How To Make Balanced Decisions
18 November 2020
Reading time: 5 minutes and 16 seconds
This is a guest blog by Louisa Busher, a qualified Social Worker (UK). Her background is working with families and children, with a specific focus on supporting and understanding the experiences of foster carers and kinship carers.
Are you a head or a heart-person? Understanding our internal processes and patterns is an essential part of self-growth and can ultimately lead to a more fulfilling life. So spare a little time to reflect on this. Explore the benefits of approaching life’s decisions in a balanced manner and still live in a way that feels true for you.
As the saying goes, we’re the sum of all our parts, and as complex beings, many different factors will feed into our decision making. This includes the influence of our rational, thinking ‘head’ and our emotive, feeling ‘heart’, both of which are necessary for our survival. For example, without our rational heads, we would be unable to make grounded decisions that keep us safe. On the other hand, without our feeling hearts, we would lack the ability to connect to others in more meaningful ways. Let's take fostering as an example. Your heart is telling you that a vulnerable child needs a loving home so you must help them. However, you need to think about the practicalities of fostering. Do you have enough space in your home? How will your own children feel about this? Is there anyone that can help you when you need a break?
As with many things, how we make decisions will fall somewhere on a spectrum and our approach will always be influenced by many factors. Sometimes the circumstances of our life will dictate our choices and we have less freedom than we would like. How and why we make certain choices will also be influenced partially by our learned behaviours, as well as our natural dispositions. Nonetheless, when it comes down to it, many of us will favour one approach over the other. For example, we may take the head-driven approach; our job doesn’t fulfil us but a regular salary is important to us. Or we may be more heart-driven; we choose to quit our jobs for something more fulfilling even though it brings in a less steady income.
Both our heads and hearts have a rightful place within our lives and there is no ‘right approach’ or formula for the best outcome. Yet at the same time, it is useful to recognise our patterns. By occasionally challenging these we can explore different ways of approaching life that can lead to outcomes and opportunities we didn’t expect. Maybe you've ruled yourself out from fostering because you were thinking about this only with your head. By changing your patterns you could change your perspective on fostering. You realise that it would make you happier than anything else and that you are willing to work around the material limitations that were stopping you from getting involved.
Finding Balance: For the Head
For the head-driven amongst us, making rational, logical decisions can help us feel safe and secure. We have planned for different scenarios, considered the long-term consequences, and weighed up ‘what makes the most sense’. There are many merits to this approach and very definitely a place for this in our lives. Nonetheless, when overused this approach can lead us to limiting ourselves. By leaving other possibilities unexplored, we may neglect our emotional needs and in the long run feel dissatisfied. In turn, this can leave certain life goals unrealised or us feeling unfulfilled on a deeper level.
So how do we find balance? For those of us who often appeal to our logic, it can be a challenge to listen carefully to what our hearts are saying. Start small by naming the emotions you feel when you are presented with a scenario. Think about fostering. What do you feel when you think about helping a vulnerable child? Are you worried about how it's going to go or excited that you are going to change someone's life? As you become more comfortable with this, start to look below the surface and identify your deeper feelings. What are they saying to you? What would it mean to listen to them?
It can also be helpful to recognise that by beginning to listen to our hearts, it doesn’t mean we also have to lose complete control of our lives. We can still make decisions grounded in logic. By also incorporating our emotions and feelings, however, we can start to expand our boundaries and explore possibilities that may have previously felt unattainable to us.
Finding Balance: For the Heart
On the other hand, for the heart-driven amongst us, following our emotions and feelings can feel exciting, freeing, and expressive. In our hearts something feels ‘right for us’ and we run with it. As with the head, there is most definitely a place for this within our lives and this should be celebrated. An overpowering heart-voice however can be seductive and result in decisions which (in hindsight) would have been better avoided or at least more thought through. In some scenarios this may not be an issue, however when long-term consequences also need to be taken into account, or our feelings need to be protected, this approach may need to be tempered.
So how do we find balance? Allowing the space for your head can feel challenging when you are used to listening to your heart. It can, therefore, be useful to recognise that by including our heads in the conversation, we are not committing to a life devoid of emotion and feeling. Instead, by occasionally reining in our heart’s voice and allowing our head to have more of a say, we can achieve outcomes that are more balanced and well-thought-out.
Start by recognising that your emotions and feelings are just that; emotions and feelings. Although they are very powerful drives, they aren’t facts or truth and therefore aren’t always the most reliable sources of guidance. Although they can be wonderful, remind yourself that you need to be responsible for them. By learning to manage them they can serve you best and contribute to a fulfilling life. At the same time, locate the facts and include them in the decision-making process.
For those interested, ‘The Chimp Paradox’ by Dr. Steve Peters, is an insightful read. This book encourages the reader to understand their emotions (their ‘Chimp’) and provides activities to help manage this to lead a more satisfying life.
When it comes to starting to foster, making a balanced decision is critical for your and your family's wellbeing. While your initial motivation to look after children may come from the heart, it's important to look at fostering from a rational perspective as well. You want to help the vulnerable, but do you have what it takes? Firstly, do some research about what fostering entails and what it's like to look after a child that is not your own. Attend an information evening, speak to a real foster carer and visit the websites of various fostering services. Then check if you meet the criteria to foster: do you have enough available space, time and energy to look after a child? Do you have a good support network? You will need this when fostering becomes a little too much and you want to take a break. Watch this video to learn about the main things to consider before applying to foster. It'll help you familiarise yourself with the topic and make an informed decision.
As you begin to understand fostering, you will learn of possibilities that you didn't know were available; this is why it's also important to consult with one of our team. They will ask more questions to help you decide. But, in the end, you know yourself best and therefore you are the best person to decide if fostering is right for you. This article is aimed at helping you to make the best possible decision for yourself so you can lead a fulfilling life whether you foster or not.