When life gets foggy, it’s tempting to want someone—anyone—to tell us what to do. But true, confident decisions don’t happen that way.
“Mommy, what does it sound like when God speaks to you?” I asked my mom this question when I was no older than 5. “It’s hard to describe,” she replied. “You just know when it happens.”
Fast forward 30 years and I’m still struggling with this question. Over the past week I stumbled into what I have perceived as some major crossroads in life. I turned to my standby ways of knowing to guide me—logic, intuition, signs from the universe, advice from people, and even astrology. But despite 36 years of experience to my credit, I still get paralyzed and clouded when it comes to the emotionally weighty decisions.
My 6 year old was diagnosed with ADHD earlier this year. Now that we’ve had numerous therapies, behavioral interventions, and second opinions, it’s time to make some decisions about how to help him function in school while keeping his self esteem in tact. At the same time, I’m 6 months deep into a relationship and everything in me is screaming that it’s time to decide if I trust enough to put my foot down on what I hope is solid ground instead of reaching for the eject button, as I’ve become so accustomed to doing.
When we reach these cloudy points in life, it’s tempting to want someone—anyone—to tell us what to do. I think that’s why people like Dr. Phil became so popular in the early 2000s. But true, confident decisions don’t happen that way.
Deciding What’s True
Somehow I ended up moving past my fear and put one foot in front of the other. As I reflect on those steps, here’s how I went about it:
1. Give it time. Even though it may feel urgent, ask yourself would it be okay to take a week to think about this? You don’t have to implement 100% of the physician’s recommendations within 24 hours.
2. Stop thinking in terms of right and wrong. It’s not often that there are purely right or wrong decisions. As someone who has struggled with depression off and on, I believe that medication is not a moral decision. A healthier way to look at it is that choices come with consequences. It doesn’t mean they’re good or bad, and you can’t always know in advance what consequence is attached to any given choice.
3. Take it less seriously. Is this big bad decision really a matter of life or death? Try to widen your perspective and view it in the grand scheme of life. Yes, you can cause yourself more suffering by making poor choices, but ultimately you cannot screw up the divine plan for your life. As Miles Davis says, “Do not fear mistakes—there are none.” Put another way by spiritual coach Nicole Oman, “If you want to be enlightened, lighten up.”
4. Spend time alone. People love to offer you advice based on their own experience—some helpful, some not. Don’t forget that this is your decision.
5. Follow the yum/yuck principle. One of my favorite astrologers, Mimi Clark, often tells her viewers to pay attention to the yum and yuck of situations. Follow what feels yummy, and move away from what feels yucky. It’s not always clear cut, but feel into it, and see what you find.
I’ve made some poor choices in life by ignoring or misinterpreting guidance. But ultimately I did the best I knew how at each crossroads. Keep practicing and forgive yourself when you mess up. And remember that part of life is leaning into the mystery. You wouldn’t really want to know the details of how everything turns out, would you?
Life is about the journey, and it’s our job to enjoy the ride.