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How to make a hard decision

  • August 2, 2021

There have been times in my life where I’ve had to make a big decision; one that has no compromise. Move away, or stay here. Sign the deal, or pass up the offer. Buy the house, or keep looking. Usually, I’m a decisive person. I’m confident in my intuition, and it’s never steered me wrong. But sometimes, decisions are so BIG and the implications are so far-ranging that I over-analyze. I weigh the pros and cons, talk it out with friends, stay up at night imagining the best and worst-case scenarios. All of that action, though it seems helpful at the time, only serves to confuse me more, drowning out my gut and leaving me hovering in decision purgatory—yes or no. Yes or no? Yes or no!


When I get stuck in this place, I have one little trick that always works. It shifts me out of analytic mode, and helps my gut get back in the game. It can work with any type of decision, and you don’t need any particular skill to employ it—just a willing partner. Here’s what I do:

I ask someone to tell me that one of the options is just not available, and I see how I react to that news. We really play it out—I tell them what to say, and they spring it on me as if the news is 100% real. You need an ACTOR here; someone who gets where you are headed and is willing to sell it. It works best in person; you need to hear their voice and see their facial expressions. And the stronger they make their language, the better it will work.

So, I explain the concept, they get into character, toss me their line, and I see how I react. It goes like this:

Me: “Kelly, I’m really struggling with this decision, and I have a way to help me feel it out. I need you to imagine that you’ve just found out the job in California isn’t available anymore—they’ve given it to someone else. And then you have to break the news to me.”
My sister: “Okay. (Pause, shaking it off and getting into character.) Melissa, this sucks to have to tell you, but they gave that position in California to another candidate. The job is gone.”

If I feel an immediate sense of relief, I have my answer.
If I feel an immediate sense of disappointment, I have my answer.
I’m never neutral. I always feel something.

It doesn’t matter that logically, I know this scenario is fake. It doesn’t matter that I just told her to say that to me. If I really let myself HEAR and ABSORB what she’s saying, my body will react. I’ll feel a weight lifted off my shoulders, or I’ll feel a brick in my gut. I’ll feel electric and tingly, or damp all over. My heart will expand, or it will squeeze. I feel it in my body, and that’s how I KNOW.

Sometimes, we need something to be taken away before we really know how we feel about it. So the next time you find yourself stuck in your head, unable to tap into your intuition to make the right call, find a willing participant, try this trick, and let me know how it goes. (You can always reply to these emails, or send me a DM on Instagram.)