Making wise choices in uncertain times

As business leaders it can be difficult to make the right choices, especially in times like these. How do you find wise answers when the decisions you face are complex and can feel overwhelming?

Human beings are motivated by complex motives, both in the things we do from day to day, and in our big decisions. With the current high levels of uncertainty and anxiety, many decisions, unfortunately, will be motivated by fear. Whatever difficulty you are facing now, personal or professional, know that you do have a powerful innate guidance system to help you.

It is vital, especially now, that leaders know how to stay connected to and be guided by this inner compass, in order to steer a wise course through all of this uncertainty and confusion. But how do we distinguish the creative forces from the fearful, destructive forces in our minds? How do we differentiate the voice of the ego from intuitive inner guidance?

Our everyday choices demonstrate the behaviours and drivers that dominate our minds. We all know too well what motivates stockpiling and other selfish behaviours. Essentially, every choice we make is either motivated by fear or love. Successful decision making doesn’t just hinge on rationality alone but involves a judicious mix of rational analysis and creative intuition.

Intuition is a minister from the unconscious. It is a gateway to the infinite reservoir of power and wisdom in the unconscious mind. It is our still small voice. So how do we tune into this inner guidance? There are many ways to access that wisdom: meditation, dream work, body wisdom, creativity and so on. And none of these are left brain or analytical. Dreams are particularly powerful and one of my own main sources of guidance. I’ll focus on the power of our dreams for accessing wisdom in one of my next posts. So, to begin, let’s look at a poem.

THE JOURNEY BY MARY OLIVER

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

 

The first step in making wise decisions is listening to your true voice, which Mary Oliver describes as that ‘new voice which you slowly recognise as your own’. We could refer to this voice as your higher Self or Cosmic Consciousness. It doesn’t matter what you call it, but this innate guidance is the only voice that really matters.  And our nervous system holds the key to tuning into it.

In order to hear inner guidance more clearly, we need to become more sensitive on all levels of our being: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Heightened awareness allows for a clearer signal. Think of it like reducing white noise to hear a clear note. Hearing that inner voice more clearly depends on our ability to listen. Everything that has ever happened to us registers in some way in our nervous system, and affects the way in which we perceive reality, the way we act and react. We literally become our story, our mythology, and it filters our perception of the world.

Did you know there are 6 trillion chemical changes per second in the human body? But you’re not aware of it are you? The more personal baggage we hold onto, the less sensitive we are to our inner voice and the more we will be led by ego and fear. Our inner voice is always there, but like radiation cannot penetrate 4m thick high-density concrete, the inner voice is subtle and needs sensitive antenna.

As an empath, I am highly tuned to other’s people’s emotions and motivations. This sensitivity serves me well in my job as a coach. I can tune into what my clients often aren’t even aware of themselves. My sensitivity has heightened even more through twenty years of sorting, clearing and healing the patterns of trauma passed down through generations of my own family. I have learned to swim at depths most people would drown in. What kept me afloat was a strong inner connection and faith in a force beyond normal perception. My inner voice is now so much stronger and clearer. You can develop a clearer channel and improve your intuitive muscle power, but you need to learn how to switch gears from your fear-led ego to intuition.

The first step to tuning in more deeply and switching from ego to intuition, is to relax the body and mind. Begin by anchoring your mind to your breath. Be aware of your breath, as you breathe in and out. Just notice it. This practice alone will steady your mind. If you practice this type of breathing with awareness for just 10 minutes each day, it will help you to access your inner voice. And you can do this at any time of day.

Courage

Sometimes we’re afraid to do something because we think we might fail or because others think we might. Procrastination is fear of making the wrong decision. As Theodore Roosevelt said “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”  Let’s look at a poem about choosing between two paths, the known and the unknown.

 

THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED                          BY ROBERT FROST

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear.
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

I came across this poem in 1999, the year I made the life changing decision to leave my marriage and my home and a year later, my career with ICI. At thirty years old, I chose to walk a path without knowing where it would lead but the truth of my choices thus far was now clear. I had chosen chemical engineering because it provided a clear career path, intellectual challenge, creativity and financial security. When you come from a poor and difficult background, money and security matter. I truly get that. And, I understand the fear that many will be feeling in these complex and uncertain times. However, when making a decision do you take the easy road or the road less travelled?

As human beings, we have an extraordinary capacity for self-deception and insensitivity. The easy path is predictable and carries a false sense of security. False because there is no such thing as security in nature. We will all be much more aware of that now more than ever.  Ego will drive many people down predictable paths. Without sufficient connection to that inner voice, their base camp just isn’t stable enough to risk the unknown and trust that still, small voice. Standing on shifting sands, their roots don’t travel far enough into the true Self, so they find it impossible to take risks or even find refuge in that still point. It could be a new job, product, market, relationship or even a new life. An ego-based choice will never lead to innovation, creativity is born of the unknown.

If you have a more adventurous personality, you may try to push forward with one trembling foot while the other is still firmly frozen to the spot. Dabbling in the new instead of making a full commitment to it: for example token R&D budgets that fall short of the full CAPEX needed to give the project a real chance, or retaining the poor performers and shying away from difficult conversations while hiring new talent hoping they’ll turn everything around; or initiating organisational values initiatives while the CEO’s or Directors poor behaviour goes unchecked. I see this happen a lot, too often unfortunately. These types of decisions made daily have a compound effect. It all adds up to mediocrity, treading the same road in different shoes. We need new thinking and new ways of seeing more than ever.

True creativity means risking the unknown with all that we are. It is a quality of spirit. The pioneering leader knows that the only way to bring fresh insight to a difficult situation or problem is to get off the beaten track and think differently. And that takes courage. The kind of courage that only comes by standing on the rock of faith in something bigger than yourself. Rooted in what truly matters, these leaders genuinely care and therefore have the power to create real change and lead wisely. These are the kind of leaders we need now to be a lighthouse for people and lead them through these difficult and unchartered waters. These are our awakened leaders.

IN CLOSING

There is a refuge, an eye of the storm that holds infinite power and wisdom to guide you in decisions both big and small. You can begin to access it more each day by:

  • Finding your true voice – practice discerning that inner voice each day. Tune into your body’s wisdom – anchor you mind to your breath and practice the yes / no meditation exercise.
  • Walk on the edge - leave the shallows of purely analytical thinking and risk the unknown. Follow your own judgement.

With every choice point or decision in life, a fork is created in the road, new opportunities, options and decisions are revealed. When the current chaos subsides and the long road of renewal begins, we will see which decisions made now were wise and which weren’t.

It is our everyday choices that demonstrate who we truly are. What will you do to connect more with your inner voice, enhance your judgment and bring more wisdom to our world story?

 

Posted on

Back to list of posts