Discernment; Making Choices That Work
By Art Ramsay, PhD

 Life is about choices. We have millions, actually infinite, choices to make every day. While most people may not see it that way, it is true. For example, as soon as you open your eyes in the morning, you have made a choice to open your eyes. The next choice might be to move part of or all of your body while in, or to get out of, the bed. How will you do that? What part of your body will you use to make the maneuver? Everything you do from this moment on is about choosing.

 Granted, most of our choices are made without our thinking about it. We just do what we have always done. Since it is impossible to do the same thing exactly as we did the first time, there will be some variation, but our prior programming will lead the way. What makes the difference in the next choice you make is discernment. If we make a choice out of habit, there is nothing to discern, or is there?

 First, let's look at definitions for discernment. The ability to understand inner qualities or relationships, says Merriam Webster, The act or process of exhibiting keen insight and good judgment via Farlex Free Dictionary. This second definition comes closer to what I am writing about here. The point is that since we are faced with choosing every second of the day and night, we may as well use discernment and choose what will work best in the moment for us.

 What guides our discernment? One answer is: a multitude of lessons learned from our life experiences. But there is something deeper than that. Where do we get data from the 'lessons learned'? Like everything else we use to run our lives, this source is our unconscious mind. Discerning what is in our best interests usually requires a quick response from this source. What if it does not appear? How do we choose? We fall back on our prior programming, which usually means relying on our ego, or intellect.

 Is this getting confusing? Let me recap. We make choices out of habit, inquisitiveness, prior programming, our intellect, or through discernment. An example of how you could use the different ways of choosing, using one situation follows. Say that you choose to buy a new car for whatever reason. Why new instead of used? You have made a list of pros and cons of new verses used, different makes, and so on. After all of this intellectual work, you have chosen a particular make, and then walk into a car dealer to make a purchase.

 So far, you have used your intellect for most of your choices, but now you must switch off the intellect and use discernment. Why? Because the salesperson will use logic to persuade you to buy a certain car. You want what is best for your situation, taking into account what you have experienced in the past, what 'feels' right, how the pitch is made and comes across to you, and so on.

 Do you see how 'discernment' differs from intellect, prior programming (beliefs), and such? It is more intuitive and comes from within more than from without, although it may contain some of both. The trick is to turn off intellect long enough to discern what choice will serve you best. But even if we do not turn intellect off, it can serve us with discerning what is best from lessons learned from similar experiences.

 Notice I have used 'choices' rather than 'decisions' in my commentary so far. Most people would say they had a decision to make about buying the car mentioned above, rather than a choice to make. While they both seem to say the same thing and definitely lead to the same place, the feeling within is different. Try this: use 'decide' or 'decision' in a sentence or two and feel the response in your body or mind. Then use the word choice or choose, and do the same.

 For example, "I have to decide whether to do this or that." "I have a decision to make" verses "I have to choose this or that" "I have choices to explore". Decide comes from an origin meaning 'to cut' with synonyms of resolve, determine. Choose comes from an origin meaning 'to enjoy' with synonyms of select, pick. See the difference?

 However you express making choices, discernment still has to be part of the process if you want an outcome that works. Going back to the car purchase example, you could have chosen to present to the salesperson a predetermined offer based on your research. Either he takes it or you go somewhere else. This process may or may not work for you in every situation. Sometimes, new choices appear that you might not have considered, like a deep discount the car company just instituted on certain models.

 It is too easy today to run head on into a scam without you seeing it coming. They are everywhere, and have aspects in almost every area of our lives. I read recently about huge Medicare scams and other insurance predators that are out there. Discernment has become very important in our 'decision-making' process. Unscrupulous business practices abound, keeping us ever alert to avoid getting pulled into their manipulative tactics.

 How do we avoid such things? Lessons-learned is the hard way most of us avoid something the "next time" it comes up. But letting our intuitive sense of how something 'feels' guide us is not only safer, but opens a door for future events. Every time we trust our 'gut' instead of wrestling with our intellect to make a choice, we move closer to using discernment full time.

 It may take some practice to follow this kind of procedure with choices in your life, since most are made out of habit. But you will begin to notice which ones can be left alone and which ones need 'tweaking'. Some may need to be totally reworked. While taking time to become aware of various scam-oriented tactics may or may not serve you, it is something you might want to consider. It may help until discernment is a full time practice.


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