It's no secret that adulting is harder than you thought it would be when you were growing up. Children assume adults have all the answers. As a kid, this leads you to draw the conclusion that when you grow up you will automatically have them all, too.
You may have been educated into believing that you don’t know yourself best. This begins in school when you are taught to listen to the rules rather than your own internal guidance system. You can no longer eat when you are hungry, move when you feel fidgety, or rest when you feel tired. In following the schedule designed for you, you begin to believe—because it is implied—that your teachers know what is best for you.
Sure, you might want to color the sky green, but when you are told that the sky is supposed to be blue, you think that your impulse to use green was wrong. Eventually, you begin to subtly believe that you don’t know what is best for yourself. And this tiny shimmer of self-doubt grows as your coaches, parents, and peers point out that your music, clothes, sleep schedule, and food choices aren’t good choices for you. By the time you are college-aged, it’s amazing that you can make any choices at all.
Finding answers becomes a process of looking outside yourself for advice from experts who can offer experience and an educated opinion. It can also be about making pro/con lists. After you have gathered all the information you need, you frequently find yourself stuck in analysis paralysis—that place where rather than making a choice, you want to keep getting opinions from others. It seems you have lost the ability to trust yourself.
Here's a simple guide to reconnect with your self-trust, keeping in mind that nobody has your answers except you.
Listen to Your Body
Your body sends you signals of what is good for you and what isn’t. Practice hearing them. Sleep when you feel tired, eat a reasonably sized portion of healthy food when you are hungry, and move when your body needs to move. Be mindful of what your body wants.
Meditation allows you to tap into the inner wisdom you were born with. Like any muscle, the more you flex it, the more comfortable it becomes with being used. Listen to these guided meditations to get you started.
Don’t Buy Into the Panic
When a decision feels rushed, your brain sends out chemicals that signify it is in a state of alarm. These chemicals actually turn off the brain’s ability to process. This was great when our big urgency was that a dinosaur was about to eat us, but choosing who to date, what to study, or where to live shouldn’t create that same panic. Take slow breaths or if time allows, a quick little walk. Allow your body to return to a more balanced state.
When confusion happens, instead of deciding not to decide, experience and embrace your uncertainty. Repeat your choices slowly as many as six or seven times. The time and the process of repeating the options will allow an unfolding of what you want.
Flip a Coin
Heads is one choice, tails is the other. Usually as you flip it, you will root for heads or tails. This quick process allows you to access information at such a quick speed that there is no time to process, just to listen to your gut. This is called quick logic, and it gets you out of your processing and directly to the answer.
The more comfortable you are in your own skin, the easier it is to make choices that align with who you are. Being a student of how your body works, and what your core values are can help.
Remember a time when you made a hard choice successfully. The stories you tell yourself about your ability to make successful choices will either buoy you up or weigh you down in future choices.
Take a Musical Interlude
Spending a moment blasting your favorite rock n’ roll ballad or listening to a peaceful song takes you to a different part of your brain. When the song finishes, it’s almost like gaining a fresh perspective.
Give yourself a vacation from decisions. If you can wait until tomorrow, sleeping on it allows your brain a little respite from the work of decision-making. It’s amazing that your brain continues to work on integrating information to help with choices while you sleep. You just might discover that the answer is more obvious after a good night of rest.
Life is full of seemingly impossible decisions. In the present, they can seem like obstacles to overcome, but your choices define not only who you are, but also how you want to spend your time. Have gratitude that you have the freedom to choose, and know that no matter how your decision unfolds, you have made the right choice for you in that moment.
As Anne Frank said, “Our lives are fashioned by our choices. First we make our choices. Then our choices make us.”