3 Steps to Make Better Decisions With Mindfulness
By Janice Marturano, Guest Contributor
Every day we are asked to make decisions. Some are of little consequence while others can literally change our lives and the lives of others. When those important questions arise, we can find it difficult to choose. We might feel paralyzed by an overload of input from others, or we might feel as though there is no clear "right." So, are there ways a mindful leadership practice can help? Let’s look at 3 Steps to Mindful Decision-Making:
Step 1: Stop and Unplug
In your typical day, when you are constantly tempted to divide your attention, it is important to cultivate your ability to focus your mind on the question to be decided. Good decision-making requires you to quiet your busy mind and body so you can open to all the ways of knowing available-e.g. analysis, inner wisdom, compassion. Removing the external distractions is a good way to start. Turn off the technology and find a quiet place to focus on the sensations of your breath for a few moments. When your mind becomes distracted, redirect it back to your breath. Feel yourself -mind and body-settling into the moment.
Step 2: Define the Question
It may not be what you think. One way of defining the question is to begin by calling to mind the issue or situation, and asking a more general question first: "what is called for now?" In other words, step back from the specific question to one that is a little broader or more general. More than a few of the clients I work with have said that this reflection often lets them see that the reason an answer couldn't be found was because they had the wrong question.
Don’t be in too much of a hurry to get to the precise answer to a narrower question. The smaller answer may be just that… small, rather than creative or breakthrough or compassionate.
Step 3: Reflect
Once you begin to feel your body and mind settle into the present moment and you have defined the question, it is time for the final step--reflection. This is not analysis, or even thinking. It is approaching the question with open curiosity. Allow there to be some spaciousness around the question so the answer or answers can arise, generated by your inner wisdom.
No need to go searching, the answer will come to you. This decision-making reflection is also an opportunity for you to practice patience. Sometimes it may take a few dedicated reflections with your question to discover the answer so don't try to push to a conclusion in your first reflection. You already have everything you need to make those important decisions and the more you practice with this approach, the more confidence you will gain in your capacity to choose.
Janice Marturano is the Founder and Executive Director of the Institute for Mindful Leadership, a nonprofit organization dedicated to offering leaders an in-depth exploration of mindful leadership training and its impact on the cultivation of leadership excellence. She founded the Institute in January 2011, after ending her legal/business career as a senior executive with a Fortune 200 company. In 2006, while still an officer at General Mills, she taught the very first mindful leadership curricula to a group of colleagues. Demand then began to spread throughout the company and, since 2008, to thousands of leaders at organizations around the world. She has brought this training to the World Economic Forum, Brookings Institute, and top business schools. She is the author of the award-winning, international best-selling book, Finding the Space to Lead: A Practical Guide to Mindful Leadership. Her work has been featured in the BBC, Huff Post Live, NY Times, Financial Times, Time magazine, CNBC, CEO magazine, and Forbes.
A version of this article was posted in February 2020.