To be, or not to be — that is the question.
Our questions may not be as serious as Hamlet, but we wrestle with decisions on a daily basis. Apparently, on food alone, you’ve had to make over 226.7 decisions today.
Many choices are followed with the bitterness of regret, we’ve all been stung with “buyer’s remorse.” Indeed, decision-making can get complicated; all decisions aren’t equal — choosing the butter chicken over the salad isn’t comparable to a career choice.
When it comes to making good, meaningful, and fulfilling decisions, here are four major challenges:
1. The paradox of choice: You’ll be paralyzed with indecision when presented with ten options, so narrow down to around three.
2. Decision fatigue: Just like a muscle, the quality of your decisions decline as the day progresses. In fact, if you’re a prisoner applying for parole, studies found your best bet is to see the judge early in the morning.
3. Empty stomachs: Nobody is happy when they’re hungry. Research has shown the hungrier you are, the more irrational and risky your decisions become.
4. Instant gratification: the sting from being short-sighted and making impulsive decisions without considering long term consequences.
In terms of avoiding regretful decisions, Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse listed the top five regrets of the dying:
- I wish I had lived a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I had expressed my feelings more.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish I had I let myself be happier.
The major themes are obvious, they had lived absent of authenticity, emotional expression, and meaningful relationships. There was a disconnect between what they thought, how they felt, and what they inevitably did.
Gandhi said it beautifully, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
Thought leaders across many disciplines have said it in similar ways — that transformative change and meaningful decisions need to appeal to the head, heart, and hands.
To make meaningful decisions, you need to adopt a holistic approach and make sure you have:
- Intellectually engaged (head).
- Emotionally processed (heart).
- Practically and relationally considered the outcome of your choice — how will your decision directly impact your life and the lives of those you care about? (hands).
You could boil it down to one word: alignment.
A note of caution on emotions, there are times you need to make decisions that go against your current emotional self. But the best possible outcome in those three areas mentioned above should be the measuring stick for what to align your emotions with.
So while a life should never be absent of surprises and the liberty to make spontaneous choices, decisions should not be disconnected. Happiness is wholeness — aligning what you truly think and how you really feel, with everything you do. Your head, heart, and hands.