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How to make an authentic decision?

Should I get the Greek or the Italian olive oil? Do I want to fall asleep on my tummy or in the fetal position? Do I want to sign up for this 25 years mortgage offer? We have an average of 35’000 choices a day. That’s quite a big number, isn’t it? Subsequently, we consciously as well as remotely consciously make about that many decisions a day. Some carry hardly no consequences for us and others, yet, other decisions can change our life instantly.


To make an authentic decision there are 3 questions to consider before we make it.


Question 1

Is this decision in line with my values (or valuing system?)


We all have certain values that can change over the span of our lives, whether or not we are fully conscious of our values and what they are. Our valuing system can help us make an authentic decision. Values can differ from person to person. Some value uncertainty, whilst others deeply appreciate predictability. Some value freedom and independence, while others value family and stability. Some value an early night, others value a rather nocturnal lifestyle. Such valued preferences have an impact on an authentic decision. They help us make decisions that match our lifestyle and persona.


Question 2

How does this decision feel in your bodily experience?


Our body is a powerful indicator to tell us whether or not something feels right and aligns with what is important to us. Let’s say we witness an adult screaming at a child. Instantly, this can make us feel uneasy. In fact, the bodily response will give us a blink response in what sits well with us in only a few seconds before the mind can even start the thinking and evaluation process of our values.


The idea that spontaneous decision that stem from a felt bodily sense are often as good as (or even better than) thoroughly planned ones, is explored in the book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2005) by Malcom Gladwell. In this book the author writes about ‘thin-slicing’ – our ability to use limited information from a very short period of experience to make a conclusive decision.


Another way to accessing the bodily felt sense to make an authentic decision is by applying a technique called Focusing. This takes longer than just a blink second. This technique involves the conscious holding of a specific non-judgmental and open attention to a bodily, internal knowing which is experienced but is not yet in words. This practice is comparable to meditating and needs at least 3-10 minutes to access some conclusive information from the body. This technique has been developed by psychotherapist Eugene Gendlin and was originally used in therapeutic spaces. Focusing can, among many other things, be used to become clear on what we truly want and feel, to obtain new insights and to make authentic decisions.


Question 3

Can I own this decision?


Very often we are scared to make a decision because we are scared of what other people might think about it. We are scared to be judged. This fear can hold us back from truly doing what feels right for us. Now, when we take ownership over the decisions we make, judgment does no longer hit us. In fact, ownership over our decisions helps us to create resilience against potential external attack, influence and judgment. In the presence of self-ownership, guilt, doubt and judgment dissolve. When we can fully own the decision we make, we know that our decision was a truly authentic one.


To summarize, in order to make an authentic decision we can use our valuing system, our bodily felt sense as well as our ability to take ownership.


...AND WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE?

What techniques, felt senses or inclinations do you tend to rely on to make important decisions? Feel welcome to share your experience with us in the comment section.


References:


Gendlin, E. (1978). Focusing. NY: Bantam Dell.

Gladwell, M. (2005). Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2005), NY: Back Bay Books.

PBS North Carolina, Science and Nature. Website: https://www.pbsnc.org/blogs/science/how-many-decisions-do-we-make-in-one-day/

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2 Comments


Guest
Feb 02, 2023

Hi Awa, thanks for this article. Very helpful and insightful. You should do a Ted Talk about this!

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Awa
Awa
Feb 02, 2023
Replying to

Thank you for your comment and kind words. I am happy to read that the column entry was help- and insightful to you. Ted Talk suggestion is noted :)

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