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You need to make a decision. Opportunity will pass you by. The deadline is lurking. The pressure is on. But you can’t decide!

Why not?

Instead of teaching you one more strategy to get yourself to do what you can’t do, don’t want to do, or can’t decide to do, I’d like to have you consider what might be beneath indecisiveness.

Borrowing from my Internal Family Systems training, I offer the following.

Opposing thoughts can…

  • make it hard to decide
  • make it difficult to fulfill on commitments by taking the actions required
  • block the ability to envision clearly
  • cause self doubt
  • reduce confidence
  • cause anxiety and depression
  • make you feel lost
  • drain your energy
  • make you feel oppressed
  • invite self-criticism and judgment
  • cause you to procrastinate
  • impact your sleep and self-care
  • generate fear
  • keep you in fight or flight mode (survival)
  • result in addictive behavior
  • create conflict in relationships
  • cause you to shut down

These thoughts can also help you if you know how to accept the help that they are trying to offer.

To solve any of these problems, you will need to resolve your internal conflict and see if you can get the opposing ideas to collaborate. I know. Weird, right? But admit it. Sometimes those thoughts just won’t agree.

Using one part of yourself (one thought) to dominate another by forcing yourself to act despite inner resistance will make the issue even worse and create more problems. Here’s something that will work.

Imagine you are a mediator for these opposing positions. And further, imagine these opposing thoughts are competing to influence you based on what is important to them about the decision you are trying to make.

Invite the opposing thoughts to an inner roundtable and give them an opportunity to state their positions. Be prepared to take plenty of notes. On the top of the page, state the decision as a question. For example, Should I take a trip or just stay home?  Make two columns under the question you wrote at the top of the page. Label the columns, Thought #1 and Thought #2.

Have the opposing thoughts talk about what is important to them about this issue. See if you can learn as much as you can about how each opposing position is trying to help and what they are trying to accomplish. Take notes about each position.

Here is an example.

In one of our coaching sessions, Carol told me she was stuck. She wanted to work on generating more revenue in her business but had recently learned that she had some age-related medical issues and felt reluctant to make any plans or take any actions that she may not be able to follow through with. She had been under the impression that she would have to either give up on her business ideas or ignore the health concerns and forcefully forge ahead with her plans. There didn’t seem to be any other options but neither of these felt quite right to her.

I asked Carol to state the decision she was trying to make as a question. Her question was, “Should I reduce my hours and lose income to take better care of myself, or should I focus more on building my business?”

I then had her find items in the room to represent each of these opposing ideas.  She found a stress ball to represent the thought that was concerned with her health and chose a stapler to represent the thought that wanted to implement her business plans to generate more revenue. I asked her to place the objects as far apart from each other as these ideas seemed to be. She placed them on opposite sides of the desk.

I suggested that these two parts of herself could talk with her and answer her questions. She was able to imagine this, so I asked her which of these voices would like to be heard from first.

She started with a thought that she referred to as her Entrepreneurial Part. I asked what its opinion was in the matter.  Reporting for that internal influence, Carol told me that the Entrepreneurial Part just wanted the thoughts that were concerned about her health to go away or be quiet and stop interfering. This Entrepreneurial assumed that Carol wanted to just settle for the way things were. 

I asked what the Entrepreneurial Part what it thought Carol should do. It wanted her to just relax and stop worrying and wanted to reassure her that everything was going to be fine. This part of Carol just wanted her to stop resisting and ignore her health concerns.

Carol had another idea that she could work less while generating more revenue. This would address her health concerns as well as her concerns about income. Once she talked about this idea, the Entrepreneurial Part wanted to support it. In fact, she felt an enthusiasm that hadn’t previously existed. She saw that this could easily be done.

Carol relaxed when she realized she wouldn’t have to work herself into a frazzle, and that the idea to work less and generate more revenue would support both her health and income goals.

I asked what Carol if she was ready to make a decision. She was now clear that she should make to plan for how to shift her business model which would result in fewer hours and more income.

I asked Carol to see if she felt any more inner conflict. She felt more at ease and reported a new thought. “Don’t over-do it.  Be smart.”  

Carol moved the stapler and stress ball next to each other. The conflict had been resolved and Carol was able to move forward.

With an attitude of curiosity about and acceptance of her two opposing voices, Carol came to see that they both had her best interests at heart. By listening to each voice, she gained clarity.

Next time you struggle with a decision, check inside. What opposing thoughts do you have?  Practice Self-Leadership by asking each voice or part of yourself to help you understand what they are trying to accomplish.

Consider this a contemplative meditation. Get quiet, get curious, go inside, and listen. Notice how hard your opposing thoughts are working to help you. You have conflicting values. But, as with individuals, helping your conflicting ideas to understand one another often leads to collaboration. Show them appreciation by listening to their concerns with curiosity and respect.

Give each voice an opportunity to be heard and understood. Once the opposing parts of you know that they are understood and appreciated, they may soften, agree to collaborate, and trust you to lead.

This coaching conversation used the Internal Family Systems model for working with Carol’s parts.  To learn more about how we can work with your internal family to resolve inner conflict, set up a 30-minute discovery session or a 60-minute coaching session.  These initial conversations are complimentary.