How do you make big decisions? I have been wrestling with big choices these past few weeks, and I have found myself deep in the data. I've been looking at facts, figures, possible outcomes, contingency plans and risk mitigation. It's all been very...cerebral. And it's gotten me no farther in my decision making process. I've been so deep in my head that I've forgotten to engage my heart.
Have you ever noticed that even when surrounded by a plethora of facts, figures, plausible outcomes and consequences, we sometimes get no clearer on what to do? To me, this indicates that we are not actually struggling with the facts of the decision, but rather with how we feel about it.
Why engage the heart in decision making?
Research is all over the place when it comes to decision making, but there is some interesting work that indicates that the heart actually has a complex neural network capable of sensing and action independent from our actual brain. This research actually led one doctor to dub it our "heart brain". There is further research that implies that many of the decisions we view as rational are less so than we think: what might actually be happening is that we are making decisions at an emotional level and then reverse engineering facts and figures to align with what our hearts have already chosen.
Whether you buy into these alternate views of decision making or not, it's clear there are limits to the effectiveness of making decisions by data alone. If there weren't, we wouldn't struggle so much with making big decisions.
What if we paused and connected with our heart instead?
Connecting with the heart is easy for some and more challenging for others, often depending on how reliant you've become on your intellect as a point of pride in decision making. I appreciate the challenges of connecting with the heart because I have spent a lifetime intellectualizing decisions and subsequently agonizing over them. For those of you in the same boat, here are some methods that might help:
1. Practice opening your heart meridian: Meridian tracing is a simple way to gain greater access to heart energy. The heart meridian runs from your armpit to your pinky finger. To trace the heart meridian, place your fingers at the start of the meridian (armpit) and slowly run them down the length of the meridian (i.e. to the pinky) in an even, fluid motion. Don't be surprised if you feel an actual rush of energy. Repeat as often as needed to open the heart space and keep energy flowing. Over time, this will build your capacity to access your heart.
2. Automatic writing exercise: This one may take some practice, but can be a powerful way to access your soul and gain clarity. Automatic writing is all about disassociating from rational thinking and tapping into deeper knowing. I've found this how-to guide helpful in this process.
3. Meditation exercise: There are about a million heart-opening meditations out there. I've found this one to be helpful. However, with any meditation, I believe what you will find helpful is anything you will actually use. When practiced regularly, you will find it easier to connect with your heart consciously and quickly.
Go forth and engage your hearts.