There are times when making decisions or commitments is easy. Making hard decisions often comes down to the “lesser of two evils,” a coin toss, or simply forcing ourselves to do what feels like the right thing to do.

How do you make hard decisions or solve dilemmas? Do you seek the advice of others? Do you always just do the right thing even though you are sometimes conflicted? And once you’ve made a decision, do you second guess yourself?

The following is a story, based on an actual experience with a coaching client that is a great example of how confusing it can be to know what to do. The solution I offered illustrates a process you can use any time you aren’t sure how to approach a difficult situation, are waffling on making a commitment, or are faced with too many considerations when making a decision.

As is true with most of what I write, the content of this article is designed to provide practical life coaching which, if applied, will help you show up as the best possible version of yourself. I suggest that you read through the examples provided and then use the process the next time you experience confusion or inner conflict when making a choice.

Recently, I received an email from a client who was trying to decide between conflicting appointments on her calendar. In her email she stated,

“…the back pain seems to have passed. Do I keep the chiropractor appointment or not? I might still be able to find out if the pain was from a muscle strain, or tension, or a problem with my spine. X-rays and an adjustment might prevent more back pain (which almost kept me from working this week). But then I might waste money on a visit if the problem is already solved. And I hate to miss the meeting I have scheduled with you.”

While this landed as a clear request for advice, I’m not usually in the advice business. As a coach, my job is to help my clients recognize that they are the experts in their own lives and to show them how to access their own inner wisdom and guidance. Often, I use the Internal Family Systems model to accomplish this.

A part of me wanted my client to blow off the chiropractor appointment and keep her appointment with me. And I felt some pressure to give sound and wise advice. I hesitated before replying to her email, closed my eyes, and asked the concerned parts of my mind to relax enough to allow me to access the wisdom of my True Self.

Within seconds, these thoughts and feelings calmed. I wanted to support her to work with her inner world and access her own wisdom for her decision.

In my reply email I wrote;

“I suggest gathering the different parts of you that have something to say about going/not going to the chiropractor. Then, after checking in with each one, decide as your True Self what to do. Here’s how to do that:

Step 1. Describe the decision or commitment you are trying to make or the problem you are trying to solve.

Step 2. List the parts of you that are activated by the circumstance that requires a decision, commitment, or solution.

Step 3. Check in with the parts.

Step 4. Decide how to address all the stated concerns and needs. 

Step 5. Thank all parts for letting you know about their perspective, their concerns, and their needs.

Step 6. Make your decision.”

Based on my client’s circumstance, here is an example of how to use this decision making process.

Step 1. Describe the decision or commitment you are trying to make or the problem you are trying to solve.

For example: I set an appointment with the chiropractor but the only time available was at the same time I was scheduled to meet with my coach. I woke up this morning with no back pain. I’m concerned about the cost and don’t want to waste money or time on an appointment I don’t need. I need to decide whether to keep the appointment with the chiropractor or cancel it.

Step 2. List the parts of you that are activated by the circumstance that requires a decision, commitment, or solution.

For example: 

  • The part that worries that there is still a problem with my back
  • The part that doesn’t want to miss the meeting with my coach
  • The part that is concerned about the cost of the chiropractor appointment

Step 3. Check in with the parts.

Here are some questions about each part of you that this circumstance triggers.

  1. From the perspective of this part, what is your position on this decision, commitment, or problem?
  2. From the perspective of this part, what are your concerns?
  3. From the perspective of this part, what do you need?
  4. Anything else to say about this from the perspective of this part that you should consider before deciding?

For example:

From the perspective of the part that is worried that there still may be a problem with my back:

  1. From the perspective of this part, what is your position on this decision, commitment, or problem?

Answer: If there is still a problem with my back and I don’t keep this appointment, I may be in pain and have trouble getting another appointment. And I could make the problem worse.

  1. From the perspective of this part, what are your concerns?

Answer: I’ve been putting off this problem too long. It’s time to find out what is going on and to learn what there is to do about it. If I don’t, I will continue to suffer from this problem and that could limit me physically and mentally.

  1. From the perspective of this part, what do you need?

Answer: I need to know what is going on with my back and to know how to deal with it.

  1. Anything else to say about this from the perspective of this part that you should consider before deciding?

Answer: My coach will understand. I can reschedule with him. I’m sure this is what he would want me to do.

 From the perspective of the part that doesn’t want to miss the meeting with my coach:

  1. From the perspective of this part, what is your position on this decision, commitment, or problem?

 Answer: My back isn’t hurting right now. It’s important to keep my appointment with my coach. If it starts hurting again, I can make another appointment.

     2.  From the perspective of this part, what are your concerns?

Answer: My coach may not be willing to reschedule. He told me that he wanted 24 hours- notice to reschedule. If I miss this session, I may not be able to make it up and I will still have to pay for it. And my coach might judge me for trying to reschedule on short notice.

  1. From the perspective of this part, what do you need?

Answer: I need to know if the coach will let me reschedule and if he will judge me.

  1. Anything else to say about this from the perspective of this part that you should consider before deciding?

Answer: I don’t want to be so concerned about what my coach thinks of me.

From the perspective of the part that is concerned about the cost of the chiropractor appointment:

  1. From the perspective of this part, what is your position on this decision, commitment, or problem?

Answer: Since my back isn’t hurting right now, I will waste my money because there is nothing wrong.

  1. From the perspective of this part, what are your concerns?

Answer: I don’t know how much of the cost the insurance company will cover.

  1. From the perspective of this part, what do you need?

Answer: I need to know what the cost of the appointment will be and what my insurance will pay.

  1. Anything else to say about this from the perspective of this part that you should consider before deciding?

 Answer: I’d also like to know how many chiropractor visits insurance will pay for each year.

Step 4. Decide how to address all the stated concerns and needs.

For example:

    • If I don’t keep the appointment today, I will schedule one for next week, so I know the extent and the treatment of the back problem.
    • I will contact my coach and ask if he is willing to reschedule. If he is not willing to reschedule, will he still charge me for the appointment because I didn’t give him enough notice?
    • I will ask my coach if he is judging me for asking to reschedule. I will also ask him to help me work with this concern.
    • I will contact my chiropractor’s office to see what the cost is, how may visits my insurance allows, and how much insurance pays for.

Step 5. Thank all parts for letting you know about their perspective, their concerns, and their needs.

Step 6. Make your decision.

Working with your parts before making a commitment or a decision can bring clarity and enable you to maintain your integrity. A decision made after going through this process will be much more sustainable because it comes from clarity.

Here is the process again without the examples.

Step 1. Describe the decision or commitment you are trying to make or the problem you are trying to solve.

Step 2. List the parts of you that are activated by the circumstance that requires a decision, commitment, or solution.

Step 3. Check in with the parts.

Step 4. Decide how to address all the stated concerns and needs.

Step 5. Thank all parts for letting you know about their perspective, their concerns, and their needs.

Step 6. Make your decision.

Download the Making Clear Choices Worksheet

After working through this process, my client went to the chiropractor and learned that she did have a problem with her back that most likely would have continued to bother her without treatment. Her insurance covered the entire cost of the treatment and she learned that they would pay for up to 12 chiropractic visits per year.

She contacted me and we rescheduled our appointment for later that week at no additional cost due to these circumstances. I had no judgments about her, and we explored her concerns about what I thought of her in subsequent coaching sessions. We discovered that she had parts that often influenced her to make decisions based on concerns for what others might think of her. By working with those parts using the Internal Family Systems model, my client was more easily able to make healthier and more balanced decisions.

My client began using this decision-making process whenever she was faced with a difficult decision. As a result, she learned to say “no” to commitments that were not in her best interest, and her confidence increased dramatically.

 

Would you like to learn more about how to work with your internal influences (the various parts of you) to bring more balance, clarity, and peace in your life? Schedule a free 30-minute discovery session with me using my online calendar, www.BillsCalendar.com