Despite our best efforts, most of us end up in situations from time-to-time (some people more than others) that require us to make tough, unpleasant decisions. Maybe there’s no clear “right” answer, or it’s a lose-lose situation. Perhaps it involves a person or scenario that not only makes you anxious, but that you actively dread or fear.
Everyone has their own strategies for dealing with these decisions when forced to make them. Some of those include sitting in a dark corner eating saltines covered in a weighted blanket, or simply ignoring a problem, hoping that it magically disappears.
But Catherine Andrews—life coach, teacher and writer behind The Sunday Soother newsletter—takes a different approach: asking herself a specific set of questions. Here’s what to know.
Why asking questions can help
In the April 26, 2021 edition of her newsletter, Andrews shares her method for dealing with tough decisions, utilizing a standard list of questions (we’ll get to those in a minute) designed to help her figure out what to do when she’s feeling stuck. Here’s Andrews:
I think a lot of people like my work and my coaching because I ask really good questions. I heard a long time ago the concept of asking high-quality questions to determine high-quality answers (whatever that means) and I used to dismiss it as self-help fluff but I’ve found through my work with myself and others that honestly it’s true.
So whenever I am facing sticky situations, or fearful ones, or I find myself caught in a fear or shame attack and loop that threatens to take over, or really, any time, I return to this list of questions to remind myself, over and over again, that if I ask the right questions, I’ll find the right answers.
Questions to ask yourself when facing a complicated decision or situation
Of course, not every approach works for everyone, but this one’s worth a shot. And so without further ado, the questions:
- Am I attempting to mind-read somebody else’s intentions in this situation?
- How could I give myself what I’m hoping this other person will give me?
- Is this thought arising from shame or fear? What is a thought I can have from self-compassion or hope instead?
- Can I name three things I need right now?
- Can I name three things I could let go of right now?
- Can I figure out a way to make this 5% easier on myself?
- What answer feels easiest to me?
- What if what felt right to me, was right?
- Who may be benefiting from how I am thinking or feeling right now?
- Is there a way I am benefiting or protecting myself from continuing to believe or act this way?
- Where is this situation reflecting some hurt inside of me, and how can I tend to that hurt?
- Where am I feeling this in my body? What wisdom does that sensation have to tell me?
- If nobody was watching or judging me, what decision would I make?
- What would 5-years-down-the-road-me tell me to do?
- What would it look like to trust?
- Would this decision make my life bigger or smaller?
- Is it true? (hat tip to the great Byron Katie)
- Do I want to keep thinking this thing? Why or why not?
No, the “right decision” won’t suddenly come to you in a vision after answering the last question on the list. But, according to Andrews, this exercise can help “because sometimes, to get a different perspective on a situation that feels hopeless, a simple reframe from the right question can get you moving again.”