Life

Do you make noisy or quiet decisions? Here’s why the difference is so vital

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Anna Brech
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Grappling with the weight of a looming life choice? Learn the difference between noisy and quiet decisions to get to the truth of what you really want.

There’s nothing like big decisions in life to lead us down a road of high-wired uncertainty. What if we make the wrong choice? What if someone judges us for what we do? How can we tell without hindsight what the best decision is to make? 

The “what if?” merry-go-round quickly cranks into action, and before we know it, we’re frozen by the sheer stress of it all.

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If this rings true to you, life coach and speaker Mel Robbins has a clever little trick handy that might just ease the paralysis. 

Robbins is author of the bestselling book The 5 Second Rule, which is all about how not to overthink the things you want to do in life – but instead leap right in and distract your brain by counting down from five backwards in your mind.

In a new Instagram video she explains a similarly simple mechanism for making those big, scary life choices, such as whether to move countries or break up a relationship.

According to Robbins, the key to making a good decision is to first cut out the background noise that clouds it.

“There are only two kinds of decisions that we make,” Robbins explains. “We make what I call a noisy decision or we make a quiet decision.

“A noisy decision is the type of decision that most of us make all the time. They are driven by the noise of what’s going on around us. Driven by the noise of fear. Driven by the noise of anxiety. Driven by the noise of pleasing other people.

“And then there’s the quiet decision. And the quiet decision is one where you take a deep breath and you tune out all the fear and all the s**t that everybody else is saying and you go in here [gesturing inside] and you ask yourself, ‘what do I want?’” 

Cut through the noise to make better life decisions

Robbins says that by taking this approach, you remove all the fear and uncertainty that may be coating your decision. Instead of agonising over the how or the when or the why, you try and tune in with your gut instinct.

This in turn will tell you what you really want to do,  if  no other outside factor was influencing your decision.

This strategy tees with the status quo theory which states that we as humans prefer things the way that they are (the status quo) above the frightening unknown. 

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The status quo theory means that any big life decision you have coming up may well be coloured by your preference towards the familiar and the safe.

So, as Guardian columnist and positive thinking author Oliver Burkeman explains in this column, “Faced with two seemingly equal options, choose the scarier.

“Not because the universe will respect your courage and grant you Unlimited Power,” he adds. “[…] But because fear is almost certainly skewing your judgment.”

It's harder to make decisions in stressful situations

The simple act of making a quiet decision may be particularly apt at a time when many of us are struggling to make decisions at all.

Decision fatigue is very much present right now; the stress of the coronavirus situation is likely muddying our ability to think logically and clearly (even if we’re not quite aware of that fact). 

““When we are stressed or anxious, it can be hard to focus and think clearly,” hypnotherapist Chloe Brotheridge, of mental wellbeing organisation Calmer You, tells Stylist. “This is because when we’re in fight-or-flight mode, blood flow moves away from the frontal cortex, the rational part of the brain, towards the amygdala, the fear centre.”

In such circumstances, it’s even more important to cut out all the background chatter, find some quiet and dial into what it is that you – and you alone – want to do.

Images: Getty

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.

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