In the fall of 2004, my computer decided that it wanted a makeover. In computer talk, this is called a clean install, a deceptively simple procedure that involves a lot of post-installation restoration of programs and preferences.
In particular, I needed to reset my preferences for desktop color, highlighted colors, and navigational bars. I found myself really paying attention to this, because my decisions seemed critical. I studied the available colors carefully: crimson, poppy, plum, azul, teal, magenta. Which colors could I live with for the longest time?
It was agonizing until I realized I was acting as if there existed a universal law that once I chose, some force beyond my control would lock the appearance panels (at least until the next clean install), and I could never change colors. The absurdity of this fascinated me and led me to give some thought to my belief that a choice, once made, is forever.
Many people change their hair color or marital partners with greater ease than I altered my computer preferences. On the other hand, I have no trouble changing words, lines, and whole paragraphs when I'm writing. I can also abandon a subject in mid-write if I see it has no future.
People have varying degrees of comfort in different areas of decision making. Most people find that they have at least one area of life where they feel that they get maybe one chance to choose, and after that they have to live with their decision. The biggest problem is usually that they don't know this what they believe. They just think they're having trouble getting what they want.
Alison would like a new career, but there don't seem to be a lot of choices. She's hoping that inspiration will drop from the sky. While she waits for this miracle, she'll continue doing what she's doing.
Janice is all action. She researches careers, investigates schools and courses, and she can't understand why, the closer she gets to a decision, the more obstacles appear. The school she likes the best isn't taking any new admissions or requires 15 credits in invertebrate biology. Finally she finds another good school and is about to pay tuition when her credit card gets misplaced.
We begin to learn to limit or eliminate choice in our lives early on. Many parents give their children the opportunity to make choices, with the good intention of training them to make wise decisions and to take responsibility for the unwise ones. This approach seems more enlightened than the more restrictive:
"Because I say so."
but it can create its own set of dilemmas.
I vividly recall the long trips my family took to visit my grandparents in Pittsburgh. We always stopped at a Howard Johnson's (a restaurant often found on highways) for ice cream. Many flavors were available. Although I've never met an ice cream flavor I really hated, I generally opted for peppermint or pistachio, because I'd tried them and knew I knew I liked them.
Eating out in general provided similar opportunities for adventure and disappointment. I remember my mother asking about some forgotten dish, "Are you sure you're going to like that?—because if you don't, you can't return it."
As an alleged adult, I can, if I don't catch myself, get upset when I see a menu full of unfamiliar and very possibly dangerous entrees.
Other decisions have greater potential for trauma: school reports where students have choices of topics, who should be your best friend, whether (when your loyalty was solicited) you should take your mother's or your father's side in an argument.
Anyone who in their youth made enough choices that boomeranged learned to avoid the high rode of adventure and risk, because, just like with the ice cream, they were stuck with their decisions.
For many, career choices held the greatest risks. It's fun for young children to change their mind from day to day, shifting from artist to doctor to writer (one young friend of mine currently plans to become a druid). At a later point in time, though, one is forced into a choice. The noose tightens; the escape hatch is firmly locked.
For others, choosing a spouse is equally threatening, especially if they grew up with parents who regretted their own choices. Whether they stayed together or broke up, they communicated a clear message that the wrong choice could make you miserable.
Certain high-risk situations seemed to offer no choices, as in, "Clean your room now, or you'll stay in it until it's cleaned." "Come home after midnight, and you're grounded until you're eighteen."
Some young people, determined to declare their independence, even if it meant making a choice that could restrict their freedom, defied their parents. If they aren't still in their rooms, they learned harsh lessons that may have made them think twice about deciding their desires were more important than the voice of authority.
It's hard to ignore that voice of authority, the same voice that told us we have to make a choice and stick to it. The inability to comfortably change one's mind and direction stems from the fear that those who have the ability to make one's life miserable, i.e., parents, teachers, and other authority figures.
When we listen to those voices, we aren't listening to our own intuition and inner guidance, the only voice that can tell us what decision will make us happiest. We're intuitively aware of this connection. As you know that trying to use an appliance that isn't plugged in won't work, so trying to make a decision when the power to your wisest self turned off will lead to a choice that isn't in your best interests. And them some voice of authority will say, "I told you so."
The answer is to turn that power back on. The most helpful way to do this is through learning to believe that only you know what's best for you and to also believe that the answer will come to you, if you unlock the door.
Talk yourself into it. Build your connection to your intuitive self through small decisions. As you do so, take advantage of different methods to assist in developing your connection to yourself: meditation, yoga, any form of relaxation. Crystals and essences can be helpful, especially the decision-making ones, described below.
When we decide that we alone are responsible for our decisions and their results, we drop a tremendous burden. We learn to travel lightly on the road of our own choosing.
Decision making becomes such an issue for so many people that three of the Bach Flower Remedies are devoted to the topic.
Cerato is for people who would prefer that others decide for them: whether they're experts or knowledgeable friends. Scleranthus is for those so ungrounded in the decision making process that they swing from one extreme to another. Wild Oat is for people who hate to make a choice because they fear it will exclude any possibility of making other choices--ever (Teal? Plum? Bondi?)
For more information on these Bach Flower Remedies, please see an article on choosing among them.
Here are some additional suggestions.
Many people feel anxious about making decisions. Rhodochrosite, as a crystal placed on the solar plexus or held in meditation or at night while sleeping, can do a lot to relieve this anxiety.
Carnelian, a crystal that helps to ground one in the present, is excellent for helping one to make clear choices. When I owned a crystal store in Manhattan, I often handed carnelian to indecisive customers. Usually, not only did their decision-making abilities suddenly spring into action, but they decided they wanted to buy the carnelian, too.
Sodalite is especially helpful if your right and left brains are fighting it out. We are well trained in the functions of logic and reason, and intuition's voice can be less easy to hear. Sodalite can act as a peacemaker in such situations.
Patience can be key in the timing of acting on a decision. Tiger's eye teaches us the ability of a cat to know when to wait and when to pounce.