Decision-making 101: The Body Compass
Just saying that word aloud makes me cringe.
And we are not talking about what brand of milk to buy (hint: try almond milk!) and how often to shampoo your hair. No, we are not talking about the millions of decisions you make – consciously and unconsciously – every single day. We are talking about the big stuff.
The do-I-choose-my-dream-or-do-I-choose-love kind of decision.
The do-I-go-to-my-dream-college-or-do-I-choose-the-one-where-I-get-a-scholarship kind of question.
The dream vs. smart choice kind of decision.
I can see you nodding. Uh-uhm.
We have all been there.
And I take it you are well aware of the haunting feeling of ambivalence that is accompanying this decision of ours. The dreadful confusion, the overwhelm and the anxiety. That feeling when you can’t imagine either one of your options because they both feel impossible. As in, you would rather die than choose one over the other.
Been there. Done that.
And yet – we all seem to end up in the same dreadful place over and over again. New impossible decision to make. New impossible options. Hello ambivalence.
But I tell you – it doesn’t have to be this hard.
Decisions … are inevitable. But dread?
The Body Compass
Your body is a fine machine. You might not always point towards north, but your body knows you far more intimately than you will ever know your body. It’s no wonder then, that the body can be a powerful navigation tool when you are feeling lost. In other words; your body compass will always point towards your truth.
Personally, I have used this approach – which I learned from Martha Beck – on a wide range of different issues. When you get used to it, navigating life with your body as your compass (and your dreams as your map) becomes second nature. However, in the beginning it takes a little effort and a little getting used to.
The way a compass needs to be calibrated, so does your body.
The way to do this is to think about a nice experience – something that would earn a score of +7 and above on a -10 to +10 scale. Load this happy memory into your mind and stay in that lovely space for a little while. How do you feel this in your body? When I think about my happy memory, I feel an opening in my chest, a warm sensation in my belly, and a relaxing feeling in my arms and legs. Your experience may be totally different, so pay attention to how this feels for you. This is your compass pointing YES.
Then load a memory that would earn a score of -7 or below on the scale. This might feel a little hard, as this is going to stir up some negative emotions in you. Try not to linger too long on the negative emotion per se, but take a look at how you feel in your body. When I do this, I feel a tightening in my belly, a tenseness in my shoulders, I flex my calf muscles and I tighten my jaw. This is your compass pointing NO.
Now, it’s time to use your calibrated compass on your decision. Think about the different options that you have to choose between. Imagine choosing one over the other. Then pay attention to how this makes your body feel. On a scale from -10 to +10 – how does this make you feel in your body? Is your body reacting more like you did when you recalled the happy memory? Or the bad memory? Do you feel like shackles on? Or shackles off?
Then repeat with your other options. Which option makes your body react with the highest score?
This, my friend, is your answer.