How to know the right thing to do

by | Feb 26, 2019 | Leadership

What’s led you to reading this article? Did you see the title and think, “Great! Someone’s going to give me a process/formula/magic bullet (circle as appropriate) for making the “right” decision about my career/relationship/life (circle as appropriate)”?

I’ve got a confession to make. I’ve lured you here under false pretences. Well, not false exactly because there is a “right” thing to do. However….

…it’s about your right not the right.

What do I mean by that? Often, I work with clients grappling with decisions like, “Should I stay with the organisation I’m working with, or should I leave?” or “Should I take that secondment in the Middle East or not?” or “Should I move function to (for example) sales/HR/consulting?”

They’re often dealing with alot of mental noise like, “What if it doesn’t work out? Isn’t the grass always seem greener on the other side?” or “What will other people think? I’m going to let people down” as well as actual noise from people around them who are persuading them to stay or imposing their opinions about what they think they should do.

The underlying assumption is that there is one, objective, evidence-based answer that needs to be sought out.
A bit like the bible story of how God summoned Moses to Mount Sinai and gave him the 10 commandments inscribed on 2 tablets of stone, laws by which his people were expected to live.

But there is no one right answer.
What’s right depends on what any one individual thinks and feels about the options available to them with reference to what is important to them right now in their life and work. There is no equivalent of the 10 commandments inscribed in stone.

Find your right, not the right
We have evolved to seek safety and belonging – it served our ancestors to be part of a tribe, essentially safety in numbers in a world of multiple external threats. However, in the modern world, this manifests as worrying about what other people think about us rather than listening and trusting our own thoughts and feelings.

In addition to this, when we do try to make decisions, we think we can think our way through our problems, yet much of our intelligence is from our neck down. Two thirds of the brain is involved in processing information taken in through the body, through our senses. As Professor Guy Claxton puts it, “The brain seems not to be the Chief Executive of the person, demanding reports and issuing edicts, so much as its Common Room….Where we used to say ‘The body has a brain’ it now seems more accurate to say simply ‘The body is a brain’. “

So how do you find your right?

Tune out. Do what you need to do to distance yourself from others’ views. Thank them for their input and then move on. Remove yourself physically from those with opinions about your choices. As Steve Jobs said, “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”

Tune in. Create space for yourself – whether literally, for example on a hill with a view, or mentally in terms of quiet time where you won’t be interrupted.  Drop down into yourself. Make a regular practice of sitting in stillness, even if just for 5 minutes a day. Deepen and focus on your breathing. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, imagine you’re breathing in through your fingertips, then through your toes. Remember our gut and heart send more information to the brain than vice versa – listen to what they have to say.

And finally…
I’d like to leave you with this quote from author and coach, Michael Neill, “Cultivating a deeper relationship with your inner sense of knowing is the single most powerful way to begin making better decisions, producing desired results, and navigating life with more ease and grace.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do drop me a line at

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Alison Reid is an experienced executive coach who helps Directors lead with confidence and step-change their influence and impact. She works with them 1-1, empowering them to focus on what matters, communicate with impact and stay calm under pressure so they can lead themselves and others to great results. She's the author of Unleash Your Leadership : How to Worry Less and Achieve More. Download an extract or buy the book.

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