Best practices for making a tough decision

September 16, 2015

Sometimes you find yourself in a high-pressure situation where you need to make a critical decision right away. Do you sign off on that ad-campaign? Do you cancel your vacation to take on a new freelance project? Do you apply for law school this year or next? You may not know the right answer right away and that’s fair. The decision, nevertheless, must be made. There's something that we're all born with to help you make the best choice possible.

It’s what Albert Einstein calls, “the only real valuable thing”— it’s your intuition. Honing your intuitive abilities makes your decision making sharper and gives you the confidence to move to the next step with ease.

Intuition is the instinctive and unconscious knowing that guides us through the unknown. It is what helps us identify the next best step, even when that next step feels clouded or uncertain. Your internal barometer paired with your ability to act accordingly gives you the leverage to make powerful choices with grace and confidence. This is creative intuition at its finest.

“The only real valuable thing is intuition.” Albert Einstein

Developing and refining your intuition is quite possible. Here are a few tips to get started:

1. Get Quiet

What do you do offline to relax? Perhaps you run through the park or ride a bike. Perhaps you paint or read a book. Maybe you just sit, quiet and still, for a few moments. Whatever you do to relax, do it, and do it as often as you can. When you do relax, especially in moments of uncertainty, you are better able to find complex solutions. When quiet, you can sometimes even hear the right answer as it comes to you.

The more time you set aside to do nothing, the clearer you become.

“Intuition is always right in at least two important ways; it is always in response to something. It always has your best interest at heart” - Gavin de Becker, author

2. Interpret Art

Interpreting fine art, or abstract symbols in general, will help you see beyond the obvious. If you cannot make it to your local museum or gallery, try this exercise. Take a piece of paper and scribble on it for a few moments. Like, straight kindergarten scribbling—no judgements. Now take a pen of another color and create a concrete image using a few of the lines you created moments before. Maybe it’s a bird or muscle car. Before you begin interpreting though, take a step back. Look at the incomprehensible lines drawn on the page. Turn the page around. Then, turn the page around again. See it from all angles. Now make sense of the mess. Do not stop until you discover something innovative and new.

“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” - Steve Jobs

3. Make a Blind Decision

To make decisions right away spend some time thinking about your question. Now, on three small pieces of paper write down three possible solutions to that question.

For example: Do I sign off on the ad-campaign?

  • Yes, sign off
  • Iterate once more, then launch
  • Take a different approach

If the answer does not come right away, try leaving the room, go do something else, then come back to your pieces of paper again. Look at each card and listen to whether your instincts take to one idea over another. If you’re still torn, try leaning on the side of discomfort. That’s more than likely the path of growth.

There is power in using your intuition. Think of it as personal data to help you make the sharpest life decisions possible. Your intuition always has your best interests at heart, use it.

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HVMN Co-founders Michael Brandt and Geoffrey Woo