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How to Make Decisions in Life

how to make decisions in life

In my role as a therapist, I often assist clients in navigating life choices, guiding them to make decisions aligned with their authentic selves and fundamental beliefs. In this blog post, I'll guide you through the steps of discerning external influences and accessing your inner wisdom, which Marsha Linehan, a psychologist and the creator of dialectical behavior therapy, refers to as "wise mind." I'll introduce you to two exercises, one focused on fostering mindfulness and the other aimed at nurturing wise mind.

When Decisions are Hard to Make

Life is full of unexpected twists, some pleasant and others quite tough to handle. When unexpected news catches you off guard, it can disrupt your ability to manage things effectively. Consequently, you may overlook important aspects without even noticing. That's why pausing to tune into both your external environment and internal thoughts can help your decision-making process.

Medical Decision Making

Making medical decisions involves finding a balance between factual information and intuitive instincts. It's not merely a matter of weighing pros and cons; it's about understanding how each option impacts your overall health and quality of life.

In this blog, I aim to introduce a practical tool that has proven beneficial for many of my clients: wise mind. You already possess the wisdom necessary to make the right choices for yourself. I'll provide an exercise designed to help you access that inner wisdom, guiding you towards decisions that align with who you are.

Wise Mind Psychology

Wise mind is the inherent wisdom present in each of us, including you. It's easy to believe that others have this inner understanding while questioning our own. However, that instinctual feeling, that intuitive sense of what's best, is also within you. It serves as your guide for making decisions. Remember, your wise mind is always there, even when you're not actively aware of it. Just as you may not always notice your breath or heartbeat, your wise mind subtly directs you, even during uncertainty.

How to Make Decisions in Life

Finding your wise mind might not always come easily. Sometimes, emotions or reason can cloud the way. It's important to be cautious about letting your feelings or reason take complete control over a decision. When emotions run high, they can disguise themselves as truth. You might strongly "feel" something is right and be tempted to act impulsively. Conversely, if you're overly analytical, you might suppress valuable insights from your emotions. Emotions serve as a link to your wishes, desires, beliefs, and values.

How to make decisions for yourself

Optimal decisions emerge when you engage your wise mind, allowing both your emotions and logic to contribute. It's the decision that still feels right even after you've taken a moment to pause and find your calm.

Mindfulness therapy

Mindfulness gives us a clearer and more dependable perspective on things. It's about consciously focusing on the present moment without letting unfounded assumptions or biases cloud our view. Our judgments, fueled by emotions, shape much of our daily experiences. We tend to label events as either good or bad and form opinions on what we should do next. But these judgments often mix factual information with speculation, making it harder to stay grounded.

Being mindful involves using all your senses to tune into what's happening right now. When you focus on the present moment, you're less likely to get caught up in thoughts about the past, which we can't change, or worries about the future.

How to practice mindfulness

Being completely present and tuned into your surroundings might seem a bit strange initially. So, let's take a moment now to spark some curiosity and delve into what's happening within and around you with a new perspective. Try to stop for a second and notice at least two physical sensations that you haven't paid attention to before. Take a deep breath, really breathing in and out slowly. If it feels okay, try to check in with your body for any feelings of tension, relaxation, coolness, or warmth.

Now, let's turn our attention to your thoughts. Try to notice and name two thoughts that pop up on their own. Just a reminder, observing thoughts isn't about intentionally summoning them. It's about directing your focus, not controlling what comes to mind. See if you can watch your thoughts as they come and go, picturing them like objects moving along a conveyor belt, without holding onto them.

Let's take a moment to look inward and check in with how you're feeling emotionally. Notice any emotions that are present—are you feeling worried, calm, annoyed, indifferent, sad, frustrated, or angry? Recognize and name your feelings. Just engage with this process as much as you can right now, and that's enough.

Ways to Practice Wise Mind

Finding wise mind consistently takes a lot of practice. Below is an exercise to help you.

Stone on the Lake

Let's envision a serene scene, picture yourself beside a tranquil, lake on a radiant day. Now, visualize yourself as a small, lightweight pebble, smooth and flat. Imagine being gently cast into the lake, slowly drifting through its peaceful, crystal-clear waters until you softly land on the sandy bottom.

Take note of everything around you—the sights, the sensations—as you gracefully descend, perhaps tracing gentle circles on your way down. Upon reaching the lake's bed, center your focus within yourself.

Tune in to the tranquility surrounding the lake, feeling the calmness and silence within. As you settle into the core of your being, let your attention rest there peacefully.


The psychology behind decision-making can be nuanced. It's often shaped by various factors such as interpersonal dynamics, attachment style, societal expectations, and power structures. Constructive choices are made when a person is able to take in relevant information while holding both their emotions and logic in balance. Regardless of your circumstances, wise mind can empower individuals in making informed and beneficial choices that feel true to them.

If you are interested in learning about therapy or would like to setup an appointment with Person to Person Psychotherapy, serving New Jersey & New York residents, call 908-224-0007.


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