How I Stopped Being a Wounded Decision Maker

CrossroadsNearly my entire life, I’ve made decisions based on one thing: how I felt in the moment.

Turns out to be a bad idea.

Back in my early twenties, when I was starting out as an advertising copywriter, I chose to work for an abusive jerk in one of the most notorious hack agencies in New York. It was the place that invented that American icon, Madge the Manicurist.

I also ignored an invitation to interview with Ed McCabe, the grand circus master of creative boutique agencies. He was the guy every young writer wanted to work for, but I blew off his entreaty.

Why?

I didn’t know how to ask for help.

At age 20, I thought I knew all the answers — I didn’t need no help, no how. “All ad agencies are alike,” I told myself, which couldn’t have been further from the truth. So I chose rashly, with no preparation.

Thirty-two years later, I was still making the same mistake. Fresh out of a 25-year marriage and newly out as a lesbian, I was in no mood for circumspection. I dove headfirst into a love affair with a rank abuser.

A month later I came to my senses and walked away – only to return to her a month later on an impulse. A friend at the time advised me against it.

“That scares me,” he said. But I ignored him. After all, I always knew the right answer … right?

Wrong.

In recent years I learned to make decisions slowly and with a great deal of thought. The bigger the decision, the more thought goes into it. It’s starting to feel like an act of Grace.

Conscious decision-making has taught me that I am not alone. That it’s best to get feedback from trusted friends. I’ve come to think of these wonderful advisers as my personal ‘board of directors.’

Friends talked me off the cliff of compulsively overwork when it was time grieve my daughter’s death. Others advised me to walk away from a potential abusive relationship, which allowed me to run towards the woman I was really suited to.

Still others kept me from blowing a chunk of my retirement fund on a painting I adored but really couldn’t afford.

In the end, the choice has always been mine, but I made it with eyes open and all the options on the table. So conscious decision-making has saved my bacon again and again.

Here’s the part I really love: this zen-like approach to decision making is fun. The pressure is off. No longer must I be the swashbuckling hero of the moment, swooping in to make a big decision with no forethought or research. No longer must I save the day the way I used to as a child in an alcoholic family.

I can take my own sweet time. I can make my choice when I’m damn good and ready, and not a moment sooner.

Not surprisingly, the woman I am partnered with now is a beautiful decision maker. She vets every choice thoroughly, turning it over from all angles. She’s truly open to not seizing every opportunity, but exploring the downsides as well.

Still, at times, it can uncomfortable to peel myself away from a rash decision. The old buzz of pheromones and the thrill of the adrenal rush still beckon.

But I’ve learned to stop and reflect before I choose. Because I know that on the other side is excellent self care, which is far more sustainable than the sugar rush of a fast choice.

Do I still honor my instincts? Absolutely. It’s just that now I know how to sit with them.

My big takeaway is this: The world will not end tomorrow if I don’t act today. Turns out you and I can act in good time, slowly and consciously, and so enjoy the warm glow of satisfaction from a decision well made.

May you choose well and slowly, my friend.

Hell, you may even find it fun!

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3 replies
  1. Claudia
    Claudia says:

    Awesome article. I needed to hear this because I am learning to make decisions slower, as well. Thought I might be getting old or something. Instead I am realizing that I no longer to to “do something, anything right away” as I had learned in my family as a child. I am safe now and I can trust the right answer/decision will come to me at the correct time.
    Namaste

      • Fay
        Fay says:

        Yes….I have been on the run for many years. I’ve had some incredible adventures and I don’t regret them but what I didn’t realize is that some of my compulsions to act quickly came from trauma. It took getting a serious illness to finally stop me dead in my tracks. I’ve worked at the Meadows doing “Love Addiction” work. I am finishingin Brene Brown’s work and it is all good….but the most important thing in my life at this time is developing a practice of self compassion and empathy. When I find myself in an ACOA family trance of unworthiness, I have a strong practice and I tap into spiritual solutions. Thank you for opening up and having the courage to be vulnerable and so very honest!

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