How to Make a Difficult Decision Using Reason And Intuition

“It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”  –Roy Disney

Your life is the result of your previous choices and decisions. Poor choices lead to bad decisions, which result in the mistakes we look back on and regret. The way to avoid making mistakes is to become a better decision maker.

But, how do you learn to apply proper decision making using both reason and intuition to your own life, to the little decisions and big decisions that ultimately shape your life? I was never taught this and the first half of my life was fraught with mistakes. Through trial and error and study I have learned how to handle challenging decisions. And, you can too.

The anatomy of a difficult decision

Say, you’re offered a job and it sounds great but, there’s a tiny niggling of doubt that holds you back from saying yes. You’re under pressure to give your decision – what do you do? Or perhaps you’re in a quandary over choosing the right life partner, business partner or whether to sell your home and move across country? How do you make these difficult decisions that affect the rest of your life?

Whatever the decision, there is a way to cut the stress, decipher the doubt and unearth the decision that is right for you using both reason and intuition in this intuitive decision making model.

Know thyself

You won’t make a proper decision unless you examine what makes you tick. Each of us is different and has a unique set of values and needs that our decisions must satisfy.

 What are your values?

What’s important to you? What do you need to be happy? Is financial security the most important thing to you? Is climbing the corporate ladder and increasing your status an important factor in your overall happiness? Are you motivated by fame and celebrity? Or, is it love and emotional intimacy? Do you need freedom and the call of adventure to be happy? Maybe spiritual growth tops your list?

(If you’re unclear what your values are The Self Improvement Blog has an enormous list of  400 that you can review. Pick out 20 top values and then whittle the list down to your top 5. These are the values that should motivate and guide your decisions.)

What vision for your life do you aspire to?

Each of us has a “vision” for our lives. My vision is to write, publish and teach people how to “speak intuition” so that they make the right decisions and live up to their full potential. Anything I do has to work toward upholding this overarching vision for my life.

What’s  your vision? Craft one sentence that encompasses your life’s vision.

Understanding your values and vision puts your decisions in context within this framework so, don’t skip this step. Your values and vision drive your decision-making and the trajectory your life takes. They should be the structure on which your life is built – in the same way that the skeleton is the framework to the body.

Follow these steps to come to a proper decision using reason & intuition:

1. Review whether the choice aligns with your values. Does it uphold them? If yes, fine. If not, go over your values. Did you choose the right values to begin with or are you making the wrong choice for the wrong reasons?

2. Ask yourself if this choice advances you in the direction of your vision? Or, does it take you away from it? If yes fine. If not, then why are you do it? Think hard about this.

3. Review the facts. What do you know? What don’t you know? Whom do you know with experience in this area? Can you speak to them about their experience? Would researching this issue reveal useful information that would help you to make a choice? Do your research.

4. Make a Pros and Cons list regarding this choice. Which is most convincing the pros or the cons list?

Decide if these four steps are enough to make the decision. If you feel completely confident and free of doubt go ahead and make your decision If not, go to the next steps where you will tap into your intuition.

5. “Live” both options. Imagine for a moment that you could fast forward to the future and review the outcome of your decision between two choices or, to either follow through with a particular decision or not.

Close your eyes and imagine that you see before you two doors; one has a sign with a large number “one” on it and the other a number “two” on it. Assign a choice to each door. Walk through door number one and imagine that you had taken that road.

Go through the entire sequence of events in your mind from start to finish. You chose this path, and then what? And, what comes after that and after that? And, how does it end up? What does your life look like after you’ve chosen “door number one.”

Do the same with the second door.  Step through the door and “live” out that decision in your imagination to it’s conclusion.

Which outcome affects your life most positively? Which outcome stands out most to you and “feels” right?

Still not sure about your decision? Go to Step 5.

5. Detach emotionally from the decision. Look from outside your own perspective. Ask yourself this, “If this weren’t my decision but, a close friend’s what would I tell them to do? How would I advise them? Does it benefit them? How?”

Have a convincing imaginary conversation with your friend and clearly explain why or why they shouldn’t make this decision.

Can you make a decision now? No? Proceed to the next step.

6. Check directly with your gut instinct – emotional intelligence – intuition.

Review the advice you gave your “friend” and all the reasons for making or not making this choice.

Close your eyes and take five deep breaths through the nose and release through the mouth to clear your mind.

Ask yourself how you “feel” about this decision? Do not ask yourself if you are making the right decision.

What is the first thought, feeling, image or emotion that comes to your awareness?

Focus upon it. Ask “it” why it has surfaced at this time? What is the first response that comes to mind after this question? This response is the “truth” of how you feel regardless of all the facts, lists and pros and cons.

Does this process reveal that your feelings about the decision are congruent to the decision you made by using reason and data? If your feelings correspond with the decision you made previously then great – you’ve done it! You’ve made a proper decision using logic and reason followed up by your gut instinct – emotional intelligence – intuition.

If you there is discord between the two then, you need to investigate the feeling that is at odds with your logical decision further. Go to the next step.

7. Delve deeper within.

Place your palms on your abdomen in the area  of your solar plexus. The reason for placing your hands on your solar plexus is to remind you to connect with the intelligence of your body. Your body gives signals via feelings that communicate vital information to you. Most of you are too busy to notice them. This is why you need to slow down and go within in order to decode this important information.

Close your eyes and relax by taking five more deep breaths in through the nose and releasing them through the mouth.

Now visualize the outcome of the first decision and then the second just as you did when you stepped through each door.  This time you are going to focus on what physical sensations, feelings or emotions come up regarding each of the outcomes.

Pay attention to your breathing, is it constricted with either choice? Does your chest feel tight when you go to take a breath? Become aware of your neck and shoulders, do either of the decisions make you tense up in those areas of your body? Notice your abdomen and the area around your solar plexus, is there a “knot” in your stomach or butterflies? Do you feel nervous, anxious, are your palms sweating, does your heart speed up or is there a lump in your throat?

If you notice any discomfort regarding one choice over the other, your body is telling you that this is not the right choice.

Do you have your answer now? Not yet? Go to step eight.

8. Make sure you thoroughly understand your motivation and what you’re getting into.

If you’ve come through the process this far without an answer it’s time to step away and put it on a shelf for a while.  Don’t rush and never allow pressure from outside sources to influence you into making a decision before you are ready. Tell yourself that you want more clarity on this issue and that you expect to get it in X number of days (give yourself a time period).

Don’t make a decision and don’t think about it after that, live your life and focus on other things. Just because you’re not consciously thinking about this decision doesn’t mean it isn’t “percolating” in your subconscious. You may have a dream during this period or an insight will surface that clarifies the issue. You may come to the conclusion that this decision is unnecessary and drop the whole thing.

Have you ever found yourself struggling to make an important decision? What was the situation you were grappling with? What techniques did you use to help you make the decision?

 If you enjoyed this post share it with a friend on Twitter, FB or Google+. Thank you.

P.S. Learn to “speak intuition.” Click here.

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    • Hi Aileen,
      I’m so glad you enjoyed this post and found it helpful.
      I think having a process like this really helps when you are trying to make the right decision and feel a bit unsure.
      Hope all is well with you. :-)

  1. Hi Angela, I’ll take door #1! Seriously, I love your practical suggestions, and visualizing the doors and living through each choice is a great way to start to figure out how you really feel. Invariably, whichever choice I place first ends up being the correct one for me.
    Julie recently posted…Apologies, Dreams, and Birthday GoatsMy Profile

    • Hi Julie,
      Thank you. I’m such a Virgo rising….practical is my middle name I guess! “Angela Practical Artemis” How does that one sound? lol
      Bob Barker would be proud of me – taking Door #1!
      I think you’re right – our first choice is usually correct.

  2. I used to be so uncomfortable with not having an answer that I would push through to an answer just to be done with it. As you can guess I often made a decision I later regretted. I learned over time to use many of the steps you suggest here. When I feel extra stuck, I’ve learned to do all my “homework,” and then just wait (my word of the year this year) until I have clarity. When I quiet all the noise, my intuition almost always comes through.
    Galen Pearl recently posted…My Best Friend…AgainMy Profile

    • Hi Galen,
      I did the same thing that’s why I was so impulsive. It was too uncomfortable for me to “sit” and wait and “feel” my own feelings.
      I’m glad you’re doing your homework now!~
      Waiting is so important. I do this now too.
      Hugs to you dear friend,

  3. Hi Angela,

    Great article!! Very practical and useful. My favourite thing is that you have totally melded the intuitive and the intellectual – something I continue to strive to do every day.

    I wish I would have had this when I was making my “big” career choices when I was young. But I’m so glad I can pass it along to someone else making a difficult decision.

    Hope all is well.


    • HI Kara,
      It’s great to see you.
      I’m so glad you enjoyed the article.
      We are all works in progress – me included! It’s taken me 25 years to start melding my intuition and reason together.
      I’ve finally learned that I can only learn as fast as I can learn….I guess I needed to make a lot of mistakes in the past to “get it” once and for all!
      I wish I knew better back then too but, better late than never, right?
      Thanks for sharing this.
      My best to you,

  4. I especially like the idea of ‘living’ your options. Nothing can help us get more clear than how we ‘feel’ about something. I had to learn to take a breath before saying ‘yes’ which was my default mode for a long time.

    You have some fabulous ideas here Angela.

    Love Elle Sommer?
    Elle recently posted…In Celebration Of You.My Profile

    • HI Elle,
      Yes, I like that one too.
      It really allows you to “feel” which option is best for you.
      I’m glad you enjoyed this post Elle.

  5. Angela – WOW- you have offered a plethora of rich, clear, and action oriented steps for good decision making. Each one is excellent. One thing I’ve learned over the years is NOT to rush to make decisions – patience is important. If someone is pressing me for a quick decision, I know instinctively that I absolutely – unless it’s an emergency- feel pressured to do so. xxoo- Fran Sorin.

    • Fran,
      That is a great point! Definitely. I know some of my worst mistakes were made when I felt rushed.
      Thank you for sharing this with us.

  6. “The way to avoid making mistakes is to become a better decision maker.”

    I don’t think we ought to avoid making mistakes. that would imprison us. We, however, need to avoid making “the same mistakes”. I would call that learning and it is liberating. We will always be bound to make mistakes when we take risk but the thought that we can learn from them turns our weakness that works best for us.

    • Hi Jhunitz,
      I should have made that clearer in my post. We definitely learn from our mistakes and they are an important part of gaining wisdom.
      I didn’t mean to imply that we will never make mistakes – that’s not possible.
      But, if we can understand the decision making process and our motivations a bit more we may make fewer mistakes in our lives.
      And, we may not repeat the same mistakes as well.
      Great point!
      Thank you for sharing your comment with us here.

  7. I certainly agree that it is important to know what our values are before we can actually make the decision. Otherwise, we will just end up going round and round and utterly confused.

    I have been inundated with a number of things that require making major decisions since the start of the year. Because there are various considerations and parties – as well as conflicting interests, it has not been an easy process. So I totally resonated with your post.

    I like your suggestion on tuning in to the body. I think I will need to sit through and gain some clarity before I finally make these decisions.
    Evelyn Lim recently posted…Self-Love: Heal Yourself in Body-Mind-SpiritMy Profile

    • Hello dear Evelyn,
      It such a pleasure to see you here!
      I’m very happy that this post resonated with you and that it was timely too.
      I have had to make some tough decisions and this is the method that I used to make them.
      Glad you’re going to tune into your body.
      Let me know how it goes.

  8. Great tips here, Angela on making decisions. I recently did an exercise to be more clear about my values and it helped me have clarity about what I feel is important. Making an important decision can be challenging, but you have great ideas here on how to zero in on what will help you feel comfortable about your decision making.
    Cathy Taughinbaugh recently posted…27 Reasons to ForgiveMy Profile

    • HI Cathy,
      I’m glad you enjoyed this article. It’s amazing how clear things get when we are aware of our values.
      I lived for years without understanding that.
      Thanks so much for visiting and commenting. It’s always a pleasure having you visit.



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