With so many opportunities arriving via text, in-person, phone, voicemail, direct mail, etc., how do we avoid overwhelm and discern which options are the best fit for our unique selves?
Our time, talent, and attention are valuable and limited. If we say yes to more opportunities than we are equipped to handle or to even one opportunity that isn’t a good match for our skills, we increase our risk of becoming overwhelmed and/or exhausted.
In today’s world, overwhelm and exhaustion are growing problems.
Pinging phones and buzzing in-boxes filled with requests to do, buy, go, participate, donate, etc. leave their mark by stimulating our brains into constant activation. Just like bodies, brains need down-time for rest and recovery. Constant interruptions create physiological changes that disrupt our ability to relax and assess what is truly worth our attention.
When our brains are exposed to repeated stressors, they become more sensitive to stress hormones which sets the stage for heightened reactions to small stimuli. During chronic stress, areas of the brain may begin having trouble connecting with each other. In these situations, it becomes challenging to make good choices for ourselves or anyone else.
Stressed Brain Stressors
While there are many factors that go into how we choose which opportunities to engage with, a few factors that make choosing difficult for stressed brains include:
- choice overload
- decision fatigue
- new experiences
- perceived risk
1. Choice Overload
Our brains are meant to focus on one task at a time. For those of us who think we’re really good at multi-tasking, what we are actually good at is doing one task and then quickly switching to another task. This is called task-switching. Regardless of what we call it, when we are presented with an abundance of choices, a stressed brain may refuse to support making any choice at all.
2. Decision Fatigue
With every decision or choice we make, there is some level of mental and emotional strain associated with it. When continuously being called upon to make decisions, we can become mentally and emotionally tired which makes it hard to make decisions.
3. New Experiences
New experiences involve navigating into unknown territory. A stressed brain may have a hard time wanting to try something new, even if the new thing would be beneficial. For example, when given the choice to have the familiar but unhealthy French fries or the unfamiliar but healthier steamed potatoes, a stressed brain may be more likely to choose what it knows regardless of the costs to physical health and wellness.
4. Perceived Risk
Because a stressed brain is already doused in adrenaline, it may perceive risk or danger where a relaxed brain would not. The more stressed the brain, the scarier choices may seem.
Even when stressed, it’s still possible to discern the best options for ourselves, it just takes willingness to pause, connect, and breathe.
When we pause, we interrupt the internal cycle of stress-induced adrenaline-fueled hurriedness. Choosing to stop engaging with a project, conversation, or thought pattern for a few minutes can give our brains and bodies a moment to regroup.
During a pause, we can choose to connect with something tangible such as the beating of our heart or the feeling of a soft blanket. This sensory connection encourages a frazzled brain to focus on something physical and real as opposed to an incessant stream of intangible thoughts.
Breathing automatically accompanies pausing and connecting. During this time, choose to take deep breaths that bring air deeply into the lungs before naturally letting it flow back out into the world. This time of pausing, connecting, and breathing helps us shift gears toward receiving knowledge about what’s truly important to attend to in the present moment.
This meditation is a great one to try when you need to stop and regroup.
One Key Question
Once we’ve taken a few moments (or longer) to pause, connect, and breathe, we are better equipped to ask a very important question.
The very important question will sound something like, “What is the next thing for me to focus on, today?” or “Which choice is the best fit for me?”
Essentially, asking ourselves this key question after a reset will invite wisdom and clarity from our internal decision-making assets… brain, heart, and intuition.
Using Brain, Heart, and Intuition for Discernment
In today’s world, the brain-based strategies of logic, reason, past experience, and research are given a large amount of credibility when it comes to decision-making. The brain, however, can only take us so far when our goal is to make choices that are the best fit for our unique selves. Of course, it’s important to use our mental processing skills to sort through information on the buffet of options, but the heart and intuition also provide valuable guidance.
The heart is associated with emotions and feelings. Even if specific choices seem logically to be great, emotions and feelings may have different opinions. Much of the richness in being alive is our ability to feel and experience. Letting our feelings have some input in regard to the choices we make can be tremendously helpful.
And then there is intuition. Often described as a gut feeling, the Free Dictionary defines intuition as “knowing or understanding something without reasoning or proof”. Scientists have organized studies to try to understand it and philosophers have debated the origins of its existence. Regardless of what we think about intuition, it is a natural part of our human skill set and we use it whether we want to admit it or not.
From choosing to turn right versus left while out on a walk, to honing in on the next great idea before anyone else, intuition often plays a guiding role.
For years, I have worked with people who want to consciously connect with their intuition. What I’ve learned is that each person has their own unique way of tapping into it. All that is necessary to become more adept is to pay attention to the signals of our bodies and minds when intuition is activated. Reflect on past experiences where guidance beyond heart and mind contributed. When that guidance arrived, was there a sensation such as a buzz or tingle that came with it? Where in the body did the sensation originate? Each day, begin noticing the times with these sensations show up. With attention and practice, you’ll quickly develop more intuitive connection.
Which opportunity is the best fit?
In review, when you’re ready to step into knowing which opportunities are the best fit for your unique self…
1. Pause, Connect, and Breathe
2. Ask a key question such as “Which opportunity is the best fit for me?”
3. Allow your mind, heart, and intuition to provide input
4. Choose an opportunity and notice what happens.
To continue on this journey of balance and selecting opportunities to pursue, consider reading these articles next:
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