How to Make a Tough Decision Without Having Your Head Explode

How many decisions do you make in a day? A dozen? A hundred? A thousand? There are so many little things to consider:

  • Should I get up now or hit the snooze button again?
  • Should I pack a healthy lunch or grab something at the sandwich shop?
  • Does the weather seem nice enough for a skirt or should I play it safe with jeans?

On the flip side, how many tough decisions do you avoid making every day? You know, the ones that actually matter:

  • Should we buy a house or continue renting?
  • Should I remain in this bad relationship or get out and start over again?
  • Should I move across the country or stay in my familiar home town?

Small decisions might not have a big effect on your life; you can always eat a salad tomorrow. But it’s those big decisions that can have lasting implications; moving across the country changes everything.

Not surprisingly, when you need to make a tough decision, it seems like everyone has an opinion about what you should do. How are you supposed to sort through all those opposing viewpoints?

Here’s the obvious solution: you have to trust your intuition. That little voice inside you knows the correct decision, but you have to be able to hear it.

If your family is saying one thing and your partner is saying another…if your friends are asking you to choose sides…if your lists of pros and cons are of equal length…then how in the world are you supposed to follow your heart? There are too many distractions!

I’ve got a trick that works for me every time. I mentally flip a coin.

Picture a coin in your mind.

Choice A is heads.

Choice B is tails.

Now, imagine flipping the coin in the air…it’s spinning…spinning…aaaaannndd…it’s heads! Choice A wins!!!

Immediately—before you take your next breath—determine how you’re feeling.

Does your chest open up? Do you feel lighter and hopeful? Are you thinking, “Thank goodness it’s Choice A.”


Does your stomach drop? Does a sense of dread settle onto your shoulders? Are you thinking, “Oh crap, now I have to do Choice A.”

That’s your answer! Not Choice A per se, but the feeling you get from Choice A. If you feel great, then Choice A is the right decision. If you feel awful, then don’t you dare take Choice A no matter who is pressuring you to do so!

Mentally flipping a coin can help you tap into your intuition (or gut feeling) when you’re too overwhelmed to feel it on your own.

Trust yourself. You know what you should do. You’ve always known.

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  1. Don Downs on September 6, 2012 at 2:52 am

    Decisions are easy when there is a clear-cut winner. It's when there's lots of pros and cons on both sides that it gets difficult. I like your technique. I've been actually flipping a coin, but the net result is the same: I know by how I feel about the result whether it's the one I want deep down.

    • Mitch Amiano on September 6, 2012 at 4:36 am

      In the Bible the practice is called "the casting of lots", but the technical term is Cleromancy. Count von Zinzendorf and the 18th century Brethren were said to use the practice for a great number of regular decisions, but the Moravians eventually stopped the practice, at least in its most undisguised realizations.

  2. Megan Gann on January 25, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    I think the coin flip is a good idea. I think we realize more about our choices once one had been made than before we make it. I think making the big decisions are the hardest ones, and the easiest. I usually dive right in, but always making sure I can change my mind if possible. I’m still trying to figure out who I am and am testing the waters differently than most people my age.

  3. Shybiker on January 25, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Smart tip. The biggest regrets I have are when I allowed others to persuade me to go against my intuition. We have a lot of widom and knowledge buried in our subconscious and should access and trust that.

  4. Tinfoil Tiaras on January 25, 2012 at 7:32 am

    I’m all about the pros and cons list but sometimes it becomes too overwhelming! I’m facing a life decision right now and yes I should just go with my gut- thanks Sage (and also thanks for the adorable pics which always cheer me up!)

    • Sage on January 25, 2012 at 12:48 pm

      Thanks, Emily. I have a lot of fun posing for pictures, but Chris thinks I’m a little weird. 🙂

      Yes, go with your gut! You’ll know the right decision by the feeling inside you. Good luck!

  5. xvavaveganx on January 25, 2012 at 6:31 am

    This is some great advice as usual 🙂 I’ve been struggling with a decision for some time now and I actually made my decision based on this idea of trusting your gut. My gut has been telling me one thing for a long time (I’m talking years here) but I’ve been putting it off for that long. The feeling has been getting stronger over the past few months so I’m taking steps toward making that change (I’ll reveal more when I’m closer to making it happen). I’ve had lots of other signs telling me it is time to take the step so I realized I have to trust my gut and just go for it. There is one thing I have to take care of before it happens and hopefully it won’t take as long as I’m afraid it might. I’ll just have to be patient I guess!

    I may actually e-mail you because I have a few questions for you!

    • Sage on January 25, 2012 at 12:51 pm

      It’s scary to make a big change, but changing your life can be so rewarding too. Isn’t that funny when you start seeing signs all around you? It’s your intuition seeking confirmation. I’ve never regretted trusting my gut, but I have regrets about times when I should have listened to how I was feeling.

      Everything will work out. Stay positive!