body compass

Stuck Between Stay or Go? Maybe Your Body Can Help

According to several internet sources, adults living in the modern age make in the ballpark of 35,000 decisions a day. Surprising, but just think how many decisions it took you to prepare your oatmeal this morning. We can make so many decisions of course, because many of them carry nominal consequences--should I add raisins or cranberries today? Not a big deal.

But what if you are deciding whether you should take a desirable job on contract for the next five years that will cause your family to move to another state and your son will have to finish his senior year in a new school? Not so straight forward.

In the past when I faced a really hard decision, I defaulted to a logical decision making process. I listed out the pros and cons on each side of a sheet of paper. Even when I saw that the pros list was longer, I still wasn't convinced to decide to "Go". Logic didn't give me the absolute answer, because of course, feelings and values are also playing a role.

In order to trudge through the murky waters of feelings and values, I've found that our 6th sense or "knowing" can play an even greater role in making a good decision if we can tap into it. Our bodies actually have a a great way of communicating to us this sense of knowing when we feel otherwise overly conflicted. 

However, we logical Westerners often tend to overlook when our body is trying to tell us something. Whether it's the sudden urge to go to the bathroom before an important interview or the immediate fatigue that overtakes your body when a friend starts talking about a subject you have no interest to follow. You may be sitting there saying you're feeling good about the interview or you could be feigning interest as your friend talks--but your body knows otherwise.

That kind of body wisdom is exactly the partner you want on your team as you're making decisions. While our mind may be subject to trying to please others or making decisions out of the feeling we "should" do something, our bodies could care less about social norms--rather, they speak our truth. 

So how can we check in with our body when making a decision?

1. Connect to Your Body - Are you aware of what your body is feeling in a peaceful moment? When you are stressed? Can you feel any tensions currently? Pleasures? Tingling? Stiffness?  Try tuning into your big toe to start--describe to yourself how it feels. Then move the whole way up your body noticing how each part feels.

2. Determine Your Compass - Set apart some time by yourself or with the help of a friend/coach to think through a situation in your life that was one of the worst moments you've experienced (don't worry you won't need to stay there long). Take a few seconds to imagine you are there in your mind and let your body feel what it felt in that moment. Describe the sensations you felt. Then do the opposite--imagine one of the best moments of your life--describe the sensations you felt. Now you have a compass that you can use to gauge what is your specific positive or negative reaction when it comes to making a decision. Is your body giving you a signal that leans towards the positive or negative sensations?

3. Explore the Possibilities - Go through each of the possibilities for your decision in your mind. Close your eyes and imagine "Staying" how does that feel in your body--describe all the sensations. Then explore "Going". Do this for each possibility you have. 

After taking these steps you will have a pretty good idea of what your body is saying about a certain decision. 

You may find, though, it is difficult to connect with the sensations of your body. Perhaps because you have been ignoring your body for a long time and you will need to practice. Also, you may find it tempting to override what your body is saying.  After all, it may be directing you towards a decision that will come with a cost to pay---like having that hard talk with your boss, breaking up with a guy, or pursuing your calling by moving to Kathmandu, Nepal. But if we are willing to trust that our body is able to circumvent societal pressures and come to the best decision for our authentic journey, we just might experience not only a sense of peace, but better health in our bodies too.