to misalignments in the body. A proper position of the head can be attained through a conscious practice. Alternatively, you may need a help from an osteopath or chiropractor.

Shoulders. Keep your shoulder blades down. They need to support the spine yet remain flexible. Check they are aligned.

Hips. Imagine your hips are a bucket full of water. Move your hips forward and backward and to the sides. Your goal is to find a position where no water is lost from the bucket.

Being a tree. Imagine yourself as a tree, with strong roots (feet) and branches (your head and spine) extending to heaven. You are like a birch tree, well rooted and still, but flexible.

3. Regain your center.

Bring awareness to the middle of your abdomen. Tap lightly with your fingers on the abdomen. You can place the palm of your hand there to feel how it is rising with your breath. Take an in-breath that begin to feel the abdomen rising. Imagine how air nourishes you through all the organs moving out through capillaries of your limbs. Imagine your out-breath coming from your limbs.

Remain in this position for 5min or as long as comfortable. Focus on your breath.

Practice II. Detachment

I imagine emotions as energy currents or waves.  In the challenging time, emotions come suddenly and in strong waves. There is often disappointment, anger or feeling of injustice. There may be hurt, grief, pain or terror.

The natural working of emotions is to flow through your body. If you maintain the flow, you allow all emotions to be expressed in respectful ways. When the flow is blocked, a tension is created which will seek its own way out in the less convenient way, perhaps as health problems.

It is only holding them back, or riding on them kicks us out of the balance and out of the middle way. We become too much one-sided. We may be swayed by the strong waves and allow them to carry us. In doing so, we become submissive and loose control. As a result, we are weak an powerless.

Detach: look at your life from above

The first conscious act is to say “Stop”. Take the control back. Start thinking about the emotions. Recognize what they are and name them. By engaging your thinking, an emotion looses its strong impact. The next act is to detach from what is happening. It may sound difficult but it is actually simple and working fast when you remember to practise it.

Exercise. Make a break.
Leave your living place for at least a day, possibly a few days or a week. Physical distance forces a distant view on your life.

Exercise. Source.
Find what s the strongest feeling in you in this very moment. Name it. Write it down if you like. Find the though behind this feeling. Which thought gave birth to this feeling? Write it down in one sentence. Now, go another step back. What was the intention behind the thought? What is the source of the though? What was the motivation? What was your need?

In doing so, by the very naming of emotion – thought – intention, you give it a shape and make the generating process conscious. It gives you both understanding and control. Practice it.

Exercise. Football field.
Imagine a football field (baseball, basketball or any other sport game field). You are like a player on the field when  you are strongly engaged with your emotions. You have only a limited view of what is happening on the field, near to you. You are involved in the fight, in the kick, jump or run. You have a partial understanding. This is how your life is int he moment. How does it feel now?

Imagine now that you are a fan sitting on the chair above looking at the game. Now you can see the whole field, where the ball is, who taking actions, who is the best to give a ball to and so on. You gain a perspective. Now, imagine that this is the way you look at your life, just taking a view from above so that you, your house, your work becomes a view from, say, 10-20m from above (the 5-7th floor of a building).  Now you can observe yourself from the perspective of a fan observing the game. How does it feel?

Finally, imagine that you are a commentator sitting at the high, far above the field. You not only see the players and the field but also the fans. There are clear patterns. Actions clusters, behavior is repeated. beautifulYou can observe.

Now take this metaphor to see your life from the perspective far above, say even from an airplane. You become small, nearly insignificant and in one glimpse you see the whole town and your life. There are beautiful colors, patches and patterns, Things happen but somehow slowly. There is peace to it and a higher order. You understand.

Practice III. Enhance flow: release emotions

Emotions need to be expressed. They are our natural meter of what is happening to us. We can feel excited, happy, joyful, or uplifted. Similarly, we can feel angry, fearful, disappointed, hurt, terrified or powerless.

Emotions flow through the body. If you feel happy, you smile or laugh, your eyes are shining, you are jumping around. Similarly if you are disappointed, angry or fearful, you need to express such feelings as well.

We have been made to believe that it is wrong or weak to show feelings, such as anger, hatred, pain or fear. As a result, such emotions are blocked. What’s worse, these natural emotions may be heavily denied that you don’t even know they are there.

It starts with your intent to allow these feelings to surface and to express them as they emerge. It does not mean you should be crying, screaming, or yelling at yourself or people for hours. The idea is to find appropriate ways for the emotional release and in the convenient time, usually when you are alone.

Useful tools for emotional release

No one can tell you how to feel your feelings. It is up to you to learn about your own sensitivity here through effort, intent, and action. Working with others on your emotions may be helpful but it not necessary. Only you can interpret your emotions and connect them to the likely causes as well as find the appropriate release.  Below, I suggest a few tools that I practise myself. Particularly, I encourage you to learn about EFT.

Hurt. Pain. Discomfort. Disappointment. Grief.

  • Pray. This will give you wisdom. Peace. And a solution.
  • Breathe. Breathe it out.
  • Cry. Cry it out.
  • Write about it. Take a piece of paper. Write things down. Jot down how you feel and what is bothering you. Take any time you need.  Burn the drawing and imagine all the emotions being made free through the flame.
  • Draw it. Take a piece of paper. Make a drawing of each feeling you name. Use colorful pencils. Take any time you need. Burn the drawing and imagine all the emotions being made free through the flame.
  • Mix-media. Make an artistic expression of your emotion by using various media such as writing, painting or collage.

Anger and grief (anger also hides behind grief).

When you are angry, you are prone to physical acts. The energy is concentrated and seeks a physical release. It asks for a strong act of hitting, slapping, punching or kicking. The greatest method for the release is to play a sport that requires such an activity: football, baseball, volleyball, etc. If you don’t have such a possibility, take a pillow or cushion and keep punching it until you get tired. It works wonders.

All emotions.

  • EFT. Use EFT, emotional freedom technique, also called tapping. It is a fast and effective tools for releasing emotions of the day. When learnt, it takes only 5min and can also be used to start a day in a good mood. The old (and hidden deep down) emotions and traumas may need a repetition over a period of time.
    Personally, it took me 1 month of 2 x 5 min daily repetition to release a strong trauma. The technique is simple, effective and actually fun. I encourage you to read the EFT instruction booklet, freely available. The best educational videos are these on tapping. Follow them. I recommend you learn the practice from the Tapping website.
  • Physical exercise. Exercise until you are physically exhausted. The best exercise is the one that requires a strong involvement of your limbs. E.g. running, chopping wood, kicking  a ball, jumping on a trampoline, punching in a gym, etc.

If any of the above is a little frightening to you, accept that it feels frightening. Name it. Do the Source Exercise above.

Practice IV. Smile

Even if this sounds ridiculous, smile

Change your posture, stand tall and face forward. Smile. By forcing a change on your physiognomy, new emotions (compensating the overflow you now experience) are likely to follow.

Smile to yourself.

Smile to remember things you are grateful for. 

Smile to this moment of Now.

Practice V. Relax

Find ways to relax at night. The Red Ribbon Exercise may be of help.

You can handle the challenges

This is your life. And you can handle the challenges. It is a choice.

You may choose to persevere and get stronger or not.
You may choose to release your emotions or not.
You may choose to take an effort to get to know yourself or not.
You may choose to learn the practices so that you are well equipped and resourceful when the tornado comes or not.

No choice is still a choice.

You can choose to handle the challenges and grow.

This is your life. Only you can change it.

 

 

O.K., I admit the title is meant to be catchy, but nevertheless I want to share a useful insight. Although this post is somewhat lengthy, I encourage you to read on. This post touches the core issue of happiness.

Who are the unhappy people that you have ever met in life?

Pause for a moment. Think briefly about them. Who are they?

Got the answer?

If you have thought about a number of people, you may have noticed how different they are.

Perhaps some are mothers at home. Perhaps some are managers or CEOs in large corporations.
Perhaps some are jobless. Perhaps some are students.
Perhaps some are rich. Perhaps some are poor.
Perhaps some are losers. Perhaps some are winners.
So many times we have seen stars to rise and fall, those who had everything in terms of money or worldly success, yet ended up lonely and miserably.

Do they hope that they are going to be happy one day in the future? Or, do you regret or their lives in the past?

We seek happiness

We seek happiness in things, collections, or material possessions. But it only accumulates stuff.
We seek happiness in sport, business or academic achievements. But it only asks for more.
We seek happiness in a fast-paced professional carrier. But it only leads off the middle way (and the lack of balance).
We seek happiness in indulgence in food, drinks, sex, and so on. But it leaves us empty even more.
We seek happiness in kids, wives, husbands, partners, or a family. But it limits our personal development.
We seek happiness in the acceptance or recognition of others. But it supports our low self-esteem and makes us unable to think for ourselves.

The truth is this.

Happiness cannot be found in possessions, achievements, other people, relations or businesses. We are misguided by thinking that happiness is outside us. And if this or that happens, then we will become truly happy. Not true at all.

Nothing outside us will make us permanently happy. Ever.

Happiness is a state of being.

(For myself I thought that becoming a mother would bring me the highest fulfillment and the greatest satisfaction in my life. But this is not the case.

Don’t take me wrong here. I’m a happy mother. I love my kids deeply and passionately. Yet, becoming a mother has only opened more desires which were always there, but in a salient state. I want to be a great mother, and at the same time, I want to become much more.  )

Happiness is like breathing

Happiness is like breathing. It is joy that exists now, in this moment. It is a way of being. Being is expressed by breath, similarly as happiness is expressed by being.

Happiness is within your reach at this very moment. It is not about a mystical experience, neither meditation. It is not about the accumulation of rewards, achievements, friends or possessions. As everything in your conscious life, you become happy by choice. What you need to say and commit to is this:

“I choose to be happy NOW.”

The emphasize is on the Now.

That’s it. You don’t need to change. You don’t need to improve. You don’t need to become healthier, brighter or more skilful in order to be happy now. You don’t need to reach more peaks neither more goals. You don’t need to buy more stuff. You don’t need to have more friends. You don’t need to be older, wiser, or smarter.

You need to be yourself in the Now. Happiness is a side effect of this.

How to be unhappy?

O.K., the above reasoning likely sounds familiar to you. But … we have not touched the real issue yet. Here we go.

Let’s go back to the unhappy people in life. In my experience, all unhappy people I met were in one of the two categories:

  1. either strong worriers (worrying about their circumstances, family, job, money, payments, health, and future events)
  2. or, strong past dwellers (i.e. holding tight on the past hurts, disappointments, traumas or events).

My conclusion is this. What prevents you from being happy is that you don’t live in the current moment. Instead, you live either in the past or in the future.

Think about it.

The only time we can experience is Now. The moment in which you are reading and understanding these words. We only have this present moment. Nothing else.

Past is in your memory, while future is your imagination.

The metaphor of driving

Holding onto the past is as if driving forward by looking in the rear mirror only! You can’t anticipate what is coming before you. You cannot prepare for the bends, road bumps, traffic lights, sudden stops that are on your road. You cannot enjoy the wide perspective of the  scenic views ahead. You cannot respond timely when the action is necessary. Because it will take the time to refocus on your front vision and you will act too late.

Worrying about the future is taking your conscious attention (your laser beam Conscious Self) to the scenarios that you may experience one day, or likely never. This is like driving with your focus on what is a few-hundred meters away from you. Since you can hardly see what is there, except for a rough overview, you cannot really predict the actual traffic situation as you have too little time-related data, you cannot fully prepare for it. And in the meantime, while focusing on your projected future traffic ahead, you can be bumped by a car which is suddenly on your right but escaped your vision.

Do you follow me?

The only way to drive well is by being present in the moment. You focus on what you see in the front. At the same time, by using the far-reached as well as peripheral vision, you can fully anticipate what is coming ahead, from the left and right. And by using the rear windows you can see how the past is being changed and whether you need to take it into account now.

Take it as a metaphor for life. When you focus on the Now you also include sufficient views of the past and the future. It works.

The ultimate secret to happiness

We can now formulate the ultimate secret.

The secret to happiness is to live fully in the present moment.

Or in other words,

What hinders your happiness is the denial of (your participation in) the present moment.

Now is the only accessible point of power you have. This is your Operational Point, i.e. the point from which you can act. What you are feeling, being, doing, living in this very moment determines your happiness (or flow).

You may think about past or future as separate events. But this thinking or feeling, intuition or analysis happens now. As a result, you are evoking in your mind either the past or the future in this very moment. And in this way you take focus (say the light from your laser beam Conscious-Self) from what life is for you now to some aspects of life beyond your immediate control or influence.

Where does it lead to? Simply to a conflict between your direct experience of the Now that happens anyway and your conscious awareness that is thrown out of the present moment. So, your inner conflict between your here and now, where you don’t want to be, and your remembered past or imagined future, where you want to be makes you unhappy.

Nothing ever happened in the past. It happened in the Now. The past was once the Now.

Nothing will ever happen in the future. It will happen in the Now. The future will at some point be the Now.

Some ideologies, doctrines or systems work on the premise that there is a better, happier future for us. We only need to conform to a specific set of rules, follow this or that leader, live by a set of certain principles or follow this or that life-style. And then, some day, we will be happy. This is an illusion.

And I am reminded about this when I see the name of God in the bible “I am that I am” or when I read that “The Kingdom of God is within you” (or “among you” depending on the translation). God’s consciousness is about being in the present moment. As simple as that. Eternity is in the Now.

Waiting

Are you trying to get somewhere else than where you are now?
How many times did you look at your kids and wished they were at school instead of nursery?
How much as a child did you wish the end of a school year (=holiday) that had just started?
How much do you wish this meeting / project /work / task to be finished now?

Are you waiting for your life to happen? Are you waiting for holiday, the end of the season or the beginning of a new one, your kids to grow up, a new house to be bought, or a better job? Are you waiting to be discovered, to be smarter or more enlighted?

Waiting is a state of mind in which you focus on the projected future and deny the present moment. In doing so, you only anticipate the future and cut yourself from the chance of learning and enjoying the now. Waiting and anticipation for the better future to come is loosing your power of actually creating the very future you want in the now.

What is so magical about the present moment?

You simply cannot be unhappy in the present moment. If this sounds contradictory to you, just think about it. There is a moment of now, a split of a second, a tick on a clock, and in this moment, you either accept what is or you take an action. There is no other choice.

Your full concentration is on the now. And you actively participate in this now. This is the perception of the flow, hence the expression of happiness.

So, if you are present in the now, fully agreeing with what is or being in an action, then there is no focus left for you to worry about something tomorrow, 12 steps ahead or considering a guilt from yesterday, your childhood abuses or disappointments.

If you have ever experienced flow (being in the now), you know that it is impossible to have a problem in the Now. Problems are caused by perceptions from your Conscious Self dwelling outside your Operational Point. If you perceive a problem, it means you are living with a situation without holding an intention or possibility of taking the action now.

This all sounds good, … but where is learning from my past?

There is certainly place in the Now to learn from your past. You may temporarily choose to hold on the past to properly grieve about the loss in your life, be it a beloved family member, a friend, a dog, a job or something else. And I personally think that this is important.

The goal of such a grieving or going through the past events, however, is to live through the related experiences and choose to condense the great ones into the seeds of gratefulness. The goal is to hold memories about the joy, growth and happiness that these experiences have brought you. It is about practicing the memory of the heart.

What helps in this process is to look at a large scope, time-wise (months or years) or space-wise (hometown, country or a continent). The final purpose is to transform these experiences into the gratitude that you choose to cherish in the Now, or into the feeling of being blessed that you experience in the moment.

This all sounds good, … but where is planning?

Planning, goal setting or setting up habits have a unique purpose. If you think that planning or goal setting is only about future, you are wrong. The purpose of goals and plans is to set up a direction of your journey (yes, this is the future aspect) so that you become crystal clear on the action in the Now. Plans and goals give you a reference frame for your focus in the Now, so that the Now can be lived more satisfactorily and joyfully.

In short, planning helps you to live the Now more efficiently.

The present moment

Remember there are no problems in the current moment. When there is a situation with which you need to deal now, your present moment awareness will support you with a clear mind so that your decisions become efficient and your actions become decisive.

Do you remember the driving metaphor?

If you are consciously aware of the moment, taking responses in relation to what is happening on the road right now, you will drive well and safely. Most car accidents happen because the driver’s awareness was withdrawn from the present moment, either by going deeply into thinking, falling asleep or being distracted by external actions, e.g. turning head away to talk to a passenger.

(Note: Driving on a highway may also induce a trans state in which your consciousness goes into a deep thinking or a type of a meditative state. This usually happens on when the traffic is small or the road easy. )

This all sounds good, … but how to live in the present moment?

Being present in the Now may be difficult at first if you have been worrying or holding onto your past for a long time. The easiest way to bring your awareness to the present moment is to focus on breathing. As simple as it sounds. In-breath and out-breath. In-breath and out-breath.In-breath and out-breath. And so on.

Exercise: Red ribbon breathing

Practically, I recommend to do the following. Deep, slow, abdominal in-breath followed by a slow out-breath. To know that your breath is abdominal, put your hand just below the navel. Your hand should go up with an in-breath and down with an out-breath. Ideally, your out-breath is 3x longer than the in-breath. So, you can count, “one” (in-breath), “two, three and four” (out-breath).

In addition, imagine that you breath out any unease, pain or discomfort that you may feel inside or hold in your body now. Imagine this discomfort as a long, thin, red ribbon. While breathing out, make your mouth slightly open, making a small “o”-mouth, for the ribbon to get out,  of course ;).

This is an excellent exercise to focus on the moment (or prepare and fall asleep in the night) if you follow this for 5-10 min. Then, whatever issues you have to tackle, you simply look at them and decide which actions are to be taken in the Now.

Of course, it is difficult to be present 100% in all moments in life. But our goal is to be present as much as we can.

Summary

Let me repeat the most important finding.  The secret to happiness is to live fully in the present moment.

The only Operational Point of your life is in the present moment.The power is in the thoughts, feelings, attitudes and actions in the Now.
 
It is not your past that prevents you from being happy. It is your tight hold on the past, the focus of your attention on dwelling, replaying former disappointments, griefs, hurts and so on. Whenever you worry and replay your past in the present moment, you are only repeating the mental patterns for it to become your reality in the Now. Whenever you worry and project imagined fears into the future in the present moment, you are only creating the mental patterns for it to become your reality in the Now.

The only way to break this pattern is to bring your consciousness, your Conscious Self, to the present moment. Then you either accept what the moment brings or take an action.

I encourage you to focus on the Now. Have trust. Be present. Accept or Act.
The flow of happiness is yours.

***

This post is inspired by The power of Now book, by Eckhart Tolle.

***

 

best_decision

How would you characterize your best personal decisions?

Think about it.

What is coming to your mind?

  • Are you thinking about producing results, personal growth, or a great outcome?
  • Are you thinking about a more balanced living as a result?
  • Are you thinking about fast decisions, in which you joyfully skipped the agonizing pain of analyzing all options?

Any of these or something else?

Best decisions is not what matters

While we like to talk about good and bad decisions, the factor of goodness is completely irrelevant in a decision making process. Why? Because the goodness criterion is hard to implement into this process.

“Bad” and “good” is all about judgment which you can only make while looking back, isn’t it? You judge your decisions as good when you experience its benefits or you produce results that exceeded your projection from the past.  You can call it “connecting the dots” or “understanding”. It doesn’t matter.

There is no way to assure the decision you are going to make will be any good for you. Why? Because you cannot truly foresee its benefits, costs and consequences. And in addition the evaluation depends on the context and the time frame. What you judge as bad now may turn out to be considered as good later on. Hasn’t that happen to you yet?

The consequence of the above is far reaching. The challenge is not about making best or even good decisions. We cannot take this aspect into account. Instead, the challenge is to make effective§ decisions.

Effective decisions

Effective decisions lead us towards becoming who we aspire to be and doing the things we aspire to do. Effective decisions lead to a transformation either on the level of who we become or how we approach things in life, and ultimately what we have. These are consciously made decisions.

Effective decisions are intuitive and/or informative, fast and congruent.

Intuitive decisions integrate both emotion and rational thought in a creative way. They utilize knowledge yet they make use of the subjective evaluation of what matters in the moment. They are led by inspiration, insight or a high level perception.

Fast decisions do not necessarily mean decisions in a split of a second, but in a relatively short time. Fast decisions mean that they can be made in the presence of little information, partial information and/or uncertainty. We need information but only some as too much information inhibits decision making.

Congruent decisions mean that we are in alignment with them. This is crucial because decisions either inspire the beginning of a transformation or direct towards a change. And this requires action. When integrity is missing it will be hard for you to take action steps. A part of you who is unhappy with the decision will sabotage the action taking, optimal focus or the working towards the results. You may still rip some benefits, but often below what it could have been.

The effective guide to effective decision making

Set up a time limit and make a decision. Be it an hour, a day or a week, whatever it needs to be for the given case. Make it simple and fast. You will improve with practice.

  1. Rational thought: Use analysis, information and previous knowledge to learn about the situation. Enumerate the options.
  2. Emotional pruning: Trust the feeling of what feels s right, important or interesting to prune the tree of options. Stop at a few alternatives.
  3. Test the alternatives: Play the scenarios against your mental models, or simply visualize where the alternatives lead to. How the involvement feels. Be specific.
  4. Trust: Carefully observe how you respond to each scenario and make the final choice.

The points 1-4 above coincide with the intuitive decision making. There are two simple strategies that will help you develop trust and confidence in the final choice. These are placing yourself into a decision process and using the yes/no inner guiding system.

“Is it like me?” – integrating who you are into a decision process

The key understanding here is that decisions are creative outlets for self-expression. Decisions will inherently lead to a new experience or change, hence you may evaluate a decision by the perception of how you will fit or go with it. In the act of a similarity search or comparison, you will compare the thing with the ideal you, the you to become.

When you are considering a few options, you may ask yourself:

  • Is this bag / jacket /computer / TV set / car like me?
  • Is this job like me?
  • Is this house like me?
  • Is this country like me?
  • Are these colleagues like me?
  • Are these friends like me?
  • Is this meal like me?
  • Is this holiday like me?

This is something that you can feel or know. If you really don’t know how to answer such a question, use the tools below.

Tool #1: Make a list of five features describing the thing itself. How well will these adjective describe you?

  • Are you open, tolerant, individualistic, courageous and organized as the country you want to live in?
  • Are you slick, sophisticated, modern, compact, and well-rounded as the desk you are considering to buy?
  • Are you red-loving, detailed, spacious, elegant and classic like this bag?

Give yourself a minute or a few at most to make these evaluations. Mind becomes more creative in the time limit.

Tool #2: Consider your 5-10 personal values, such as intelligence, openness, honesty, friendship, individuality, humor, etc, whatever matters to you the most. Obviously you need some time to determine your values first. Ask yourself. Is the subject of your decision reflecting the values you appreciate the most?

  • Is this company (offering you a job) having similar values to the ones you have?
  • Is the neighborhood and the community around the house you consider supporting the values that are important to you?
  • Is this bag / jacket / computer / TV set helping you to develop the values that matter to you?

Find it out.

Yes/No guiding system

Another practical way to look at your decision option is to pay attention to the signals and subtle cues from the body. Your body will communicate with you how you  feel about each choice. If you are congruent with the decision then you will experience the positive ““Yes” in your body.  Otherwise, in case of mismatch, you will experience the “No”.

How do you tell the difference?

Stand up and think about something that you really dislike, such as spiders, cleaning the house or talking to strangers. Thinking about it should make you emotionally upset.

How do you know that you do NOT like it?

Answer these questions:

  • If you are seeing a scene in your mental eye, how does it look like? (Is it bright or dark, occupying the whole space, what are the shapes, etc)
  • If you are telling yourself about it or hearing it in your mental ear where does your voice originate from? Whose voice is it? (You at the age of 15, your boss etc)
  • What is your general feeling? (Tension, compression, gloom)
  • What is your posture? (How are your shoulders or feet positioned? Where is your head pointing to?)
  • Where is your gravity center? (Head, chest etc)
  • How do you breathe? (Short, shallow etc)
  • Where do you feel discomfort in your body? (Lungs, chest, stomach, shoulders)
  • What are the sensations you experience? (Goose bumps, butterflies in your stomach etc)

Just feel the sensations. Intensify them by thinking about even more horrible circumstances concerning the thing you dislike. Remember the sensations.

Breathe a few times in and out and then repeat the same for the Yes-guidance.

Stand up and imagine something that you really enjoy, e.g. drinking delicious smoothie, resting in a sun, playing volleyball, painting, etc

How do you know that you like it while you are thinking about it?

Answer these questions:

  • If you are seeing a scene in your mental eye, how does it look like?
  • If you are telling yourself about it or hearing it in your mental ear where does your voice originate from?
  • What is your general feeling? (Ease, expansion, joy)
  • What is your posture? (How are your shoulders positions, feet, where head is pointing etc)
  • Where is your gravity center? (Abdomen, tummy)
  • How do you breathe?  (Deep, long, etc)
  • How do you feel joy / comfort in in your body? (Sensations in the  lungs, chest, stomach, etc)
  • What are the sensations you experience? (Thrill of excitement, tickling in your stomach, open shoulders etc)

Be as detailed as possible.

In these Yes/No situations above, the image you see will usually be in a different place and differ in qualities, colors, use of light etc.  When you talk to yourself about a particular thing that you enjoy, this voice  will be different from the voice about the thing you dislike. You need to pay attention to tonality, speed or volume. Your perceptions and feelings will be different in both situations. Your posture will be different. And so on.

Notice the differences and remember them.

Next time pay attention to your body cues and you will know which decision to make.

The need for a change

You can use the guidance above to find out whether you are in agreement with yourself concerning the daily issues: house you live in, job you have, clothes you wear etc. It is the first step to admit that some things around you are perhaps not like you. You may have overgrown them and you need a change.

Be honest and admit this to yourself. It is all right not to know what to do next yet or how to improve. When you admit the truth to yourself, you empower yourself to start searching. Explore actively and you will find out what to do.

Summary

It is possible that your decision will not be good. And this is all right because your goal is not to make optimal decisions. You cannot judge them beforehand.

Your goal is to make conscious and effective decisions that support you in your personal growth. If your future-Self is unhappy with the decision or its results, you can make a new decision by incorporating whay you have learned on the way. Since your decisions are fast, you gain extra time and a free mind to experiment and learn how to improve your decision making.  And with practice, you will master it.

Time is now.  Effective decisions are yours to live by.

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§Note that there is a difference between efficiency and effectiveness.  Efficiency is to do things right, i.e. use the time well for doing the tasks. Effectiveness is to do the right things, i.e. things that matter and things that produce results. And it is a fundamental difference.

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A series of posts on decision making

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