Emotions are good. In fact, they’re essential to life and to decision-making. Without them, we cannot “feel right,” and so we can’t make choices with confidence.
However, during the decision-making process itself, emotionality can prevent us from thinking things through, considering issues objectively, and figuring out what’s going on in our own brains.
The first emotion to confront is fear, particularly fear of making a “wrong” decision. We need to remember there is no “perfect” decision. A number of paths lie before us. Choosing that path isn’t like jumping out of an airplane. Pick which path seems best to you right now, commit to that path, and work to improve the path as you go along.
Fear also comes from our brains as they whisper to us that we are powerless and doomed to fail. Does this sound familiar?
Brain to Self: “I don’t know why you set goals each year. You always fail, and it just makes you more miserable. Why don’t we go out for some pizza and beer and forget all this decision-making stuff? It won’t matter anyway.”
Self-doubts can be substantial hurdles to overcome. But, self-doubts should not be allowed to keep you from the life you want.
First, recognize that inner voice. Take notice every time it speaks. We have all become so comfortable with the constant mental chiding that we might think it’s some voice of wisdom. It’s not. It’s just negative static.
Meditation is the most effective way to silence your anti-cheerleader. I recommend Michael Singer’s The Untethered Soul and the app Headspace. But you can start right now with a few simple steps.
- Stop reading, close your eyes for about five minutes, and simply listen to your thoughts. Don’t try to control them. Just listen. Then come back to this page.
- Evaluate your thoughts. Were they useful? Negative? Anxious? Embarrassed?
- When you’re ready, close your eyes, and try to be calm. Be in the moment. Once your thoughts start to drift (and they will!), very gently guide your thoughts back to the present moment.
If you do this daily, building up to a solid ten minutes of mindfulness each time, you will find your brain’s ranting is something you can control and even turn off, leaving a calm, silent mind with which you can consider your ideas without negativity or panic.
Over time, this will progress to the outside world. You’ll be able to tell when your brain does its best thinking, such as right after coffee or late at night. You will see ways to improve your physical surroundings to help you think, such as by turning off your phone and decorating your space with objects that make you feel calm. (Candles and fountains are popular, but maybe for you it’s action figures and flowers.)
Now you have a personal superpower, a place in your life, home, and mind to consider issues without fear, without self-doubt or self-hatred. In fact, you may find when that Negative Nelly brain shuts up that you’re amazed at just how draining it’s been to listen to it all these years. Think of all the strength and energy you’ve spent trying to counter that discouraging voice, energy that you have now freed up for making plans, following your dreams, and living the life you want.