We create our reality each and every moment of every day. If you are at all like me, some days you celebrate this about yourself and some days, not so much.
I believe experiences are the direct results of decisions, and, if I want to have better-than-average experiences, it is valuable to know how to dial in optimal decision making at every opportunity. (There is a loophole to this which I will share later in this article.)
Do you remember those Choose Your Own Adventure Books from a few decades ago? For those not familiar, the books are set up to have the reader be the main character and there are decision pages throughout the story. Based on the decision, the main character could end up winning the lottery, time traveling, decoding a whale song, etc. As a kid, if I didn’t understand how I arrived at the “bad” ending, I would go back and look for the clues I missed so I wouldn’t end up there again.
There are a couple of questions I now know to ask myself when faced with a real-life decision to ensure a “good” ending as a result.
Am I basing this decision on how I feel about it or am I basing it on someone or something outside of myself? When my goal is to create a life I really enjoy living, then I need to make sure I have my own back around the actions I take. It’s vital to connect with my values. Having completed a lot of in-the-field research on this, I know that when I have my own back and don’t outsource my decisions, I am setting myself up for success.
How does this decision feel in my body? When I am moving towards something that is positive and right for me it feels like my world is sparkling and I’m on an adventure. When I am moving towards something not in my best interest I’ve noticed that my stomach clenches, my throat tightens, and I feel tense. (I invite you to try this out and see what kind of feedback your body provides for you.)
We can pretty much rationalize anything, but our right brain includes a much bigger field and will bring a lot more information to the table. One early spring day, I decided to conduct an experiment where I consciously connected to that bigger field to make a series of decisions.
I had a special two-dollar bill I’d been hanging on to for awhile. I decided to put it back into the world with the intention of only following that sparkling-adventure feeling, using the two-dollar bill as a divining rod, so to speak. Another way to frame this experiment is that it was an exercise in flexing my right brain “muscles”.
Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist, wrote My Stroke of Insight after observing the distinct difference between the two hemispheres of her brain while undergoing a stroke.
The part I want to focus on is her research on what the right brain does for us versus the left brain and how they work together to construct the world that we experience. Dr. Taylor explains that we are energy beings connected to the energy all around us through the consciousness of our right brain hemisphere.
“You and I are literally swimming in a sea of electro-magnetic radiation. We are swimming in an energy field that we cannot see, but we know that the field is real because science teaches us that there are energy wavelengths buzzing around us, between us and even passing through us. And this energy field that we live within is much like a parallel universe, and it is the domain of our right hemisphere. Our right brain character pays attention to the big picture of our lives and to the consciousness of our right mind. We are energy beings having an energy experience.”
Dr. Taylor explains further in her book that the right brain feels expansive, light, connected to all life around us, and is where our bigger selves and creativity live. The left brain is obsessed with following the rules, not looking foolish, and not putting ourselves in danger. Both sides are important. However, when we place too much importance on our rule-obsessed and proper-behavior-enforcing left brain, we miss out on the innate freedom and connection available to us.
Ideas kept popping into my head as to how I could put my two-dollar bill back out into the world: slip it into a library book I was returning, hand it to a stranger on the street, put it under a windshield wiper of a parked car. None of these ideas had much sparkle to them. The idea that it needed to be a gift and not used as payment for anything felt right. I could leave it as a tip. A particular coffee shop came to mind. As I navigated my way there, I was confident that if it was the best choice there would be a parking place right in front of the shop. I slowed, looking for parking. Nothing available. All the spaces were full. Not only on that block, but on the other side of the block as well. I kept going. A wooden sign for Shirlee Bird Cafe swinging in the wind caught my eye. Is that the place? I felt lighter and more expansive with that thought.
The delightful aroma of freshly-baked croissants and coffee wafted towards me as I opened the door. I stepped up to the counter and ordered a doppio. I dropped my two-dollar bill into the tip jar while Shirlee ran the coffee grinder. She glanced over while pulling the shots.
“Hey, no way, somebody tipped a two-dollar bill.” She said with a grin. “Is that from you?”
I nodded. I didn’t expect her to notice it so quickly.
Her face brightened and her eyebrows lifted. “So you must know my two-dollar bill story.”
I felt goosebumps. “You have a two-dollar bill story?”
She handed me the demitasse cup and leaned onto the counter. “Yeah, my Aunt Ada used to put two-dollar bills in my birthday cards when I was little. Every year I looked forward to getting a card from her. I hung onto them for the longest time. One year when I was moving I found them all and I bought beer with them. It still makes me super happy to get two-dollar bills.” She was beaming.
Customers entered and she turned to take care of them. As I sat there sipping my espresso, feeling like I just won a major award, it occurred to me; following the adventure-sparkle feeling doesn’t happen in a vacuum. When I am consciously connecting to the bigger aspect or parallel universe of my expansive right brain, I am putting myself on a path to connect with others doing the same. In truth, we are all decision-making geniuses and we are all connected.
The loophole: We can decide at any time that the decision we made (whatever it was) was the exact right one, find evidence for that to be true, and release ourselves from spinning a negative story. Life is fluid and we don’t ever have to be stuck. If this piques your interest, you might enjoy The Work Of Byron Katie.
Writer. Wanderer. Explorer. Educator. Not all who wander are lost, they might just be exploring so they can educate themselves and write about