How to Make the “Right” Decision

Whether it’s deciding what college to attend, what career to choose or where to live, many people struggle with how to make the “right” decision. I wanted to share with you a strategy for making decisions that have served me and many of my clients quite well.

But first, let’s talk about the concept of a “right” decision. Accepting the premise that there is a “right” decision implies that there is an absolute right or wrong decision to be made. This approach gets you into the trap of all-or-nothing or black and white binary thinking. Instead of thinking there’s an absolute “right” decision for you to make, start posing the following question to yourself, “What’s the right decision for me?” That question alone helps you move from an outward focus when making decisions to an inward one which is key to making a decision that will make you truly content.

After turning your attention inward, the next step to making a rewarding decision is learning to listen to both the left and right hemisphere of your brain. The human brain is made up of two separate halves or hemispheres that are connected to each other by a bundle of nerves called the corpus callosum which allows both hemispheres to communicate with each other.

Generally speaking, the left hemisphere is our more logical, analytical hemisphere. It tends to think linearly (step 1, step 2, step 3…). The computer programmers and accountants of the world would likely have well-developed left hemispheres. When attempting to make a decision, the left hemisphere would prompt you to write a comprehensive pros and cons list comparing various options.

The right hemisphere, on the other hand, likes to think more holistically and see the big picture. It relies more on intuition and our emotional reactions to things or situations. When trying to make a decision, the right hemisphere would generate your gut feeling on something.

In our society, the logic and rationality of the left hemisphere tend to be more highly valued than the intuition of the right. However, when it comes to making decisions that genuinely enrich your life, learning to listen to and honor the information from both your left and right hemisphere is key.

One example in my own personal life where I benefitted from listening to both my left and right hemisphere was when we purchased our first home. After going to graduate school in Ohio, my husband and I were committed to returning to Massachusetts. I had been accepted at my internship in Bedford, MA and my husband had already accepted a teaching position in Weston, MA. We ended up buying a home in four days because we couldn’t afford to keep traveling back and forth from Ohio looking for homes.

Prior to seeing any homes for sale, I had done extensive research while still in Ohio about homes prices, school systems, population demographics and water quality etc. My left hemisphere compiled all this data into a short list of towns we would consider buying a home. When it came down to actually touring homes is when my right hemisphere really got involved. There were several homes that I knew would never work even before we got out of the car. Others I knew if they felt right or not after a few moments of walking through the home.

When we looked at the home we ended up purchasing, I already knew it met all the requirements of my left hemisphere such as a good school system and a neighborhood with quiet streets. What sealed the deal on us making an offer was when I sat quietly for 15 minutes or so just sitting on a couch in the family room. In those moments, I could “see” the life my husband and I could create in that home. Despite the house being a fixer-upper, I could “see” our future family and the home we would create. I’m blessed to share that almost 20 years later we are still in love with the neighborhood and feel blessed to be raising our family there.

You can use this technique with almost any decision you are trying to make. For example, when I have clients trying to make the decision of choosing a college to attend, I encourage them to go through a similar process. Vet any college through the criteria your left hemisphere would be concerned with: Are your grades/ test scores in their acceptance range? Do they have the major/courses you think you might be interested in? Is it financially feasible?

Then, from the list of schools that have made the cut past your left hemisphere’s criteria, take the time to visit each campus, ideally when students are in session. Beyond just touring the school, take the time to sit in the quad or campus green by yourself for at least 15-20 minutes. During that time, take a few deep breathes and just listen to your body and observe your mind. Reflect on the following questions: What energy is going through your body? Can you “see” yourself walking into these buildings every day? Can you “see” yourself being friends with the students here?

Those individuals who have mastered listening to both their left and right hemisphere tend to be more content with the decisions they make. When making major decisions such as buying a house or deciding where to go to college, you often get a great deal of advice and many suggestions from family and friends. While I do encourage you to be open to the ideas/advice of those who know and love you. I do so with one caveat. Remember, no one but you is the foremost expert on how you feel in any given situation or what your mind dreams about. While it’s important to be open to other people’s ideas, I would encourage you to never let anyone else’s opinion trump yours in terms of deciding what the “right” decision for you is. Learn to listen to and honor your right hemisphere in particular – I personally believe it is your best guidance system for discovering true contentment which is what my hope for you is.

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