How Do I Make Better Decisions?
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
How do you make decisions? Do you make a list (and check it twice)? Do you go with your gut feel?
Whether you’re impulsive or extremely cautious, we all lean into our emotions to some extent when making decisions. This is not a bad thing. Our emotions help us quickly make sense of our world. The issue arises when our emotions drive us toward certain options without us truly considering what is beneficial for us.
When we are faced with a decision to make, our emotions will guide us to the information that it feels are relevant. How does it do so? Well, it highlights memories from past events that seem similar to the current event. It gives us a sense of, “If this happened before, it will likely happen again.”
Bec and I are adoptive parents, and as part of the adoption training we received, we were told this amazing (and very sad) fact: many adoptees take a long time to warm up to their adoptive mums. Why? Because at an emotional level some adoptees have equated women with abandonment. They are no longer with their birth mum. If they were in foster care, they are no longer with their foster mum. This series of events are locked into their emotions, so it is hard for them to build a trusting relationship with their adoptive mum due to the swirling emotions that are pinging for them.
I have heard that there are adult adoptees who know and constantly have to be mindful of this sense that people will abandon them. Their past experiences are locked into their emotions, and these emotions can greatly influence how they build relationships.
One thing that I have learnt through this is that our gut feels are locked into our past experiences, and might not be aligned with our preferred future. Our gut feelings are based on the memories we have of past experiences. They are not based on our values or our intentions. Should your past memories go against your values and intentions, you will have to slow down to realise where your gut feel is coming from.
I have learnt that I need to renew my mind to be able to choose wisely, Romans 12:2 tells us. Sometimes I have to break the patterns of my past in order that I can choose to live in a different way.
Recently I received what is called “schema therapy” from my psychologist. I see a psychologist preventatively, ensuring that I get to do what I do for the long haul. One of the schemas (or thought patterns) I uncovered was that of “punitiveness”. Basically when someone does something “wrong” in my eyes, I become very agitated and demand that they see the folly of their ways and make restitution for their wrong. In other words I become a very hard person.
When I was made aware of this, it took me a long time to be able to see this at work in “real time”. Something would happen that I didn’t like or agree with, and I would snap into a response that in the moment (and often after the moment!) I would think is completely valid. However, upon examination and reflection, my reaction often didn’t bring about the outcome I was working for. I needed to learn a softer approach. And guess what? It felt completely unnatural to me. It still does. I’m still working on breaking this pattern, and by God’s grace I think I’m getting better at it.
So do you want to make better decisions? Take the time to reflect on what are some of the instant reactions you have. What are driving those reactions? Why do you have those gut feels? What memories are being called up for you in that moment?
From there, come back to the word of God to renew your mind. I’m choosing to act with kindness and humility, in line with what the Bible teaches me, rather than with anger and pride. I choose to do this before the event rather than rely on my gut feel.
I hope this helps you. If you would like to chat more about this topic feel free to get in touch with me!
Note: I am not a professional psychologist. Rather I have done a fair bit of academic study in the social sciences, and have been informed by my experience as an adoptive father. What is written here does not take the place of professional help.