Saturday, September 4, 2010

3 Lessons I Learned the Hard Way About Decision-Making

In a recent post, Katherine Rand raises a question that has been with me for a very long time. How does one go about 'Making Decisions'?
There was a time when I believed that “I” was deciding something, particularly when it came to the major things like dropping out of high school, going to college, quitting a job, dating a boy…I would employ all sorts of analytic methods for arriving at a logical decision, but in the end, it was always made at more of a gut level. Because it felt right. There is no doubt that mind and heart work in conjunction with the big questions in life, but in the end I’m not sure that anyone is actually making a decision. It just happens. Conditions line up, there’s cause and effect, things happen, conditions change, other things happen.
I agree with Katherine. The narrow, logical thinking mind can only go so far. It can help take us to a certain point however. 

A few days ago, I went through an interesting exercise. I looked back at my whole life, and sorted out all the major decisions I had made into three categories: good, bad, not sure. Then, I looked for patterns within each category. Here is what I found:

In the good category, I had made decisions out of pure love, and the urge to create.

In the bad category, I had made decisions out of fear, greed, insecurity, ill will, or ignorance - not being conscious. 

From this, I drew a series of lessons for future decision making:
  1. never make decisions while in the grip of hindrances
  2. do not rush - instead take all the time that's needed to discern the whole picture
  3. involve your whole self, not just narrow logical thinking mind
Looking back at your own life, what are some of the lessons you have learned? Can you share?


  1. Very insightful, very useful. Thank you, Marguerite!


  2. It seems that the decisions you are talking about are major directional changes type decisions. Of course we make small and insignificant decisions all the time. We do not need to put them into categories. I tend to think that the major decisions in our life should be handled the same way. Once one understands the "dilemma" one has to act on, it should be put on the back burner and forgotten about. When our original nature is ready, it will choose the path we are to follow, and then do not look back, lest we turn into a pillar of salt. :)

  3. helpful post and link. sent it to my daughter who is poised at a place of decision making. thanks for this timely offering!

  4. I see your point Chana. And I also believe in squeezing out all the teaching potential from every one of our life experiences. A great source of wisdom, for me at least . . .

  5. Carole (Zen Dot Studio), I am very glad this may benefit your daughter! Also, what a great gift that she is willing to receive some of your motherly wisdom . . .

  6. Marguerite, thank you for taking the discussion a step further and for sharing your reflections. As per the advice not to make decisions in the grip of hindrance, I couldn't agree more! The interesting thing is that indecision, confusion is delusion itself. Another reason why one has to trust in the natural unfolding...

  7. The psychoanalytic view of the role of the unconscious is another useful lens with which to examine this not knowing place. The more light gets shed as the unconscious becomes conscious, the more clear the inner drama that is keeping us conflicted.

    Often times a dream will provide the meaning for an obscure felt sense during meditation.