Thursday, May 15, 2014

I Can’t Decide! 5 practices to break through on tough problems

We've all been there...the decision that just won’t come...the problem that won't get solved. We've pondered, poked around, purloined others’ solutions, practiced team brainstorming, purchased problem-solving/decision-making tools, procrastinated, paced, and packed up and gone to the pub. 

Still nothing happened...

We know from neuroscience findings over the past decade, we are using the wrong part of the brain to get the answer. Discovering the best solutions is not about Mr. Spock logic, deep thinking or wrinkling our brow.

Making successful decisions and solving intractable problems require total relaxation, going to our "happy place," and upping our energy level. This is not some new-age amateur reading of quantum physics. Scientists can scan the brain as we solve problems to demonstrate exactly what is happening where. 

Luda Kopeikina wrote a break-through book based on neuroscience research, in-depth interviews and problem-solving sessions with leading executives, and years of observing her boss, Jack Welch, as he made decisions and solved problems. In The Right Decision Every Time: How to Reach Perfect Clarity on Tough Decisions, she details her findings, which have been augmented by ongoing independent research. 

We must harness the assets of our physical, mental, and emotional functions and enter what Kopeikina calls the Clarity state. 
The key to reaching mastery in decision-making is the ability to focus your physical, mental, and emotional resources on an issue like a laser beam. Such focus enables you to reach decision clarity faster and easier...Clarity is a feeling of certainty and of internal alignment with the solution. The objective of a decision-making process is to reach clarity. A right decision is one when the decision maker is emotionally and mentally congruent with it. Reaching clarity quickly is a differentiating mark of leaders.
5 practices to break through on tough problems

Kopeikina describes the full decision-making process in her book. I use it myself and with a wide variety of clients. The results are solid decisions that leave you energized, confident, and ready to implement. Here are the essential steps to get you into Clarity state before you tackle the decision.

1. Prepare
Find a quiet place to sit comfortably. Turn off your phone! Have paper and pen on an otherwise empty table in front of you. Close your eyes. Your goals: Eliminate distractions and be ready to jot down ideas as they come to you.

2. Relax your body
Progressively relax your muscles starting with your feet and working up to your head. Describe each one relaxing. When we are tense, our fight-or-flight mechanisms interfere with thought as adrenaline builds up and blood flows to our extremities and away from our brains. 

Breathe deeply from your diaphragm and focus on your breath. Count 4 beats on the inhale and 8 on the exhale. More oxygen enters the body to replenish the brain cells. Continue focusing on breathing until you feel relaxed.
3. Calm your mind
When we are tense, anxious, angry, resigned, frustrated, or in a state of negative emotions, our bodies pump out cortisol. Many folks are unaware of the large part emotions play in decision making. To make good decisions, we must move from negative to positive emotions, pumping out DHEA and feeling energized. 

Continue to sit in a relaxed state with eyes closed, breathing slowly and deeply, and focus on a word; nonsense or positive. As stray thoughts appear, acknowledge them and return to breathing and repeating the word. At first, it takes a while to calm emotions. With practice, you can do it quickly.

4. Clear your mind
When you are fully relaxed and calm, begin repeating a phrase such as one Kopeikina suggests, "I feel totally fine and joyful about how life is going." As thoughts appear to counter this, visualize putting each one in a box on the floor and amend your phrase to, "Other than that, I feel totally fine and joyful about how life is going." Continue to stack up the negative boxes and do not engage with these thoughts. Move the boxes out of sight. 

When these thoughts have dissipated, see yourself surrounded by light. 

5. Charge up
You are ready for the last step to reach Clarity. Visualize events from your life when you felt powerful, positive, and full of energy, happy or exhilarated, and. most invested in an exciting and satisfying event. Choose 3 of these events that required effort on your part and re-experience them. Thinking about these events will be your trigger for charging up your energy to enter the Clarity state. 

When we reach the Clarity state, the brain shifts where it will make the decision or solve the problem and blocks are removed. We have minimized the fight-or-flight response and maximized the positive chemicals flowing through our bodies. We are ready to use the robust problem-solving/decision-making techniques Kopeikina developed.

None of these practices is new and most have been practiced for millennia. Top athletes have been using them for decades to prepare for peak performance. Kopeikina found successful leaders could enter Clarity almost immediately and were ready to make decisions quickly and effectively with absolute confidence. Avail yourself of this powerful approach and start making better decisions today.

Learn more about decision making and problem solving in my upcoming webinar: 
If you missed the live webinar catch it  on DVD or on demand

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© Rebecca Staton-Reinstein, President, Advantage Leadership, Inc.

Learn the entire Clarity problem-solving/decision-making process: The Right Decision Every Time: How to Reach Perfect Clarity on Tough Decisions, Luda Kopeikina, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005