Making decisions from a place of peace

Making decisions from a place of peace

Something I often notice when I work with a coaching client is how urgent everything can feel when we are in a space where we have unmet needs.

The interesting thing about this urgency is that it can feel really true.

Sometimes, before we even consciously recognize it, we have acted on this feeling of urgency when — actually — the best course of action might have been, in this moment, no action.

One of the biggest push-backs I get from clients is when I suggest that if they are feeling frantic or highly anxious, they become peaceful before making whatever decision it is that they are sure they need to make.

Two things usually come up:

1) But I can’t get peaceful until I figure out what the heck I’m doing. I need to have my life sorted out first.

2) My needs are enormous and unless I take the “right” action to fulfill them, they will not be met. I am so tired of having these unmet needs. I need to do something about it, now!

I totally get both of these reactions. It can feel so frustrating and overwhelming to have a pile of unmet needs sitting there, unsure of how we will ever resolve any of it.

On top of the fact that the needs seem to be hanging there unmet, we can get really hard on ourselves for not meeting them immediately, or for having them in the first place. (The Buddha told a story where he referred to this as “the second arrow” — when something difficult happens, we in effect have “one arrow” in us, and our tendency is to “shoot another arrow into ourselves” by being hard and judgmental just when we most need to be compassionate.)

Here’s the thing: When we proceed from a place of panic, anxiety, or otherwise stirred-up feelings, we often end up making decisions that either do not actually need to be made right now (or at all), OR we make choices that only create more pain for us and have to backtrack and undo them.

So I like to share this Lao Tzu quote with clients (and sometimes they find this really annoying): “Muddy water, let stand, becomes clear.”

Clients usually say, but what do I do to get peaceful? How can I make the muddy water become clear, faster?

These questions make me laugh. They are so, so funny. Can you see why? (And I’ve asked the same questions myself, many many times, so I’m laughing from a place of compassion, for sure.)

Sometimes, it’s not about doing, and it’s not about making things happen, faster.

How can we tell? Because our doing has that frantic, anxious energy behind it. And, the biggest tip-off that we are doing in order to resist being with what is coming up for us: we don’t feel any better for having taken an action or made a decision.

Here are some better questions to ask ourselves:

What is so hard about staying with these uncomfortable feelings until they settle down a little and point me to clarity?

How can I make it easier to allow these feelings to be there, without trying to change them?

How might I support myself in being with the hard stuff that’s coming up for me right now?

Sometimes we might think, but how will I know that I’m ready to take a particular action or make a decision?

The answer is, you’ll know because you will find yourself in the middle of doing the action or making the decision.

When we’re in a place of acceptance, what truly needs to be done and decided arises naturally. We make the call to get the help we need. We withdraw the money from the bank. We comfort the friend who is hurting. We sleep because we’re tired.

This is all there ever is when we’re able to be with what’s actually true for us, right now: the next step presents itself, and we take it. (Or maybe what presents itself is that there is no action to be taken right now.)

But in order to be in our truth, in order to sense our true next step, we may need to allow our muddy water to clear. We may need to exercise some patience and be with whatever is coming up for us. And we can do that a few minutes, or seconds, at a time. We can break it down that much if we need to.

(Byron Katie says that we don’t make decisions — “decisions make us” when we have the necessary information to make them. Do you notice this for yourself?)

What have you learned about your decision-making process? What have your best decisions felt like for you? I’d love to hear.

And: I’m in the process of changing my coaching offerings and won’t be offering them in the current format for much longer. If you’d like to work with me in the current way, check out my offerings, here.

Image is “Water 4”Ā Ā© Chrisharvey | Dreamstime Stock Photos

6 thoughts on “Making decisions from a place of peace

  1. Again, such truth and wisdom here from you,Jill. I’ve been thinking about working as a volunteer in some capacity in the little town we moved to about 2 years ago. Because the town is so small, volunteerism is what makes it run. Even the mayor, although elected, is a volunteer. I could not make a decision although I was asked over and over again to do one thing and then another, participate on one board and then another. I was getting very frustrated with myself. I was drawn to spend some time working with kids in an after-school program, an area of expertise. But I wasn’t sure. I put it off. Over and over again. Then the other day, I ran into the director. I’d run into her several times before and she’d asked me to help and I’d always said I didn’t think I was ready. This time, before I even knew what I was doing, I asked her, “Do you still need help in the after-school program.” She said yes, and I said, “I can do it!” And right at that moment, I knew the truth of that statement. The time was right, I was ready, and I was into action without even thinking about it. And, I’m so excited to begin.


    • Oooh, Mary, I love that example! Yes, there is definitely something about the right time and our own readiness that allows us to move forward in that fluid way where we’re doing it and it just feels right. Thank you for sharing how that worked for you! And I’m excited for you to begin, too! Hope to hear more about it. šŸ™‚


  2. I have always felt that the best way to gain any semblance of control in our lives is to let go of it- and be okay with that decision. Now, that is not to say that I practice what I think all the time, but I do try to. I get so caught up in the need to control the outcome of a situation with my actions sometimes. And the unfortunate thing is that when your actions actually “do” help to resolve something eating at you, it only feeds the ego, giving it the impression that you are actually in control.

    I’m not saying that we should pass all control of our future over to the hands of fate. But, there is definitely a balance involved between knowing when to do something, and when to simply be. And it takes practice – a lot of it!

    For me personally, I tend to over-analyze the most inconsequential of decisions. And it can be almost debilitating at times. When I finally do make the decision, I am led to believe that it is because I have been so diligent and persistent in analyzing every angle, when in fact, it is more likely that it has come at a time when I have let those muddy waters clear.

    Your thought-provoking insights, Jill, have helped me to see that – just over the course of typing this response – gosh, how I love writing šŸ™‚ Thanks for your always wise and insightful thoughts, Jill. I very much appreciate them – may your own muddy waters become clear šŸ˜‰


    • You’re right, Dave — it really does take practice to know when to act and when it’s not time yet (or perhaps no action or decision is required at all!). I used to make so many impulsive decisions because I was afraid to sit with that muddy water. When I became willing to sit with the discomfort of “not knowing” for a while, my life became much less chaotic! I really hear you about the overanalyzing, too — and then thinking that if things turn out “well” it’s because of the huge amount of analyzing we did! In those cases it can be good to notice that we can’t “think” our way to clarity, it’s more about feeling our way to it by taking the next step that presents itself. šŸ™‚ I’m glad this spoke to you and thanks, as always, for your thoughtful comments!

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  3. So beautifully put as always Jill, and I very much liked the supporting quotes too. I’ve been feeling like I need to put more pauses into my days, having got into a bit of a cycle of endless doing, and that urgent feeling has been pushing me to do ‘all the things’, even when there’s nothing urgent to be done! But I know I need the pauses, and am for once listening to that and acting {or not acting!} on it rather than waiting till I’ve burned out from doing all the things.

    I also loved your point about decisions making themselves; this is more and more my experience, that divine timing knows better than I do, and I know the difference now in feel between the decision I’ve made just to make the decision, and the decision that seems to just happen of its own accord because everything was finally in alignment. An ongoing lesson! I so enjoyed reading your thoughts about this. I haven’t been reading all the blogs I’d like to lately because of doing all the things ;), but it’s nice to catch up and find others are thinking along similar lines. šŸ™‚


    • Tara, I love how you describe that distinction in feel between the decision you made “just to make it” and the decision that is truly aligned and feels like it happens by itself. Well put, and truly an ongoing lesson for me as well! It’s fascinating how that urgent feeling can drive us to “do all the things”, isn’t it — even when they aren’t actually urgent at all! So good to hear your thoughts on this. Thank you for sharing! šŸ™‚


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