Life Lesson: How to Make Choices (Guest Blog from Paul Boehnke)

Guest Blog by Paul Boehnke, Certified Life Coach

I awoke multiple times that night. Always with an uneasy feeling. The last time I woke up it was 4:00 am. I could tell more sleep for this night was not in the offing. I was obsessively ruminating about a choice I had to make that day. A choice that triggered all sorts of patterns for me. Patterns around making the “best” choice (as if there was one). Patterns around responsibility, uncertainty, judgment, money.

Why is it some decisions are so easy and others so difficult? The debate going on in my head was heated, rancorous and exhausting. The voice arguing for the option was clear, simple and brought a sense of hope and possibility. The voice arguing against it was much louder, had more evidence to support its point of view (even if the evidence was trumped up and based on speculation) and activated just about all my fears about practically everything. This second voice was quite compelling and forceful.

Then I realized something crucial. All the reasons I was giving myself for saying no were based on fear. Fear of what might happen. Fear of what might not happen. Fear that I might regret it later. Fear of the financial ramifications. Fear about what a “bad” decision would mean about me.

No wonder these arguments were so compelling. They activated my amygdala; the old, lizard part of the brain tasked with keeping me alive. (For more info on fear, see Letting Go). But of course, regardless of how my decision played out, it certainly was not going to be life threatening. As with virtually every decision we make, it would turn out as I wanted or I’d learn something. There was really nothing of any true value to lose.


Similar scenarios play out all the time in people’s lives. They have choices to make. One option is focused on possibility, the other on fear. The choices based on fear are always extremely compelling and seductive. And, I think it’s fair to say, that more often than not, people make fear based choices. And the more of these choices they make, the further away they get from the real potential of their lives.

This always results in frustration, depression, lack of motivation, feeling stuck, ambivalence and apathy.

When these feelings get bad enough, coaches like me get a call for help.

One of the more important things I learned in my coach training was to help people make conscious choices. After uncovering the pros and cons of a situation and a client makes a decision, it’s important to explore that decision a little bit. If they want to make a change, then we figure out how we might reduce the cons of that choice. If they don’t want to make the change, then I ask what they would decide if we were able to reduce the cons. If they would decide differently, then we know it was a fear based decision. Either decision is fine. But it’s important to make it consciously.

Making a conscious choice claims our power in life. Making unconscious choices gives up that power and makes us a victim to fear.

This is what I did with myself. When I realized all the reasons to saying no to my choice were based on fear, I knew what my decision was. The answer was yes. And as soon as I made the choice, the fears faded into the background and my awareness of the possibilities grew.

How do you make decisions? What fears tend to keep you playing it safe and small? How would your life be different if you believed in the messages of possibility instead of the messages of fear?

In the comments below, give me an emoji of what it feels like when you have to make a decision.

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