We all get to that point in our professional or educational pathways where we hit a fork in the road -- or maybe even a comb in the road. Multiple different directions to go in. Difficult choices to make. Questions surrounding our potential options. Unlike most multiple choice exams, there often isn’t one of those finicky options available to us like “D: All of the above.” Decision-making in life is a little more complex than filling in bubbles on a scantron, requiring a deeper sense of intentional mindfulness in the process.
As a yoga teacher, meditation coach, health care professional, and writer living in NYC, I often observe how quickly we feel the need to make decisions based on societal milestones. I notice how we often feel the need to fit ourselves into one persona or one title. Something we tend to overlook or forget at times is how multidimensional we truly are. It is physically impossible to fit a three-dimensional object into a two-dimensional one. That being said, embrace your dimensions. Explore the different sides to you in order to drive your decision-making process. Whether it’s for choosing the right graduate program, applying for jobs, choosing a school to attend, or even making a bold career switch, practice some mindful techniques as you weigh out your choices. I’ve compiled a brief list of ways to explore your own dimensions and discover options with mindfulness.
Mind-mapping is a powerful visual, written exercise that helps lay out all aspects of a particular word, object, or phrase. It starts with you choosing one word, object, or phrase to put in a centralized bubble. The bubble then branches to other bubbles related to the focus topic in the initial bubble, and helps you peel away the different layers of the topic to help you quite literally map out your brain on paper. For example, if you were in a pickle about what kind of internship you wanted to land for the summer, you mind map could look something like this:
This exercise is a good way to lay out your "non-negotiables" when making decisions. It’s also a great way to lay out potential options for yourself to narrow down your focus. Mind-mapping is a written exercise that can be applied to various aspects of life - not just internship hunting! Try it out the next time you feel a bit overwhelmed or overcrowded up there in that beautiful brain of yours.
We all take Ubers or order take-out every now and then, so we’re all familiar with the star rating systems. In fact in today’s world, star rating systems are almost impossible to get away from. You go to a doctor, they ask for a rating about your visit. Go to the hair salon, fill out a survey after you get your new ‘do. Get some take-out from Seamless or GrubHub, rate the restaurant that delivered your grub. Watch a Netflix marathon, give your star rating for your guilty-pleasure binge. With all this rating everywhere else, why not start rating your options related to career choices or graduate programs? You can break it down as specifically as you’d like. For example, if you’re having some confusion around choosing a school, break down important key considerations like location, financial aid, program offerings, living costs, etc. Then rate each of the subcategories on a 1-5 star rating. Do the same for other schools you are comparing against, and then think about what school fits your needs best.
Bring the five-star rating system to your career and educational decision-making process.
The morning has been known to be the best time to let thoughts flow. “Morning Pages” is a technique introduced by Julia Cameron, the author of “The Artist’s Way,” a book about gaining confidence and honing in on your creative talents to build the life you deserve. In the morning, write down a live stream of thoughts cluttering or crowding the mind. This is especially helpful in decision-making because you have time to brain-dump, and then sift through to pick out the important points and let go of anything in that stream that is just noise.
This is my favorite technique. I firmly believe that you are a creator of your own reality, and your intentions have the power to create that reality you seek. Taking the time to write down some brief intentions around the decisions you are looking to make, helps you go deeper into the root of why you need to make those choices in the first place. If you’re looking for a new job, think about why you are looking. Think about what exactly this search is going to lead to. Avoid using words like “if” or “maybe” - use present, active vocabulary when writing your intentions because remember you are essentially creating your own reality. By mindfully setting intentions, your decision-making becomes much more active rather than passive. Remember the power of your words to drive your actions. Positivity and belief is key.
Which one of the techniques is your favorite? Do you have any other personal mindful decision-making techniques you use? If so, share below!