Here’s a trick: use your body to make decisions

Posted on May 30th, 2012

As many of you know, I can get very indecisive. I can be walking down the street to do something nice and languid, like have a tea in the sun. And I suddenly stall in my tracks. Where to go? What cafe? What tea? Sunny or cosy cafe? Such painfully indulged innocuousness can render me paralyzed for minutes. I’ll sit in the gutter and weigh up the pros and cons of various options…in charts in my head…aware it’s all just so dumb, which gets me even more paralysed. I’ve been known to turn around and head home because it all just becomes too much of a clusterfuck.

Photo by Heikki Leis

Anyway, I’ve shared how I get over indecision here and here.

And I think I’ve shared that it’s actually yet another side effect of hashimotos (thyroid disease affects the decision-making centre of the brain). If not, I now have.

But I’ve been experimenting with this idea lately: letting my body steer me to a decision. I’ve heard it referred to as using your body as a pendulum.

It works like this:

I have a decision to make. Let’s say, to turn left or right at the end of the street. I think of turning to the left and feel whether I lean that way. I try it on the right. Invariably I can feel my body lean more or less, one way or the other. I feel one way in a light, brighter, easier manner than the other. Sometimes the answer comes as a colour. Or it comes in colour, as opposed to black and white. Colour means go for it.

Others literally use their body as pendulum and tune their bodies to the idea that “yes” is a forward tilt and “no” is a backward tilt. And then they ask themselves questions.

But the operative word here is feel. This is the point. So is getting still and conscious, because it doesn’t work otherwise.

But mostly it’s about getting closer.

This is my aim in life these days. Just to get closer to that distilled, quiet, always-already essence at my core.

Really, if you cut out the angels and unicorns, using your body this way is just an exercise in coming in closer to your body. And when we get closer to our body, we shut out the chattering, distracting head that works in charts and pros and cons lists (which are ineffectual. Actually, they’re good to a point….for narrowing things down…but then the head has to step aside and let gut take over…this has been explored before by Jonah Lehrer). And when we shut out the head, something else far more organic kicks in.

Flow.

Nature makes it’s decisions by going with The Flow. A river moves left or right based on the sum total of ALL other movements in the universe – the placement of rocks, The Flow of the rivulets flowing into the river, the log that’s floating along the current on that day.

Tides move with the moon. Birds move with zephyrs. Sunrise follows sunset.

We also are meant to move with the flow of all things. No angels. It’s just the truth.

Our big important job is just to get out of The Flow’s way.

Golly, this is something I find hard to learn.

It’s good to start with small close-to-the-body decisions. Like deciding what to eat, what will be best for our body right now.

Practice and build the muscle. Move on to those massive decisions like…um…what cafe to sit at. It’s a handy skill. We’re always in our bodies. We always have the tool nearby. And any excuse to just get closer is a good one.

Funnily, as I just finished writing this, I listened in on a Radio National documentary about indecision and about using a pendulum to make decisions. It follows producer Natalie Kestecher as she tries to find a remedy to her crippling indecision…with a pendulum, which she calls “string”. She points out it makes her life expensive, and threatens relationships. Just click here to listen. Or to learn more about dousing, click here.

“The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision.” – Maimonides

A big part of my problem with indecision is I believe that successful people are more decisive, that any decision is better than no decision, that “just making a decision” is . But listening to the podcast made me think that indecision is actually quite a cute, painful, raw little human trait that takes us on some interesting  journeys. And unifies us.

“Every decision is liberating, even if it leads to disaster.” – Canetti

Do you have a trick for using your body to make decisions? I need tricks…this is a work in progress for me.

 

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  • http://www.thelifeshemade.com Kristy@thelifeshemade

    My mother in law has had her thyroid removed and interestingly she is the MOST indecisive person I have ever met. She sounds a bit like you – even really small inconsequential decisions about cups of coffee are really difficult. I might forward this article to her.

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    Sarah Wilson Reply:

    Do! Make her feel less crazy!

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  • Dysania

    Whether to reply to this post or not? Decisions, decisions! I mainly rely on my gut feeling when it comes to making choices. I tend to narrow down the options in my head but always end up going with my gut. No unique style but it’s probably primal. Call me Cavewoman!

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  • http://Www.klrmarketing.com.au Grahame Rees

    Hi Sarah,
    What an interesting post,I see many people get their life and business stuck or in trouble because they cannot make a decision.Is it because there may be a better option that they are waiting for ? A good decision is one made regardless of the outcome.
    I use a pendulum some times,but found you get strange looks in the supermarket when selecting food.So I use the body forward or back movement.I know one guy who preg tests his cows this way with high % accuracy.
    The best advice came to me from a book I never bought,I read the title on the shelf and got it.”Plan Your Own Destiny or Someone Else Will”

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  • http://headplanthealth.com Catie

    I’ve found this approach really useful recently, in the vein of kinesiology. Your body will innately ‘know’ the answers if you simply take the time to ask!
    That being said, following the wispy tails of unicorns and flutter of angels wings gets me by!

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  • Shari

    I like to remind myself that so many things really don’t matter in the long run. This cafe or that one? Just pick one and enjoy. Be in the moment. If it ends up being some place you don’t like, at least you had a little adventure. Look at the positive.
    Will it matter in a week, six months or a year? Take a deep breath and enjoy the ability to take little risks. Enoy the freedom to make decisions. You have so much more freedon than you believe. This is what helps me:)

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    Sarah Wilson Reply:

    I know what you mean…until you panic about “being in the moment”!

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    karen Reply:

    me too .. and then you are in the cafe and they put your coffee down in front of you and it is too strong, weak, cold , hot , milky … and the first sip doesn’t give you the “ahh, just what I needed” feeling , and you just know the other cafe is serving those up to people right now! …. I have been known to pay for the unfinished coffee (or if I can secretly pour it in the garden to avoid offending the staff) and move on to the other cafe. I agree, it may not matter in time – but sometimes it really matters a whole lot right then and it helps knowing I am in control of the outcome when I can’t just go along for the ride .

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  • http://oneaprilmorning.net Laura

    Yup. Some of my most fruitful decisions have been made at the spur of the moment, without allowing my head the time of day to put in its 2 cents.

    Though the truth is, with me, my head chatter is so incessant and thorough that even decisions I “think” I am making on the spur of the moment – close-my-eyes-and-press-send kind of moments – have been thoroughly analysed already, from every possible angle. So my head is still unsure while my heart (or body, as you say Sarah) says “go for it”.

    Latest example – I have been longing for a dog for over a year. It might sound dramatic, but it’s true: my heart physically ached for a dog (my 14-year-old dog, who I’d had since I was 9, died last year). The pros and cons list reared its ugly head, plaguing me all those months with why it wasn’t a good idea. But in the end, my partner said “yep, we’re getting a puppy… because it will make you so happy.” When I interjected with the carefully cultivated cons, he said “we’ll work it out”. He was right.

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  • http://www.withgraceandeve.blogspot.com Elisa

    Yes! I do this! I was taught the tilt forward/backward but I wanted to use the technique to tune into my body’s answers to whether foods were good/bad for me {at a time when I was not digesting much at all due to AI} and tilting in the supermarket made me feel rather stupid! So I created a visualization – a bit like a speedo on your car dash – one way felt good {foods I could digest} the other not {foods i couldn’t digest} and in the middle was foods I could tolerate in small doses. I posed the question, tuned in to my body, visualized the speedo and let my body feel the answer. It may sound odd, but it works! Hope that’s a help Sarah! I should prob blog about this…! Elisa x

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  • http://www.bebalancedkinesiology.com Diane

    Great post!

    Your body never lies – and muscle testing, either via a pendulum or using your body to move forwards and backwards for yes and no is a FANTASTIC way to ‘talk’ to your soul self rather than the ego self.

    As an energy kinesiology practitioner, which is founded on muscle testing I believe this is the way to tap into our true potential enabling us to have more assurance, conviction and confidence in ourselves and our experiences.
    Here’s to easy decision making!

    Some more self help kinesiology tips can be found here: http://yourheartmakesadifference.com/2012/03/time-to-hit-the-reset-button-k-27%E2%80%99s/
    and Donna Eden has many great self help tools and also about self muscle testing: http://www.innersource.net/em/resources/handout-bank-1/68-hbassesmentmethods/378-energy-testing-without-a-partner.html

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  • Naz

    This article really resonated with me, I have for as long as I can remember been this way. Using my body to make decisions and honestly I didn’t even know it was a thing until just having read this article. For me it’s not about seeing a colour but definitely a feeling I get when having to make a decision, it’s really hard to explain but for example when I’m out shopping for something and have to make a choice between 2 things I’ll let my body decide for me by touching both objects I’ll either get a feeling that annoys me, like I can actually feel my body tense up and it just feels uncomfortable so I know that’s not the one I’m after.

    When I was younger I used to think I was strange for doing this but as I’ve gotten older I’ve learnt to accept it, it works so why not! And nice to know I’m not alone in this :)

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  • Mia Bluegirl

    “it’s actually yet another side effect of hashimotos (thyroid disease affects the decision-making centre of the brain).”

    Ahhhhhhhh lightbulb moment! I have full-blown anxiety attacks picking a brand of tissues. No shit. THIS MAKES SENSE.

    I think the problem as well is over-thinking. I dont know about anybody else but I can see both sides of nearly ANY argument. I have opinions on everything, and they often clash because in any debate I can resonate with both players. It drives me nuts. So NOT making a decision spares me that crippling, “Oh fuck I just screwed up my entire life BY BUYING THE WRONG TISSUES” anxiety. It’s not the tissues’ fault, for some reason small decisions seem to be the framework and definition for how I live my entire life. Like a microcosm. And it sounds even stupider out loud!

    Making decisions is hard. Means you need to trust yourself to make the right ones. Trusting yourself to steer your own life is the hardest kind of self confidence.

    Sometimes I get pleasure in making decisions based on the most superficial of reasoning. I choose wine if the label is pretty (although apparently this is sensible, if the winemakers share your taste in label art they are likely to share your taste in wine also.) I pick the restaurant with the funniest sounding name. Or I become a creature of habit… I have the same curry every time I have takeaway, to the point where the guy at the curry house greets me with, “Butter chicken?” and a big grin every time I walk in!

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  • Sarah

    This post reminds me of one of my favourite quotes from Grey’s Anatomy:

    Izzie: You gotta tell me what to do.
    George: You know what to do.
    Izzie: No I don’t. I don’t.
    George: Yes, you do. You’re just scared to do it. This back and forth is just fear. You’ve already made the decision. You made it.

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    seeker Reply:

    cool! love everything about this! thanks sarah! :)

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    seeker Reply:

    oops!

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    seeker Reply:

    this is cool! love everything about this, the truth in it, the reality and familiarity of these situations and the power that good drama can have – that you thought of this when you read today’s post, love reading the little bit of script, nice one, thanks sarah!

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  • Cc

    Pleased to see this post today Sarah, indecision has been my bed fellow for many years too. Partly to do with depression and now, just wanting to make the best/right decisions.

    So lately I have been using pro and cons lists, very helpful. The other thing I have tried lately and is to ask you inner being for guidance. For instance, I had the ‘dilemma’ of trying to decide which path to take other day and so I asked, ‘Inner being can you guide me towards the best parth’. I let go mentally of needing to know which way to go and it became a fun game in following my body, in the same way that you explained above. I just let me feet take me where they wanted to go and ended up going down back streets I’d never thought to do down, which was fun and saved some time!

    I do believe our body holds all the answers and the truth…as Nietzsche said, I think have posted this before but I love it…

    ‘There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy’.

    Agree also with Sarah’s comment above, we already know the answers, its just a matter of fine tuning, listening and trust!

    And don’t forget to add a bit of fun to the mix, this is all not as serious as it seems! x

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  • http://donnaandtora.com donnaandtora

    You look brilliant! Thanks for sharing the good ideas that probably can help us to be aware of what is good and not good for us! We really need to use our body to make decision.. Very inspiring….

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  • http://www.mysticalindiatravel.com Melanie

    Hi Sarah

    Great article!

    Recently watched a TV program in the US on how some doctors are now saying that in the near future we are going to recognize sugar as something that is as harmful to us as smoking….Now that’s controversial to say the least.

    BTW, I found you via the webinar just now with Darren, it was very informative and I am looking forward to learning more from your blog.

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    Sarah Wilson Reply:

    Welcome Melanie!

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  • Cc

    Oh and another quote for y’all..

    ‘it”s not about making the right decision but about making your decision right!’

    If you are indecisive about making the right decision, sometimes both or all options are right! It’s just a matter of lining up with the decision and deciding that it’s the right one for you at the time.

    I just read this too…

    ‘”Instead of asking questions like, “What should I do?” or “What’s the right decision?” consider asking, “What do I want to experience now?” Life is an ever-unfolding experience, not a collection of right and wrong (or optimal and suboptimal) decisions. When you focus on the experience a decision will bring you, you’ll stop seeing life as ‘either-or’ and begin seeing it as ‘and’.”

    xx

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    Jane Reply:

    Wonderful. Thank you!

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  • seeker

    i LOVE clusterfuck!!! nice piece of writing ms wilson, like how you’ve put it together – also i love the photo – where do you find them, this is beautiful … thanks again! :)

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  • http://thedisillusionment.com Donna

    When people ask me for advice (I don’t do advice), I always tell them “Close your eyes, what do you feel like you want to do?”

    I believe we inherently know what we want and how to look after ourselves. Thanks!

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  • megan

    Similar to muscle testing.

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  • http://www.text-centric.com Charles

    One of the strategies I use to overcome indecisiveness is from Susan Jeffers book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. Whenever I’m vacillating over a decision I simply remind myself “It doesn’t matter”. Coffee or tea, jeans or slacks, North Coast or South Coast… it doesn’t matter! There are few wrong decisions that can’t be rectified if necessary.

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    Sarah Wilson Reply:

    Yeah, I do like that thinking…backing off from life

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  • Terry

    I agree that the body has its own wisdom & we shld just listen to it (eg do you know the body has at least 3 levels of memory – the normal meaning as in remembering, there’s Muscle memory, & memory on the Cellular level)

    A useful trick I use when indecisive is to ask myself “What’s the Worse that can happen?”

    If i choose the wrong place to dine in, then I just learn from it & try someplace else next time…

    I think, as long as the consequences of a decision does not involve Life or Death, we can usually live with the outcome, however bad, as we can usually later take steps to mitigate the effects of a bad decision….

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  • Terry

    …..& Yes, thanks for introducing a new word to my vocab : “Clusterfuck” :)

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  • Selena

    Thanks Sarah, love this post!
    I too am plagued with indecision!!!! and yes I also have Hashimoto’s, and yes decision-making did get worse around the time of it’s onset…but it seems to have improved (a little) since evening out my TSH levels.
    I try to justify my indecisiveness with comments like “the world is my oyster…..and I love having options”…..But having sooo many options is counter productive and it means that you can churn on living a rather surface life and never really commit to anything….and hence never achieve those things that may be deeply dear to us :(
    I love the “….get out of Flow’s way” approach you mentioned; I tend to do exactly the opposite…..I fight the flow HEAD ON!…..like it is a test or some type of challenge of the strength of character.
    I also like your idea of listening to the body to make decisions – my body speaks LOUD & CLEAR to me these daywhen things aren’t right it shuts down, I get fatigued and my stomach goes haywire stopping me in my tracks. There are conflicting message out there tho “feel the fear and do it anyway”….hard to know the difference between a small amount of natural anxiety of doing something new and a sign not to proceed.

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  • http://housesitdiary.blogspot.com.au Di Hill

    Interesting to read your post above. Fascinating. I don’t have such a problem. I am commenting because I listened to the webinar this morning, and learned so much. I am a quiet blogger, not doing too much, and not seeking publicity but all about to change. I learned a lot this morning. Many thanks, Di

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  • Astrid

    Hi Sarah,

    I use the coin trick when it’s hard for me to make a decision. Flip a coin and the moment you see if it’s head or tail listen to your gut feeling. And you’ll know if it’s the right or wrong outcome for you.
    It works every time I do it. Sometimes your inner voice is already screaming to you when the coin is still in the air.

    Thanks, I love your blog,
    Astrid

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    Meg Reply:

    Haha I was just about to write
    The same thing!

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    Lisa Ingram Reply:

    We do this. And the fall of the coin is immaterial. If it comes the ‘wrong’ side, well there’s your answer as to what the right side was! Also stops over-thinking and gets to the gut of it. Can do it mentally too. Is it a? (check insides for feeling), or b? Trick is to then EXECUTE! Not dither about ‘did I really feel that? what does it mean?!! Nothing! Just get on with it! Lisa

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  • Madeline

    Im a professional modern dancer. Listening to and working with my body is my profession. I find if my head becomes too worked up in making a decision, I revert back to my body. I move my body, whether it be in my lounge room, on the beach, in the supermarket or in the studios. Eventually I’ll feel liberated and just calm down to make a choice; it gets me in tune with my gut feeling and gets rid of the over-powering mind. I listen to what my gut says and I just go with it.

    :)

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  • http://www.sallykirkman.com Sally Kirkman

    I love your article! Please make it easy for me to share your wisdom. I can’t find a retweet button? best, Sally

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    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    Oh really? It’s down the bottom of every post!

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  • http://arthousehomelife alison

    Wow. Another day in which you write what I needed to hear, just when I needed to hear it. Spooky.

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  • http://arthousehomelife alison

    I think I meant read, not hear. But you knew that.

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    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    I did! x

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  • Cathy F

    Thanks for another terrific post Sarah …. love syncronicity … was thinking of Natalie K recently (who is an old school friend of mine) and here is my reminder to get in contact with her!

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  • Janelle

    Great article Sarah… I don’t have Hashimoto.. But I am indeed an overthinking woman that fears making the wrong decision (especially in regard to relationship partner) and let’s that fearful anxiety overwhelm me… I loved reading the comments you inspired everyone to write and have gotten so much from everyone’s comments…will Endeavour to acknowledge the fear and trust that I am stronger then the feeling regardless of it’s presence….. Feel the fear but do it anyways :):)

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  • http://www.vivmcwaters.com.au Viv McWaters

    So true, and re-learning to recognise that our bodies have something to tell us seems to be part of the trick. I use this all the time now, especially when facilitating groups – i notice where my body takes me and also how I feel when trying something new, risky or difficult. The thing that helped me the most was doing improv theatre. I’m not an actor, but the principles and structures that underpin improv are fantastic for learning how to be in the moment, trusting your instincts, letting go and having a go.
    Cheers, Viv

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  • http://www.lifecommaetc.com Life [Comma] Etc

    Once again – Thank you! I have felt this “Hashi Haze” and it used to infuriate me. But maybe next time I’ll just drive around until my body tells me what I want to do.

    And, inspired by you, I finally posted my “Guide to Auto Immune Disorders” and it became my #1 post overnight…. of course, I linked to just about every article you ever wrote. Thank you thank you!

    http://www.lifecommaetc.com/2012/05/auto-immune-disorders-hashimotos.html

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  • Annanotherthing

    I had an experience last night- not earth shattering, but illuminating.. I have a knee injury and an exercise/rehab routine I am meant to follow.. Last night, my knee was aching and I stood, stationary in the middle of a shopping centre while my brain battled itself (“go to the gym” vs “go buy chocolate & wine”).. I was pretty much frozen to the spot, until I just started moving, without thinking, towards the gym.. I still can’t figure it out, but perhaps while my brain was busy, my body just decided to get a move on with things?

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  • http://www.inklingcoaching.com Gemma Munro

    Sarah – fab post! I use my body to make decisions all the time (from what to have for lunch – sadly, my body tends to want spinach, not spaghetti) to whether to launch a new coaching program.

    I wrote an article on how to make really really good decisions using your body – it’s here, if you’re interested: http://www.inklingcoaching.com/2011/08/21/good-decisions/

    Love your work, Sarah – you’re one of life’s illuminators.

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  • Claudia

    It’s amazing how the universe seems to bring things up repeatedly…I was just meditating on the bus this morning and discovered that there are muscles deep in my body that will actually tense or loosen depending on what I’m thinking of!

    And yes, I can be totally indecisive (not hasi related, I think)

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  • http://pimpmybricks.wordpress.com PP@pimpmybricks

    Hah! I heard that interview on the radio the other day while I was driving and so desperately wanted to find it again (so that I could learn whether String has anything attached to the bottom – getting stuck on details, procrastination – are these other signs of thyroid disease?!). And fortuitously, synchronously, marvellously, here it is, delivered on a plate with other goodies. Thank you once again Ms Wilson.

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  • Jenniene

    Hi Sarah,

    Try this – link your pointer finger and thumb together and then intertwine it with your other thumb and pointer finger – like two intertwined ok’s. Now ask yourself the question then pull. If it’s easy and separates, the answer is yes. If they stay linked, the answer is no.

    Hope this makes sense :)

    J

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  • Kate Walker

    Wow, and I thought it was just me… I’m so relieved I’m not alone! I’ve been out and about many times on a Saturday when suddenly I can’t decide what to do or where to go next. I generally have to pull over and just sit in my car and think about it. I’m definitely going to try this strategy next time :)

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  • http://stephanie_bhim@hotmail.com Stephanie

    I saw a kinesiologist today and 20 mins into the session she asked me if I was indecisive, I couldn’t decide if I was or wasn’t….I guess that’s my answer.

    What helps me is asking myself if a particular choice feels too stressful/hard/angsty- if it does, I decide to do the opposite.

    Thanks for a lovely article Sarah x

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  • Lauren

    Oh my Sarah!!! I just read that first paragraph and thought…
    “That’s me…oh that’s me…oh yes that is what i do…i do that too!”

    And then this “it all just becomes too much of a clusterfuck”
    HILARIOUS!!! Love it!

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  • Olivia

    Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for this post, it’s great.

    I’ve been indecisive all my life… And just five years ago I was diagnosed with congenital hypothyroidism ( my Mum has mild Hashi’s but it seems I don’t have the antibodies).

    Anyway, maybe that has something to do with it. Thanks again!

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  • http://www.imagewordandmotion.com sean

    Hi Sarah,

    The Japanese call this ‘Haragei’, we refer to it as ‘sensing’, there are a variety of exercises that can be utilised in order to ‘exercise the muscle’ of intuition. If you are based in or visiting Brisbane I can send you the details of where you could learn more, from a very insightful man and mentor.

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