10 Elements of Heart Led Decision Making

by Adrian W. Hall, MFT, ATR

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Sometimes it seems like David Richo’s book is alive…whatever I am going to write about matches conversations and thoughts that have been coming up in my work and life.  In this section, David Richo is not exactly saying these elements are about heart led decision making, he calls it a “list of healthy discernment criteria” (p. 189).  The way I see it, he is talking about being able to make decisions in a way that honors the full spectrum of our human capabilities and aligning with the forces that are at play around us.  I’m loving what he says...

  1. As human beings, we are able to know without confusion.  I believe that confusion comes from getting in our own way.  As David Richo says, sometimes confusion comes from “moods, whims, fears, addictions, logic or coercion” (p. 189).  All the truth we need to know in this life comes from inside us.  These forces listed by David Richo are forces that may obscure the clarity of our truth, which is why it is important to sharpen our interior awareness and build the skills to be still and listen.  If you are feeling confused, it is time to write about it, talk through it with someone who is willing to listen without adding their two cents or to sit in meditation to still the noise of all the forces so you can see the truth that is definitely held inside you.
  2. Whatever it is that you want to do is something you have consistently wanted to do.  It is not a passing excitement or a reaction to pain.  It is something that is calling your attention daily for a period of time.  My parents instilled this in us.  Being four children, we had to share rooms growing up and we would want to change rooms because we would get mad at each other or feeling particularly close to one another.  Each time we came to them requesting to change rooms, they would say, “As long as you feel that way 30 days from now, you guys can make the change”. 
  3. You are talking about what you want to do with significant people.  This means you are talking with people who will be touched by your decision, but also that you are looking around for people who have gone before you on the path you want to travel.  Of course, you might not find a person who has done exactly what you want to do, but you want to be looking at people who approximate this.  Finally, it is helpful to talk with others who are simply good mirrors, not giving their opinion, but able to clearly see and reflect back what you are saying and feeling so that you can see as much of yourself in the decision as you can.  We are complex as human beings and can feel lots of ways about important decisions.  We don’t always consciously perceive all that we know and feel about a situation. 
  4. Vocation happens where bliss meets talent” (p. 190).  Yes, David Richo is talking about the important aspect of being able to have the skills to execute what you want to do.  If that is making a career move, it doesn’t mean you have to know everything about the new field, but, instead, do you have the passion, follow through and openness to get the training you need for the transition?  If you want to get married to your partner, do you have the skills to sustain a healthy relationship and commitment?
  5. You are committed to the goal enough to weather the inevitable storm of challenges that you will face as you do what you want to do.  Realize that the going is going to get tough, whether that is internally (fear, doubt) or externally (circumstances are challenging).  So are you willing to wade through those?
  6. Right action.  What you want to do is sound morally and ethically.  “It is based on love and self-esteem, not on aggression, ego or self-depreciation” (p. 190).
  7. Doubt.  This seems like a peculiar element, but I love that David Richo included it.  It’s true, there is something missing when we think we know something 100%.  That means there is no openness to any other possibility, any discovery or any creativity.  Healthy doubt leaves the window open a little in a room for the air to circulate and stay fresh.
  8. “You have been noticing an inner confirmation of your choice through dreams, intuitions and synchronicities (meaningful coincidence)” (p. 190).  That’s just simple and clear, I can’t really add to it.  So I’ll leave it at that!
  9. “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen” –Ralph Waldo Emerson.  David Richo talks about the fact that making a decision that is right for you usually results in things around you aligning to support that decision.  All of the sudden, someone mentions a program that exactly suits your needs in transitioning to your new career or a business partner shows up that is looking for someone with your exact skills.  The things that happen to support your decision are things that occur beyond what you could consciously design.  David Richo says:  “This is the wind-horse again, the successful interplay of effort and grace, of steps followed by shifts” (p. 190). 
  10. You can sense the rightness of your choice inside.  It is looking around or doing something and feeling deeply “I am in the right place” or “I am doing the right thing”.  In my experience, this is usually a knowing that defies or goes beyond logic. 

In our lifetime, we are faced with big decisions that scare us because they have potential for tremendous impact.  These decisions need to be made because our light, love and life are hanging in the balance.  These are the best criteria I have come across to help guide us through decisions we need to make to live FULLY. 

*This post is written in response to a section in David Richo's book "When Love Meets Fear: Becoming Defense-Less and Resource-Full".  

Unexpected Ways Aggression Shows Up

by Adrian W. Hall, MFT, ATR

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When I think about being aggressive, there are obvious examples that come to mind like someone being violent physically, being rude or insulting.  When David Richo talks about aggression in this section of the book, he sheds some light on being aggressive in ways that I have never really considered aggressive, but knew were less than productive ways of operating.  While there are a number he discusses, I want to talk about the ones that caught my attention the most.

First, he talks about using “you” statements vs “I” statements.  If you are a therapist or have spent any time with one, you are probably familiar with this concept.  The idea is that if you start sentences with “I”, you are owning your experience, you are less likely to seem to be attacking someone and you are discussing the only realm where you really do have absolute authority of the truth (your own experience).  If you want to have any chance of productive communication, there is little room for insulting or making statements about the other person.  For example:  “you are a jerk” is definitely going to lead to a fight whereas saying “I feel angry about how you are talking to me” has a way better chance of leading to an actual conversation.  Insulting someone and even making “you” statements are aggressive ways of being. 

Another aggressive habit David Richo talks about is blaming.  Blaming is something that comes up a lot in my work with couples.  It is natural for people to come in saying that their partner is causing problems because that is how they experience it.  The trick of it is that their partner is not actually causing a problem, it is that they are experiencing something uncomfortable that their partner triggered.  Right away, that takes blaming out of the equation for productive dialogue because blaming tries to focus on fixing the problem in the other person, but there is no fixing something in someone else because you have no control anywhere except in yourself.  Anyway…. the interesting thing about what David Richo is saying is that blaming is aggressive because it “usually masks a demand to do something ‘my way’” (p. 180).  Think about that for a second.  Blaming really is making someone else wrong for doing/thinking/feeling something.  So, I want to take it a step further by saying that blaming actually is also overlooking where you might have space to grow and assumes that you considered every possible perspective and have landed on the determination that you are right and your partner has pretty much nothing to contribute to broadening your perspective.  Really?  Who wants to be like that?  Probably no one that is reading this.   

Finally, I want to talk about what David Richo says about being secretly separate.  He identifies many ways we can distance ourselves from people:  “competition, excellence, one-up-manship, running, judgments, secrets, intellectualizing, being right, being super anything” (p. 182).  Here’s what really caught my attention:

“The choice to be separate is not aggressive in itself.  It becomes aggressive when we pursue it as a secret agenda of our own while our partner believes we are committed to intimacy and cooperation” (p. 182). 

Really consider for a second if you have done this.  I consider myself to be a loving, considerate human being and partner and, reading this, I am clear that I have committed this aggressive act without even realizing.  Think about how it feels on the receiving end of this.  It is a betrayal and the physical feeling that accompanies the betrayal does feel like the impact of something aggressive.  And, I feel like it is aggressive in the sense that your partner, while believing you are committed, may also be committed and vulnerable.  Their heart may be open and vulnerable so that there can be intimacy in your relationship, then that secret agenda is a violation of that openness.  What does that do to how safe they feel leaving their heart open to you or to someone else in the future if it is not a good match between the two of you?  I always tell my clients, in love and relationship, aim to use one of the rules of camping:  leave it cleaner (better) than how you found it. 

So, if you are being aggressive in ways you didn’t realize, it’s OK.  Build your awareness, clean it up, grow as a human being and partner and learn ways to be assertive rather than aggressive.  I’ll write about that next week. 

*This post is written in response to a section in David Richo's book "When Love Meets Fear: Becoming Defense-Less and Resource-Full".