So, how do we make our best choices? First, we need to limit the number of options to those most relevant to what we truly want. This begins by getting clear on what your standards and goals are, and then to feel satisfied once you've reached them. Barry refers to this as being a "satisficer" versus being a "maximizer." Research shows that satisficers -- people who limit their options and don't keep endlessly looking for the perfect, best choice -- are much happier and more successful.8 Mindfulness helps us do this by keeping us in touch with our intentions and guiding us to zero in on what is most important and let go of distracting desires and impulses.
Another crucial step in making wise decisions is to pause and listen not just to our mental processes -- the pros/cons list we keep running through our mind -- but also to our emotions and to the cues our body gives us. As psychotherapist Esther astutely notes, "The body often contains emotional truths that words can too easily gloss over."9
Renowned neuroscientist Antonio found that when the connection between the amygdala (the seat of our emotions) and the prefrontal cortex (the source of our higher-order reasoning) was cut as the result of injury, it led to an inability to make decisions.10 The conclusion: in order to make wise decisions, we need to be able to draw on the wisdom of our body sensations/emotions coupled with our mental capacities.
Again, mindfulness comes to our aid. By attending to the sensations in our body as we explore the different options, we can connect with our emotions and route this information up to our cortex, where the highly developed frontal lobe is grappling with what to decide.
But we need to train this capacity to notice and listen to our body and our emotions. We can't just all of a sudden expect to tune in like this when hit with big decisions (eg, "Should I marry this person?" "Should I take this job?"). We need to practice inner listening every day so that when the big decisions come, we are attuned and ready.