Be conscious while you make it
Some decisions are big: Shall I propose? Shall I resign? Shall me and my parachute jump out of this plane?
Some decisions are small: Shall I eat another chocolate biscuit?
In the poem ‘The Road Not Taken’, Robert Frost writes about a decision he faced early one morning: which road to take for a walk through the woods.
Academics and students have been pouring over his words since 1916, when the poem was first published, trying to glean universal or personal meaning out of them.
I’ll just say this: Frost isn’t really writing about a decision he makes. He’s writing about what we generally do once we’ve made a decision.
We usually do two things.
The first thing we do is weave a story around the decision. We create a personalized memory about the choices we faced, why we made that decision, and justify it as the best one we could’ve made in the circumstances.
The second thing we do is wonder forever afterwards what would’ve happened if we’d made a different choice, hence the title of the poem:
The Road Not Taken
Frost spends two stanzas explaining his decision to take one road rather than the other. In the last stanza he envisages defending the wisdom of his choice to anyone who will listen. But the title of the poem highlights the fact that in the back of his mind he still wonders what would’ve happened if he’d taken the other road.
This is a disconcerting way to live. It’s a form of madness. It tears us in two.
Make Conscious Decisions
Throughout your life you habitually base decisions on what you know so far — which, let’s face it, isn’t a lot, and could be wrong.
What you know so far is stored in the collection of thoughts you carry around in your head. These thoughts tend to be fearful, repetitive, stale and secondhand. When you face a decision, you fossick through these thoughts. Then you add to them by doing research regarding this latest decision. Then you make your decision.
But this method of decision-making is highly overrated. It’s missing one key ingredient.
The key ingredient — the secret to making decisions — is to make conscious ones.
What does this mean?
Conscious decision-making is being fully present in the moment while you make the decision.
Being fully present while you make a decision connects you to universal intelligence, which is far wiser and all-knowing than the contents of your brain.
Try it next time you have to make a decision.
Be present, be fully conscious, while you make it.
Take a breath and, as you let it out, leave the area of your head and sink into your whole body. This place may include your thoughts and feelings about the matter, but it won't be limited to those things. It will connect you to your true nature, your eternal essence, universal consciousness. Make your decision here.
Once you’ve made a decision, step clearly and cleanly into the next moment, unfettered by stories of how wise or perceptive or ahead of the game you were to have made that one. On the other hand, don’t fret about the options you didn’t take. Why have that hanging over your head, like the title of Frost’s poem hangs over his stanzas like a haunting heaviness?
Mindfulness and Decisions
The important thing is to make conscious decisions.
Perhaps you’ll make a conscious decision to propose and see where that takes you. Maybe you’ll consciously resign and share your talents elsewhere, or jump out of that plane and experience wonder as you hang from the parachute. Or consciously choose to eat that chocolate biscuit.
Being fully present will ensure you make a sound decision.
And it will help you avoid the stressful mistake of looking back.
With love, Marlane
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First published on Medium.com/change-your-mind