In this last sneak peek into the book Designing Your Life, we’re going to be examining the process of choosing. As the book points out, most of us fall victim to negative thinking when overwhelmed with life decisions, and the voice inside our heads issues ultimatums that get in the way of being the architects of our own lives. We hear things like “To be happy, I have to make the right choice.”, instead of “There is no right choice — only good choosing.” But how, exactly, does one make a good choice?
You’ll remember that in last week’s exercise, we created a mind map with one idea at the center and free form off-shoot words that connected to that central concept. This was an exercise in letting your mind run free and literally just generating associations. Once we got a few layers of words outside the center concept, our brains were emotionally disconnected from that meaningful central concept and that allowed us to objectively come up with some actionable ways we could get closer to, and test out, real life situations that would put us closer to that meaningful center concept.
Today we’re going to go through the simple process and steps of the life design choosing process. The choosing process has four steps, so click through to see them in order and learn how to put them into motion for your life design. –Caitlin
Image above via GIPHY
This post is brought to you in collaboration with Designing Your Life. All words and experiences are my own and I highly recommend this book as a tool for moving forward into a thoughtful, considered life that you’ve designed.
So first you gather and create some options. If you did last week’s exercise, use the words on your outer layer to create some real life options. Next, you narrow down your list to your top options simply based on the ones that appeal to you most. Then you finally choose one to pursue. Lastly, you agonize over your decision. NO! This is what you will want to do, but do not do it. Don’t overthink your choice with thoughts of which would be easiest, etc.
The last step is to LET GO & MOVE ON.
Step 1. Making good choices comes from having really good insights about yourself. Creating mind maps and keeping journals that note the specific, daily things that energize you or deplete your energy are both good ways of keeping track of what works for you, and more importantly — what doesn’t. There are more exercises in the book that can help you flesh out the type of insights about yourself that will be helpful in designing your life. These exercises will help you complete the first step as you gather and create options.
Step 2. Narrowing down your choices will feel difficult. Try not to let it. Pick a maximum of five options. There are so many studies on how having too many choices paralyzes people’s decision-making process. If you find yourself struggling with this step, reframe your idea of options by realizing that if you have too many options, you actually have none at all. Remember that options only actually create value in your life when they are chosen and realized.
Step 3. Now it’s time to choose. To choose well, we need to understand how our brain works when we choose. The part of the brain that helps us make the best choices is our basal ganglia, which is part of the most primitive area of our brain. The basal ganglia does not communicate in words. It actually communicates in feelings and guides us wisely through our life. This part of our brain stores our accumulated life wisdom, but when we are faced with a choice, it’s the verbal brain cortex we hear and that cortex is louder than the basal ganglia’s nonverbal cues. Luckily, the basal ganglia and its connections to our intestines are many, and can tell us what is right or wrong for us. Cut out the noise of overthinking and go with your gut feeling. Trust your intuition, not the voices and words in your head.
Step 4. In order to let go and move on in life, you have to understand that you always have options. If the choice you made in Step 3 ultimately doesn’t pan out or you develop new goals for yourself, you should now have confidence knowing you created many options before and you can do it again. When in doubt, as you may often find yourself when working on Step 3, let go and move on. Only by taking action with the choice you made in Step 3, can you move forward.
“Happiness isn’t having it all, it’s letting go of what you don’t need.”
–from Designing Your Life
I hope this series has brought you to a comfortable place to actively tackle designing a life you love. Since I began writing the series and articulating some areas in my life that I’d like to move forward with, I’ve had several brushes with things and circumstances that fit right in with the work I’ve done thus far. My central concept of “Be more social” has seen two impromptu opportunities literally knock on my door in the last two weeks. Thanks, universe! This book couldn’t have come at a better time.
If you’d like to be entered to win a copy of Designing Your Life, leave a comment affirming that you think you’re up for the challenge of creating your own options!