The Art & Science of Decision Making (or why the US won’t let me in)

Winners make decisions fast and change them slowly.
Losers make decisions slowly and change them fast.

First off, I don’t believe in the concept of “winners” & “losers”. Sports, yeah. Anything else? No.
(Maybe Charlie Sheen got that right? We’re all WINNING at the game of life.)
Ahem. But this quote did make me stop and think about how I make decisions. Here’s the dirt.

I make big decisons in a few blinks of the eye(s).

Stay on in the US in ’00 cos I randomly got offered a job by the friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend’s brother even though I only went for a 2 week vacation honest to God & quitting my brand new 2 month old job in India to change to a US work permit (1000% legal) not realising how paranoid US immigration would get about my intentions, thus barring me from crossing the hallowed halls of the US-Canada corridor for years to come once I left on my own accord after 2 years when my work permit was valid for a few more years? Um .. Yes.

(ps: For those of you who keep asking why I don’t visit you or come to BlogWorld or SXSW or your delightful retreat/event/christening/workshop/anything else, believe me, I wanna and would you please like to petition US immig on my behalf ;)? pps: I wrote this post for you!)

I make small, insignificant decisions drag on till I’m ready to collapse in an apocalyptic fit.

Chicken salad or quesadillas for lunch? Someone, please just shoot me now. I remember living in this house in Calcutta where everything was taken care of. Bills, cleaning, repairs, you name it. The only thing I had to do was go to work, play and tell the cook what to make for dinner/lunch etc.

I hated it. It did my head in to decide. So we came to an agreement – the cook made what she wanted and I ate it.

All my life I was taught to make decisions based on pros and cons and what would make the most sense.

The ones I made based on this accounted for many a restricted bird-in-a-cage forlornly and sometimes viciously beating-of-the-head-against-an-imaginary-wall-time in my life (and a real wall just that one time…)

The undergrad course I chose. The college. The job. The jobs.

I was doing the smart thing. The right thing. Then why did I feel so miserable?

In the midst of all the sensible decisions, something strange would happen. Often I’d do something totally mad just cos I wanted to – like quit my job and move to another city, take a year off and go travelling, change careers..

One day, my BFF said to me “You always choose what’s the most fun thing to do”.

I was m.o.r.t.i.f.i.e.d.

That was NOT what I had been taught, I was way more responsible than that!

She even said “It’s not a bad thing, Tia” but in my mind I had been judged, crucified, seen wanting. That was so NOT how sensible, reponsible and mature people made choices.

Less than a decade later her words came back to me. This was around the time I stumbled across Steve Pavlina and for the first time I realised that other people were as crazy as me.

In his post about making smart decisions in less than 60 seconds, he says that he would walk around looking at stuff he wanted to buy or things he wanted do asking ”Is this really me?”

Then I read this other post about making smart decisions and I could see again. All the BIG life changing decisions I’ve made (and continue to make) are all factored around one idea. 

Imagine this – instead of pro’in and con’in your way into a decision, you let your body and heart decide. Ask yourself the question I’ve asked myself often:

What do I most want to experience now?

When I read that someone else was making decisons based on how they felt and what they wanted to experience (albeit more consciously than me), I smiled. Ok at first, I sighed with relief.

For no matter how hard I’d tried to fit in, I wasn’t fooling anyone. I’d fooled myself for a while, but to the rest of the world I was wearing the Emperor’s Cuhuhuhuhlothes.

(It took all this time to see, accept and eventually, LOVE that about me!)

Now, I’m proud to declare that some of the biggest and best decisions I’ve made have been made not lightly, but very intuitively or simply on the basis of what I wanted to do next. Consequences be damned.

They’ve been leaps of faith, made no sense and seemed totally random at the time.

  • The time my friend in Atlanta asked me to move to New Zealand with her cos she really wanted to go but was scared to go alone and I said, ok sure (I stayed 4 years, she lasted 6 months)?
  • Besides, how would I have met her and gone to NZ if I hadn’t first followed my gut and stayed on in the US to start with way back then?
  • When I decided in 2008 that I was done working for someone else with a measly 2 weeks of vacation a year and haven’t looked back since?
  • When I quit the corporate world and become a massage therapist in 2003, prompting my folks to ask ‘but what about your MBA’ and then asking for massages once they realised the benefits of a trained MT at home?
  • When I decided to go to Argentina last year and gave up my apartment in Vancouver, culled and packed my life in 8 boxes and landed up in Calgary instead in the thick of a -36 winter?

Worth it. Every single minute. The good, the bad, the ugly.

The experiences, the awesomeness, the agonies, the dramas, the growing up, the independence, the love, the laughter, the adventures, life. All worth it.

I wouldn’t change any of the big, crazy, seemingly ‘immature or reckless’ decisions I’ve made, because each time, I was marching to the tune of a drummer I (and that super smart coach chick, Martha Beck,) call my essential self.

I’d been following my North Star. Steering by Starlight.

Living according to my values, pushing past the hidden causes of resistance.

Even though I didn’t know it at the time. Thank heavens for that inner voice huh.

Something tells me that you, reading this, you get it.

You’ve made, or wanted to make big, life changing decisions in an instant and agonised over the futility of the small ones. Maybe you’re doing something really brave right now!

I’m going to ask you to make a decision this week that feels right to you, whether it makes sense or not. Start playing with your intuition, connect with your essential self and make a decision based on what you want to experience next. A whole new world of possibilities awaits, I promise you.

So over to you sweets! Have you ever made a decision based on what you want to experience instead of what was the most logical action? What’s the craziest decision you’ve made? How do you usually make decisions? Can’t wait to hear from you! Tx for sharing!

Facebook comments:



  1. says

    Tia, honey, the only way I make decisions is based on intuition and feelings, feelings being dominant. I am in intuitive feeler. ENFJ all the way. To me, that makes “sense.” I married a rational thinker, ENTJ. We don’t get each others’ decision making processes, but having realized that we have different and equally valid ways of doing it at least allows us to respect that each way is valid and that each way is what “makes sense” to each of us.

    And I know a good immigration lawyer. Her name is Dana Boyle. 😉 You should talk to her sometime.

    • says

      Danaaaaaaaa! What a pleasure to see your gorgeous smiling face here! Thanks for dropping by sweetness 🙂

      I love that you point out that something making sense is actually a very personal decision and what you think is perfectly natural, could well be mindboggling for another. I hope anyone reading this who ever questions the validity of their decision making process now realises that whatever makes sense to you, is what you should do.

      Me, I always knew in my gut but never trusted it enough for fear of making a mistake and regretting it (also passed down by others). Now that I see mistakes as a part of life and not a reflection of ME, it’s way easier.

      How did it escape me that you did Immig law too, hmm!? I guess I loved The Wedding Lawyer so much, that’s all I could see.

      I haven’t applied for a visitor visa in 3 years as there really hasn’t been a pressing need. US immig assume EVERYONE wants to live there unless proven otherwise. Way to go turning innocent untill proven guilty flipside huh. Funny thing is, my work permit was till 2005 and I decided to leave in 2002. Didn’t have to, but will they acknowledge that? Nah. Sheesh!

      It’s a great story to tell though 😉 “Why the US won’t let me in”! LOL! Hope to see you in 2012, that’s my intention!

  2. says

    What a beautiful post! I can almost feel the struggle and happiness! I don’t believe in win or loose either, more important than winning, is to not be defeated (read somewhere today). I go with my gut too..:-) I’m pondering on my craziest decision…

  3. says

    This post resonated in so many ways! When a traumatic event happened in my life way back when I was 30, it transformed my decision making driver forever. I went from a thinking things through, planning it all out strategy to asking myself “Would I love this?” As I went through the transition, I’m sure many people (especially my parents) thought I’d lost my mind. Maybe I did, but I also found my heart!

    • says

      Something really liberating about that process of “what would I love” right, Sandi? There’s definitely a place for planning and structures once a decision has been made, in fact often it’s essential, AND I also love that the actual decision is one that follows a more natural path, ie, the North Star approach. When people don’t get it, it’s really saying more about them than you. Besides, we need all kinds of decision makers, just like we need all kinds of people in our life. Just glad you’re in MY camp!

      ps: ♥ “Maybe I did, but I also found my heart!”

  4. says

    Tia I admire your spirit of freedom! It’s entirely wonderful and I hope you continue being the adventurous soul you obviously are 🙂

    I’ve always tended to make the safe choice [if there is ever such a thing] based on how it might impact others and not just me. Now my life’s changed I make decisions for me. But the hangover from years of people pleasing still makes me hesitate when it comes to the bold spontaneous moves. They say there are no wrong choices. But believe me there are. And sometimes it can take a long time to undo them [no wonder we’re so windy about making the right decision – grin]

    In many ways though… our choices [for better or for worse] are what make us. They are the sum of our worldly experiences that lead us to the fulfillment of our life purpose. They are our destiny.

    I’ve lately discovered the feeling of “knowing”. It is [I guess] akin to intuitive decision making. More like a gut feeling. Knowing is the feeling you get when you are not asking yourself to decide.

    You already [know] what’s going to happen.

    I go to a place or meet a person and instinctively know what I will do. Or what will happen. It’s not a choice. It’s a knowing [if that makes any sense at all LOL]

    • says

      Jean, you make an important point when you say there ARE wrong choices. And here’s what that brings up – wrong in whose eyes? Could it be that you may think you made a wrong decision but it was exactly what you were meant to do in that moment? Like you said, our choices are what lead to our life experiences and make us who we are.

      I do think we can see a situation as good or bad, but what I learned from Landmark was that an event is just an event. Period. WE give it meaning. We decide whether to label it wrong or right based on how we feel or choose to feel.

      Imagine a life where we only ever made good, right decisions. What would we ever learn, how would we know it was good if there wasn’t any contrasting experience?

      And yes, the knowing makes total sense 🙂 It’s your intuitive self being SO aligned with your mental processes that you just .. KNOW what to do! I’m drooling over “Knowing is the feeling you get when you are not asking yourself to decide” and think I’ll borrow it as the YLYW FB status for tnite. Thanks lovealicious!

  5. says

    I agree 100%!!! This is completely and utterly my way of making decisions…and I’d never have it any other way.

    If I hadn’t decided to one day come in to work and quit (without another job to go to)…I would never have found a job a few weeks later….and one where I was given the support to start on my development as a coach :o)

    • says

      WAY TO GO Sarbjit!! Thanks for modelling trusting your intuition and going with the flow. Woohoo! Where are you doing your coach training? Great to “see” you here 🙂

      • says

        I’m learning with the UKPC – Lynette Allen and Meg Reid. So far, so very good…it’s a lovely small (diverse) group, and we’re being encouraged to use our own personalities as coaches (rather than the cookie cutter approach).

        I’m gathering willing volunteers to practice on at the moment – exciting…and daunting! :o)

        • says

          That’s so awesome 🙂 Well, if you have any questions or need to bounce ideas or if there’s anything I can help you with (eg: finding volunteers), just let me know, k? I’m here for you and happy to do what I can to help.

          You grow, girl!

  6. says

    I love Sandi’s comment about losing her mind but finding her heart. It can be so hard to make a choice that loved ones may think is crazy…but they are not living YOUR life!

    I have decided to leave my job of 13 years to follow my passions, violating that sacred but crippling rule: never never NEVER leave your job if you don’t have another job waiting in the wings. I finally realized that if I don’t step out in faith and trust myself, I’ll continue to cut myself off from the opportunities that may be just waiting for me to be free of the “security” of a longtime career. I’m nervous…but oh so excited! 🙂

    • says

      That’s why this space is called Your Life YOUR Way 🙂 ‘You just validated why I do what I do here Laurie, thank you!

      And big huge kudos on taking the leap. YAY for trusting yourself and the U and the pursuit of freedom! There is a safety net, you will bounce and not crash – make sure you’ve got lots of support in the form of like minded peeps who get you.

      Heck, I’m here cheering for you! Anytime you need some inspiration or encouragement, just lmk, k? I mean that xo

  7. says

    I have to admit Tia, I laughed out loud at your comment about deciding between chicken salads or quesadillas doing you in. I’m very, very similar! I make decisions without a lot of factual basis (my husband and I moved to Austin two years ago – a ten hour move from where we’d lived most of our lives, without jobs or friends in the city; not quite across the world, though 😉 ) sometimes, but the little decisions just kill me. I have a set sandwich I order at Subway, otherwise it’d take me an hour to go through the process…

    • says

      HAHAHAH! Michelle, back in the day when I used to eat Mickey D’s (I know, *gasp*!), I ALWAYS ate the same thing – a chicken burger, fries and choc milk shake. From India to Atlanta to New Zealand, all my friends knew exactly what I’d order.

      Get this – my ex in NZ would call me up at work 30 min before a lunchtime date at the food court 2 min away and say “start deciding what you want to eat NOW” and by the time we got there it still took me another 10 min to decide. Poor guy! And yet, when we met on a Friday, within a week I was his girlfriend – there’s that ole decision making process again 😉

      Just glad there are more out there like me. It sure was fun writing this one. Thanks for chiming in!

  8. Geeta says

    Too funny and so true!! What is right or wrong? As far as I am concerned every decision I have made so far in my life has been right! I say this because it either turned up roses and made me happy or it served as a lesson for the future and I learned from it. Okay so I didn’t – but who cares!!

  9. Jessica says

    Me too, Tia!! haha… love this feeling I’m getting of relating and being “understood” while also understanding, and the humor in it!
    I’ve only “been” to Kentucky Fried Chicken once in my life. My ex pulled in as it was the most convenient choice as we had a long drive ahead of us, and I was in full-out low-blood-sugar meltdown… and I’m staring at the menu at the drive-thru… big mistake because the cars behind us were beeping and getting very upset! My ex, of course, was embarrassed. I didn’t want to make them/him wait, but I couldn’t decide. Exasperated, he asks me what I want “Chicken, Chicken or Chicken!!!!” Well, there are all these different kinds… and how am I supposed to know how to distinguish popcorn chicken from extra crispy? Is one with bones, one without? Where are the descriptions, and how are they different?! I never did order anything. Instead ended up with a burger from another place. hahaha. At least my bestie knows just to feed me ANYTHING without even asking me what I want!! She is so understanding and supportive of my decision-making-meltdowns when it comes to food! 🙂

    Many more stories like that. Then there are the other stories, of how I bought a house from start/initial idea to finish/moved in -under 30 days! Or how I just accepted a job offered to me out of the blue- she couldn’t even finish the sentence that I could think about it when I answered OF COURSE I WILL!!! And this “job” makes me happy, even though it doesn’t pay the bills or feed me (uh, no pun intended in that, but heck, why not take credit for some cleverness…ha!) Seriously, though, even relationships, it’s like a light switch one day… oh, time to move on. Okay, here goes! Yee-haw! lol. Some see it as foolish, others as brave, and they’ve all had different outcomes.

    My main point, is that I so relate! And currently, I’m very much struggling with following my heart and inner compass. It is so hard because all of it goes against everything that “they” say- family/friends/society. And not to mention all the out-dated beliefs that I’m overcoming, and and and! It just is such a relief to have even a smidgen of hope for staying true to myself no matter how it “looks” right now. I know in the end, this is unfolding into something beautiful. I just feel a little scared. But most, if not all my decision made from my “knowingness” turn out beautiful. If I think it through with the pros/cons, I find myself just as successful, but not as happy. Thanks so much! I feel a deeper contentment with where I am at right now, in this moment after reading/sharing with you and others’ comments! 🙂 Peace!

    • says

      Oh dear Jessica girl, I think I just fell in girl-crush-head-over-heels-love with you!!

      Besides, this is up there with the funniest comment I’ve ever gotten here. I can’t see straight for the tears of laughter threatening to roll down. Chicken, chicken or chicken? Excuse me a minute (bwahahahahahhahahahhahahahhahahah) ok, I’m back. I mean .. lolololololololololol!! Gawd bless the BFF, keep her around!

      You decided to and then bought a house and moved in within 30 days!?! Holy wow – that’s like the aunt I’m currently crashing with who decided and bought within a couple of weeks and moved in within a month. THAT decision sure would scare me only cos I hate the idea of being tied down to a place, but then again, if I did decide to put down roots, I bet I’d be as fast.

      Look at all the amazing success you’ve had with following your heart, Jessica!

      Of course it can be a scary thing to do but as long as it feels right, allow the fear and do it anyways. THEY say what they say cos that’s what works for THEM. No matter how successful or happy they are, they aren’t you. And you get to decide what works for you.

      This is YOUR life and you get to live it YOUR way, girlfriend!

      Believe me, when you do that, you’re inspiring and encouraging others with your courage and commitment to yourself. The more scared you are, the bigger you’re dreaming & the more you’re expanding so huge, huge respect for you here sweetness!

      BE SCARED! Own it! Shout it! Say it! And let it wash over you. Soon, it will pass and you’ll be left with the burning desire and excitement that comes with dreaming. It’s okay to be scared 🙂 it’s ok, ok, ok. Phew, glad we got that out of the way huh.

      “”If I think it through with the pros/cons, I find myself just as successful, but not as happy””” – bingo, girl. Happiness is where it’s at, not success as much. For it all rests on how you define the two. People want to be successful to be happy! Start with happy and baby, you can only WIN.

      Thanks for your most epic, awesome, brilliant post, truly appreciate your sharing and showing up so boldly. Big hugs and much mojo sista xoxoxoxoxoo!!

  10. says

    Some decisions I’ve made (and acted upon — it’s not a real decision until you do):

    1. Dropped out of school, moved to California without a job, didn’t know anybody except for a single internet friend I previously never met in person. I packed up my car (if it didn’t fit in the car, it wasn’t coming with me) and drove across the country, from Orlando to Chicago to Denver down through Las Vegas and into Los Angeles.

    2. Started my own business — several times.

    3. Moved to Maui. (Just did that one! I LOVE it.) But wait, I had only a semester and a half left in college to get a degree that my parents and a few friends told me to get, but my heart was clearly not in it. I knew, in my heart, I would never use that degree. It didn’t seem “smart” or rational, but I know myself. I’ve collected other degrees, licenses, certificates, etc that all open up job opportunities for me — and I’ve used none of them. I go my own way. I still would like a degree, some day. But not in that. I was dying inside staying in that program.

    4. For some crazy reason, I’m pursuing a career as a writer. I know there’s got to be easier ways to earn a living, but THIS is where my heart leads me. I’ve been writing for a decade and a half, but only recently really started putting myself and my work out there. Since doing so, I’ve already sold a few short scripts and have entered a feature screenplay into a major industry competition (I’ll get the results by the end of the year).

    • says

      For one so young (yes I know age is just a number, but still), you impress the HECK out of me Davidoff! Love how well you walk your talk and eat your cake. Maui, huh? This is nothing short of sheer guts and belief in yourself, thanks for modelling what that looks like.

      Just reading your list makes my heart beat faster with excitement for you and the amazing life you’re creating! Easy SHMEASY can take a hike, passion and purpose is where it’s at!

      Congrats on the success you’re already seeing! If I know anything about you, it’s that you know how to follow your dreams and hold on to them while trusting it’s all unfolding as part of a bigger plan.Your posts about love & soulmates inspire me and make me smile.

      Thanks for bringing your light workin’ energy to YLYW my friend. You are much appreciated! I’m watching you closely, you shining star you!

      • says

        Aww, shucks. Now you’re making my smile/blush. 🙂

        Thank you, Tia, for working and sharing your light too. It’s good to know someone like you is out there. Keep going, Tia. Keep growing. Keep shining. 🙂

        Namaste, sister. Thanks for being a lightworker/joy-bringer too.

        • says

          You’re so cute when you blush 🙂 And you look super bright, sunny and happy in yellow! One of my fave colours! *Doing a happy happy joy joy dance for people like you in my life* #mutualadmirationsocietyanyone? Happy Thursday!

  11. says

    Well Tia I whole heartedly support your decision to make decisions on a whim, on gut instinct, based on fun over sense and sensibility – because that’s life baby.

    And while I think Buenos Aires was of course a better choice then chilly Calgary – it’s autumn here now and 25 degrees cel with sun everyday, I support you in whatever adventure you take on next.

    And I’ll be coming to you on advice if I next head to India that’s for sure.

    Besos y abrazos

    • says

      Hey gorgeous! Well BA was defo one of those decisions that was sooo close to happening, if only Canadian immigration had played nice and send my PR card over sooner. Good news is that it’s finally on the way, 9 months after applying!! Woot!

      Too late to come to Argentina now cos I’ve got plans here for May & June, but hey, it was fun thinking about it. Someday, I WILL go.

      Calgary’s going pretty rad and I’ve been living through your adventures so it’s been keeping me warm. Btw, I’ll be in India Oct-Dec this year (most likely) so if you come, lmk, it’s the best time of the year to visit anyways!

      Muchos besos lindita! xo

    • says

      Thanks .. I meant 6 months in Queenstown!! So great this made you visit my blog 🙂 Did I ever thank you for asking me to move btw? It changed my life. THANK YOU, crazy woman.

  12. says

    Thanks for this Tia!!

    I really enjoyed your list of leaps!!

    My biggest LEAP so far was moving from Switzerland to Latin America.

    I had been dreaming of it (and somehow preparing) for 10 years.

    But the move itself happened within one month.

    And the decision took even less time. The was a window of opportunity. I had to jump in!!

    It helps that I consulted with a few wise people and then listened to my soul’s calling.

    Never looked back. No regrets.

    Thanks for asking 😉

    • says

      Thanks Bahieh! That is SOO cool!! Congrats and kudos! Hey, where in Latin America? The same thing happened with my BFF Dianne – she dreamed of South Africa for YEARS, always saw herself there. Then about 1.5 years ago she met a South African man who lived in Vancouver and within 6 months (or so) they’d packed up and moved to Cape Town. She is now part owner of her own business and living her dream life.

      The planning, aligning and dreaming stage is a very big part of quick decision making – cos by the time crunch time comes, you’re SO aligned with your heart’s desire, that BOOM it’s a natural next step!! I love hearing stories of dreams come true, ESPECIALLY those involving travel. Thanks for sharing and great to see you here xo

  13. says

    Dear Tia,

    You may not even remember me, being that we’ve only crossed paths once or twice (at best), but I found myself spending longer than usual on your site, and it’s only fair that I’d drop a comment.

    If one day we have a chance to sit down and have a proper coffee together, I’ll tell you about some of the decisions that I’ve made in the blink of an eye. Some, I do regret, but something good always happened as a consequence.

    I’ve come to learn that, at least for me, there’s a place for both mind and heart. But heart sets the pace… always.

    Wishing you lots of happiness! Keep up the inspirational job. Looking forward to hearing about your future adventures!

    • says

      Guacira, of COURSE I remember you!

      We’ve been twitter/FB friends for a while and have met at twestivals in 2010. It’s shocking how much one can feel like they know someone without knowing them but I feel quite connected to you by virtue of being Vancouver tweeps.

      When I’m back from Calgary I would love to grab a hot choc with you and hear some stories. Anything you care to share here on the blog would be great too 🙂

      I’m so happy to hear you’ve been finding my words inspirational. Thanks for letting me know, always great to hear I’m making a difference. Take care & lmk if I can do anything for you anytime xo

  14. says

    Ahh, decisions, decisions.

    Re. the fears and whether it is intuition or fear talking. That’s a tough one.

    Recently, someone emailed me a question about whether or not to go ahead with surgery because of my blog post here:

    They wanted to know whether it was intuition or fear talking.

    I’ve learned that intuition is usually a quieter voice (if that makes sense?) and that fear is like that noisy kid in the classroom, always boisterous and wanting lots of attention.

    It is important to notice and learn the “voice” of your own intuition. Some of my clients have expressed it differently. One says she gets a tingle. Another says it’s a flutter in her gut.

    I suggest becoming a scientist – take note of what happens when you listen or don’t listen to the voice. Which voice was it? What were the results?

    Build trust by practising on the small things. You’ll receive confirmation, one way or the other.

    As you say, living according to your values is important. It’s what transforms stress and you transform stress by acting from the heart. When you activate the power of the heart, you access your intuition … and when you access your intuition …

    • says

      Brilliant suggestion, Marianna! Become a scientist – experiment, observe, listen, cache. I like where you’re taking us – to the power of living according to your heart’s desires, your values, intuition, north star. YES!! Thanks for sharing your intuition-fear discerning guide!

    • says

      Martha Beck, baby, Martha Beck! She wrote “Finding your North Star” and “Steering by Starlight” – my bibles along with Refuse to Choose and a few others.

  15. Sarah says

    I made a decision to adopt my fifth child in about a 10 second time window. Made no sense at all. But I KNEW he was supposed to be MINE and boy, was I right.


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