Do you have a decision you’re weighing or a dilemma that’s causing you stress? A Decision-Free Zone is a safe time and space to listen to all of yourself, with a clear boundary that action is off the table. You can write in a journal, talk with a friend, or explore in a healing session.
As you listen for what is true for you in the moment without restrictions, you may discover conflicting emotions, underlying considerations, increasing uncertainty, or a calm knowledge about your next step. As you set aside your ideas about what a solution “should” look like, new ideas may float to the surface.
The first step is to acknowledge uncertainty. At this moment, you don’t have clarity about the best answer. Can you allow yourself to feel uncertain? We often judge ourselves for not yet knowing what we want, especially if we think there is one right answer we “should” find.
Sometimes there is no best answer to a complex situation. Several choices are equally good, or equally bad, or too different to compare.
The future is unknown
Sometimes a decision hinges on guessing the future. We can twist ourselves into knots trying to guess, or holding ourselves responsible for guesses that turned out to be wrong. How does it feel to absolve yourself of responsibility for predicting the future?
Put action on hold
After we allow uncertainty and our lack of knowledge about the future, we can make space for what we do know to emerge. Often we push away emotions, thoughts, memories, and intuition because we don’t like where they lead.
- “If I feel angry, I have to leave him.”
- “If I acknowledge discomfort with my gender, I have to take hormones.”
- “If I think it’s a good career move, I have to accept this job.”
- “If I miss her, I have to get in touch.”
None of those conclusions are true. You can connect with emotions, thoughts, memories, and intuition and sit with them, letting them be themselves. They do not remove your power of choice, and in fact may reveal more choices as you wait and listen.
Keisha examines the swelling on her wrist worriedly. She has debated making a doctor’s appointment for a week already. She can’t decide, even when she acknowledges that she can’t guess whether the swelling is serious or not.
When she takes some decision-free time to be with herself and her emotions, shame and anger rise to the surface. Despite her employer’s good medical insurance and Keisha’s careful attention to appearance, her doctor’s receptionist has quizzed her repeatedly about her ability to pay. Keisha’s shoulders slump as she tells herself it’s probably coincidence, nothing to do with her dark skin and natural hair, and she should be grateful to have access to medical care.
As she continues to pay attention to what is true for her, she remembers that she has never seen even raggedly dressed white patients stand at the receptionist window as long as she does. Her refusal to be quizzed again crystallizes. Her shoulders straighten with relief as she connects with her right to respectful treatment no matter what her appearance.
Now that she understands her hesitation, she can separate her desire for medical care from the receptionist’s racist behavior. New ideas arise. She briefly considers writing a letter to her doctor, but feels her shoulders tense again. She could find a doctor with more respectful staff. When she thinks of asking friends for recommendations, she feels light and clear.
Change the question
The decision-free time widened Keisha’s question from, “Should I call my doctor about my wrist?” to “Do I want a new doctor?” It also highlighted the way her Inner Critic added to her confusion by questioning her observations and intuition.
Compassion for indecision
Like other creative processes, decision-making takes you into the unknown one step at a time. Whether you are sitting with a hard decision now or looking back at decisions that you regret, bring in as much compassion as you can. In each moment, you are making the best decisions you can with the information you have at hand.
Christopher Germer’s The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion offers many tools for sitting with our struggles and dilemmas.