Fear Archives

No More Half-Brained Decisions

How many of us make half-brained decisions?

If you’re someone who makes decisions purely from your head and ignores your emotions or how your body feels as you’re considering your options, you’re making a decision with the left side of your brain and ignoring the right.

If you’re someone who doesn’t take time to gather information or think through your options and instead makes decisions based on how you feel, you’re using the right side of your brain and ignoring left.

Right brain left brainPeople who only use the left side of their brain to make decisions tend to go round and round in their heads trying to figure out which is the best choice. It can be exhausting. And if they ignore how they’re feeling about their options, chances are they’ll end up making a decision that doesn’t really work well for them.

Those who only use the right side of their brain and skip collecting the information they need and skip spending time thinking logically through their options can end up making decisions they later regret after getting more information.

In both these cases, people are making half-brained decisions.

We’ve been give 2 sides to our brain for a reason, and each side has an important role in our decision-making process.

The left brain’s role is to collect the information you need to make a good decision. Then it can logically think about your options.

Your right brain synthesizes the information your left brain collected and communicates it to you through your emotions and feelings in your body.

Both sides are important.

An excellent way to make decisions is to:

  1. Collect the information you need to be informed on what you’re deciding.
  2. Think through the information you’ve collected logically and see what you’re left brain has to say about it.
  3. Then connect with how your body feels and what emotions you’re experiencing as you think through each option.
  4. The option that feels the best in your body and emotions after doing the steps above will be the best choice you can make with the information you currently have.
  5. If none of the options feel right in your body and emotions, you may need more information or more options. Talking through what doesn’t seem right with someone can help clarify things too.

Now, the emotional part can be tricky. And this is why many people are afraid to wade into the emotional territory when making decisions. When we’re in extreme emotions, we don’t make good decisions. Think about the last decision you made when you were really angry at someone you love. I bet you regretted it.

Ideally, when we need to make a decision, we work toward a more neutral place with our emotions before seriously considering our options. And if strong emotions come up, we examine what’s behind those emotions. They’re trying to tell us something. Taking the time to process them before actually making the decision is important so that those strong emotions don’t hijack our decision-making process.

A word about fear. A good decision can still be a scary one. Don’t let fear stop you. It’s normal to feel some fear when we’re trying something new.

Even if you tend to be more left-brained or right-brained, using your whole brain you will make better decisions.

The Right Teacher Can Make All the Difference

I’m a big scaredy cat, and skiing is my way of challenging my fears. At the beginning of last season, I was so proud of skiing my first black (advanced) run and thought it was time to take a lesson to go to the next level.

Ski Santa FeThe ski instructor told me I was way off balance and had me go back to a beginning wedge style of skiing. He then proceeded to bring me to a very steep blue (intermediate) run. I could ski this run my normal way, but to try to do it in a beginner’s wedge was impossible. I kept falling and eventually broke the bindings on my ski.

The instructor and I rode down the ski lift where he proceeded to tell me my problem was my skis and boots. If I got new ones, I would do much better. My gear was only 4 years old, so I went back to the shop where I bought them to get their opinion.

The shop said my skis and boots were fine and were surprised the instructor was having me ski with my boots unbuckled. They knew of another instructor who they thought would be perfect for me. So I signed up for a private lesson.

The second instructor got me skiing decently by shouting commands behind me about how to lean, where my arms should be, how to balance my weight, etc.

Then came the real test. A couple weeks later I went skiing by myself. Now remember, before my lessons, I had started to ski black (advanced) runs.

I went to the top of the mountain to ski a green (beginner) run. I couldn’t ski at all. It was like I had never skied before, and I couldn’t figure out how to do it. I cried and crawled down the mountain.

Because I had done so well before these lessons, my brother and sister-in-law bought me and my husband tickets to a challenging ski resort—Taos. I had never been to Taos Ski Valley, but I knew I was in no condition to attempt even their easiest run, so I signed up for another lesson on the bunny hill.

My Taos instructor told me that I was in analysis paralysis from that second lesson. My mind was trying so hard to break down all the moves and instructions, that it couldn’t communicate to my body. Thus, I could no longer ski.

Instead, he had me look downhill, jump, then look over to the side. That was it. I skied better than I had in my entirely life!

He explained that when you jump, your body instinctually tries to find its balance. I didn’t have to think about it, it would automatically happen. Now, that’s the way to do things!

Taos Ski Valley is known to have the best ski instruction in the U.S. I can see why. From now on, that’s the only place I’ll go for a lesson.

I could have stopped after the first or second lesson and given up, thinking I was the problem. But with the right teacher, I ended up advancing faster than I ever thought possible.

With some projects, we don’t show the world our rough drafts, our struggles, and our weaknesses as we create. We polish them up before we let the world see them. I do that with most of my art, writing, and dancing. But there are times to let the rough drafts show, and doing that can build confidence.

One example in my life is the water retention basin we dug in our front yard. It’s a big ugly hole 2 feet deep with 2 trees planted in it. We are landscaping a little at time as we have time. We wanted to plant the trees first because we knew it would take time for them to grow tall enough to give us the privacy we wanted. We put the water retention basin in because we’re creating an environmental-friendly landscape to match our environmentally-friendly house.

After we dug the basin and planted the trees, our next priority was to plant shade plants on the east and west sides of our house. We live in Albuquerque and don’t have an air conditioner nor a swamp cooler, so shading the house in the summer is essential. We decided to postpone beautifying the retention basin until after we planted the shading trees and bushes.

This retention basin has sat looking ugly in our front yard for months. I’ve had neighbors ask me why we would put such a hideous hole in our front yard. We’re not breaking any rules of the neighborhood, and we do plan on making it pretty. But we’ll be doing that in our own timeline.

People’s mean criticism has been like barbs jabbed into my heart. I felt insecure. It’s scary to publicly expose a non-polished project like this.

When I’d feel one of those barbs, I’d take care of myself. I’d visit the Albuquerque Museum of Natural History to see their beautiful finished retention basin and remind myself that I’m not crazy. I’d get emotional support from my husband. The barbed wounds would heal, and I’d be more confident that I could expose my rough draft and still feel good about my ideas.

I have a better understanding of what  Noah went through when building his ark. And I really appreciate that we’ve kept that story alive. It gives me strength to think about it.

Have you ventured out with your own “Noah’s Ark” project? It’s definitely great character-building!

Where’d That Reluctance Come From?

Have you ever made a decision to do something you were really excited about and just before you were going to do it, you suddenly didn’t want to do it at all? Looking back at some of my best decisions, I’ve noticed that pattern.

I grew up in the Chicago area which wasn’t the best fit for me. At 30, I got introduced to the Southwest and made a decision to move. I had seen lots of people move out west then end up moving back because things didn’t work out. I didn’t want that to happen to me.

One of the problems that caused people to move back was finances. So I changed careers and became a computer programmer. I figured there were computer programming jobs every where so I would have job security no matter where I lived.

Then, I needed to finish a long, drawn-out divorce. Then, I wanted to save money. It was 9 years before I was ready to move.

The funny thing was that when it came time to actually move, I suddenly didn’t want to. I would be moving by myself and leaving my friends and family. Chicago no longer seemed like such a bad place. My whole being didn’t want to make the move.

dread

Fortunately, I had had a similar experience when I moved to London in my mid-20’s. I felt really good about the decision to go. I had everything I needed—a job, a place to live, people I knew there. But right before I moved, I had heard about hardships that people had had who had done a similar move. I felt nauseous for days thinking about it and seriously considered canceling. But instead, I decided to go even though I was feeling a huge amount of dread and reluctance. I based my decision on how I felt when I originally decided to move.

It turned out that the problems I feared would happen in London actually did. But it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Living in England made a significant impact in my outlook on life. I treasure the time I had there.

I made the same type of decision when moving from Chicago to Albuquerque. Even though I felt dread and reluctance, I went forward with my move based on how I felt during those 9 years of dreaming and planning. Moving to Albuquerque was another one of my best decisions. I totally love it here, and it felt like home almost immediately.

Thrilled

So whenever I see that same pattern of getting excited about something and then becoming reluctant right before doing it, I push through the reluctance and end up being thrilled on the other side.

If I had never pushed through the reluctance and, instead, backed out of decisions because of those feelings, I would have been trapped in a never-ending cycle of coming up with great ideas, but never achieving them.

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