7 Breath Decisions

A colleague came to me recently with a problem. He was frustrated and defeated. “I feel sick because I can’t CHOOSE!”. My buddy constantly struggled with making decisions in a timely fashion. He couldn’t pull the trigger after debating several options.

“How long has this been a problem?” I asked. He quickly unraveled; the inability to choose cost him countless opportunities in love, business, and friendship. His entire life was one big question mark. “How can I learn to decide faster ?”

I suggested a passage from The Hagakure (book of Samurai guiding principles) for him. This book lays out a principle of making decisions in the span of 7 breaths.

Just the thought of making a decision within 7 breaths (about 30 seconds) can cause anxiety for some. It requires incredible knowledge of oneself. It requires commitment. It takes focus, determination, and self-control. Even after a decision is made, you still need resolve to stick with it. Saying to yourself “I’m going to stop smoking, find a new job, and go to therapy!” means nothing without the drive to stand by your decision and follow through.

We struggle with decisions because we often don’t know ourselves well enough to pick what’s really best for us.  Even worse yet: the lack of confidence in our inner voice stops us from sticking with the decisions we finally make.

If you struggle with being indecisive or if you feel powerless in wake of a decision, I suggest the following exercise for you.

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Turn each breath into fire to forge your future! [Photo credit: Darius Soodmand]

7 Breath Decisions:

This is supposed to be done over the span of 3 days. It is best if preceded by a writing exercise [like this one!] which will bring focus and clarity to your goals.

  1. “I can and will make a decision in the span of 7 breaths”. Start your day by looking into the mirror, no matter how silly you feel and say that phrase. Confidently! Repeat it until you actually believe it.
  2. Make your decision in 7 breaths. From small decisions (“where do you want to go to lunch?”) to larger ones (“is it time to look for a new job?”). If you feel anxiety – remind yourself: this is just an EXERCISE, think of it as an experiment. Nothing has to be permanent. You CAN survive 3 days of this! DO NOT reverse any decisions unless there is a threat of harming yourself or others. Stick with it and don’t think about the choice after you’ve made it. Force yourself to move forward.
  3. Keep a single consistent log of your choices. For some people, a notepad works, for others, writing on their phone is better. Pick what you’re most likely to stick with. Write about the type of decision, what made it difficult, what lead to your choice, and your feelings after choosing. Do this as soon after each choice as possible.
  4. Once the experiment is over, reflect back. What types of decisions were the hardest for you? Why? What decisions were easy? What were your results? How much time did you save by avoiding the agony, anxiety, and fear of “choosing” ? Were there any decisions you regretted? Do you notice a pattern?

I was also struggling with a big decision. Going back to work or pushing through to graduate school. I couldn’t make the choice within 7 breaths, I’ll admit. But I realized I was no closer to pulling the trigger after agonizing for weeks. Sometimes the hardest choices are ones that require sacrifice, but just remember – choices CAN and should change as your needs, skills, and goals evolve. Deciding what’s best now doesn’t mean it defines your ultimate forever. For me, making the choice to work now means I can save for my future and prioritize graduate school when I’m ready!

Wishing you all clarity and decisiveness,

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What do YOU want?

In 2015 I  left a job I really enjoyed to move back to my home city. My father had fallen ill and I needed to be closer to spend time with him and my family. I decided that while I was home, I would finish my degree and work as a counselor in my community. It was a huge career shift but I wanted to see if it was right for me.

There was a very powerful writing exercise that helped me build up the courage to drastically change my surroundings and path.

From writer Victor Pride,

“Get a paper and pen and write down the most important things in your life. Read this repeatedly until you have narrowed down exactly what is most important. Then say it out loud. Don’t mumble and don’t stutter. Say it loud with confidence.

Go somewhere you can be alone. Go for a long drive. Go for a walk in the woods. Leave your phone and iPads and electronic junk behind. Just you and your thoughts. Answer the question “What do you want” and answer with complete honesty. There will be no one around to judge your thoughts, there will be no one around to laugh at you or say it can’t be done.”

It seemed so simple, but doing it was VERY HARD. I felt silly, idealistic, and greedy – just writing down what I wanted from life! I’ve kept my list of important goals close to my heart for 3 years now. And it’s a living document, which means it changes as I learn and grow.

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Photo of my original list from 2015!

For anyone out there feeling directionless, try this exercise! It helps you explore and develop individual goals.

Without direction, we float aimlessly like a ship without a sail – hoping that the winds of life will drift us in a good direction. But we reach our fullest potential when we move with purpose and direction.

The direction of my life is changing yet again. I’ve completed many of the goals I set out to accomplish with my move back home. Thankfully my family is in a better more stable place. Guess it’s time to add a few new bullet points to my list!

Wishing clarity and resilience,

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March 2016 Quote of the Month

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

– Steve Jobs


Defining ourselves by and for ourselves can be a difficult task.

There is constant external pressure which tries to shape our opinions, beliefs, and sense of self.

Not all pressure is bad pressure. Looking at the microcosm of family, I must say my parents have always held all their children to a high moral standard starting at a young age. Their influence (the pressure for me to “be good to people”) served to shape me into a very kind conscientious human being!

However, even as incredible as my family is – I still became intensely motivated to seek identity and value outside of their eyes during young adulthood. I had to make my own opinions of how to best live life. After all, at the end of this crazy ride only I would be accountable for the choices I made. Now that I’m more established in my “adulthood” , I realize that some of my views do not mesh seamlessly with those that love me most. To be honest – a handful of my opinions are in direct opposition of what they believe! But that’s OK. Even through differences we can still be united through love and respect without being identical.

There are many systems that humans developed to make sense of the world around them. At birth we are handed a certain worldview; we inherit our family/community views on everything from money, race, education, politics, food, dating, gender and religion. We pick up on how our families fight, how they interact with others, and what type of people they believe are “good” or”bad”. This slowly becomes our “normal” during the most formative years of our lives. Most people don’t give second thought to their “hand-me-down” views, yet alone question them. But it’s important to critically evaluate your beliefs and figure out if they improve your life or hinder your growth. Do the systems you subscribe to make you a better person? Do your views help enrich your life and the lives of those around you? Does anyone other than yourself ultimately profit from your belief in  a particular system?

Life presents endless opportunities to grow, experiment, win, lose, test, learn, hurt, and heal. And once you venture outside of your family, your home town, your first circle of friends – you’ll find that some of those views you grew up with will be challenged. During those times you may realize that deep inside you don’t believe everything you were taught about a certain group of people, a certain lifestyle, a certain belief system. At that moment you’ll have to decide if the safety of familiarity is worth denying your own inner voice.

I don’t know for certain but I’m willing to bet no one gets prizes at the end of all this for being the best rule-follower. You are equipped with a compass and map inside of you that’s meant lead you where you really want to be.

Cheers to a unique journey for us all,

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Introducing Guest Writer: Chris Haney

Today I’d like to feature a guest writer and close friend: Chris Haney. We have a running joke that we’re in each other’s karass (“soul tribe”), which is defined as a set of kindred spirits meant to inspire and motivate each other to reach the next level. In addition to being a fantastic friend he’s also a music enthusiast, cat expert, and all around lifter-of-spirits. He reigns as the resident Tupac and Eminem scholar, too. Chris remains one of the things I miss most in Texas! Believe me, you’ll see plenty more of him featured on the happier world blog in the coming weeks.

Hello,

My name is Christopher Haney, I am 30 years old – and I am just getting started. Well that was a weird way to start right? A proclamation? Maybe. This comes from an exercise that Rob Bell presented about a 92 year old woman he met who said this to him upon their first time meeting. What an idea. You likely won’t see any breaking news on these individuals. Some lurk in the shadows and some are probably in your face every day. Honoring an intentional existence that happiness is a choice in this shitty world. They invest in their mind, attitude, and approach. They are conscious. They know that the reward of happiness and joy is worth filtering out the negativity blanket that is constantly trying to wrap itself around you every day. Why do they know you ask? Because the deeper the trench – the HIGHER the peak. If you’re like me you’ve been on your own journey trying to find the right formula. You have a unique story and I have mine. Share your story with the people that deserve to hear it. I imagine that if you’ve found your way to this page it’s not because you clicked a spam button, but made an INTENTIONAL choice. There is a kindling beneath your heart and mind awaiting to be lit. Let’s set it on fire. Let’s invest in the movement.

I look forward to seeing Tiffanie’s mission develop this year and cannot wait to contribute in any way possible. Why? Because it matters.

-Haney Strong

“It is not only possible that you have your dream – but its necessary.” -Les Brown

January 2016 Quote of the Month

“The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” 

-AnaÏs Nin


This quote absolutely has special meaning to me, and seemed perfect as we kick off a new year!

Staying in the bud may seem safe – but the cocoon is only a small part of metamorphosis. In your cocoon you may feel safe, secure, comfortable. You’ve surrounded yourself with a shell or an armor that keeps you from being disturbed. But while the cocoon is vital for growth, eventually you have to break out and try your brand new wings. You have to show yourself that you’re no longer the awkward caterpillar and that you have grown!

Have the courage to try new things. Have the guts to define and chase your dreams. 

 

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Don’t stay cramped up in the cocoon! (Photo: HRB.org)

I encourage you all to blossom this year!

 

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