Take that job or go travelling for a year? Dye your hair darker or go back to blonde?
Whatever it may concern, we’ve all been there: there’s a decision to be made, and you don’t know which way to go.
So what should we do when we can’t make a choice easily? The age-old response to that question is ‘take a little time and sleep on it’ — but does that really help?
We spoke to Dr Margo Orum, Principal Psychologist at Life Resolutions in Ryde, to find out. Here’s what you need to know.
Should you ‘sleep on it’?
One reason it can be so hard to make the right choice is that our conscious and unconscious minds can be in disagreement.
Dr Orum explains that our conscious mind is the part we’re aware of, that lets us talk about how we think and feel about things. The unconscious mind runs our physical systems, like breathing and the chemical reactions in our immune system, but we’re not aware of it. It also has a big say in the emotion behind our decisions — for example, maybe we’re fearful of change, or worried about approval or what others will think of us if we make a certain decision.
Watch: Cath Turner on the advice she wished she had known when she was younger. (Post continues after video.)
“When both the conscious and unconscious minds are in ‘agreement’, we get a great sense of ‘Yes’ and a decision is really easy. When they pull in different directions, we find it very hard to make a decision, partly because we tend to remain largely unaware of the motives of our unconscious mind,” Dr Orum explains.
So, when you notice an inner struggle, it is good to consult your unconscious mind. One of the simplest ways of doing this is to sleep on it.
“You might be hanging onto all the reigns of rational thinking too tightly when you’re trying to make a decision, and when you sleep on it you let go of them because your unconscious kicks in. How you really feel about things can float to the surface in a less controlled way,” Dr Orum explains.
When you go to bed at night, she recommends you ask yourself to solve a problem, or make a decision, just before you drift off.
“It can be a really good idea to say to yourself, ‘When I wake up tomorrow morning I am going to have a much better idea about how I really feel about this’. It gives you an opportunity then, when you wake up in the morning, to be clear-headed. Often you will just wake up and think, I’m going to do this, or I’m going to do it another way,” Dr Orum says.