How to Make Decisions From the Inside Out, Not the Outside In

authenticity emotional life self-awareness self-learning whole-hearted living Nov 22, 2021


Along with Self-Love 101, Self-Confidence 101, and Communication 101, Decision-Making 101 is one of those classes I wish we’d all had in school. After all, what could be more important than how you make decisions? Each decision leads to an experience and a series of experiences is what constitutes life.

It’s unfortunate that decision-making isn’t something we’re taught in school, but it’s also something that we can’t help but learn more about as we journey through life. And throughout my 36 or so years of life, I’ve learned a good amount about what leads to good decisions, and about what doesn’t. I can confidently say that making decisions from the “outside in” definitely comes with some drawbacks.

Are you curious about what I mean? If so, keep on reading!

Psst We are talking live about this topic in my free online community, The Happiness Hub. Come and join us for this and many other valuable conversations in genuine happiness!


The limitations of making decisions from the outside in


When I say ‘making decisions from the “outside in”’, what I’m referring to is focusing heavily on your worries, fears, and apprehensions alone throughout the course of making a decision… for example, worrying about what other people think about your decision, being afraid of what the future will hold if you do or don’t make the decision, or being afraid of confrontation and choosing to avoid it at all costs. Making decisions from the “outside in” might look like making a list of pros and cons, weighing the good against the bad, and asking your mind what it thinks are the justifications to make a certain decision over another one.

When we make decisions from the “outside in”— in other words, predominantly using our mind while nudging our heart to the side— we’re making safety our primary goal and priority. Our mind speaks the language of safety and our brain is hard-wired for it. It makes sense, then, that we would consider safety in making some of our most important decisions. The trouble comes when we focus only on safety and thereby make decisions from a place of fear. Wouldn’t you agree that fear isn’t necessarily the place from which our best and truest decisions are born?

I don't know about you but when I've made decisions from a place of fear in the past, things haven’t always turned out as well as I would have hoped. The last time I made a decision from a place of fear, for example, I was left with extreme disappointment and hurt. The experience was multifaceted and multiple people outside of just myself acted from a place of fear, but from my self-awareness I know that I did in fact act from a place of fear. I wanted to avoid looking incompetent or inferior and that led me to a decision-making process that, albeit protective and supportive of how I was feeling at the time, didn't lead to the best possible outcome.

So I ask you now, as I’ve asked myself many times in the past: What qualities do you want to live your life with: rationality and fear or trust and love?





What do you want to lead your life with: rationality and fear, or trust and love?


When I think about decision-making today, I acknowledge that the goal, really, is to make decisions from a place within us other than fear, lack, or avoidance... and not by shoving fear aside or ‘feeling the fear and doing it anyway’ as some motivational speakers or coaches might say. Effectively managing fear is a much different and gentler process than we are led to believe and I describe how to work with fear in this article. I encourage you to read it to learn how to navigate your fear in a way that works well over time and then to come back here to continue learning about a decision-making process that you’ll be thankful to have at your disposal over the course of your life.


Why inside out is the way


If we act from a place of fear, lack, doubt, and avoidance, we’re often met with outcomes that give us more fear, lack, worry, doubt, and avoidance. And that’s what happens when we let our mind run the show. We unconsciously take action from an energy that isn’t aligned with our heart and make decisions that aren’t always in our best interest.

We know what happens when the mind runs the show. Well, what do you think could happen when the heart runs the show?

Here’s the truth.


When you let yourself make decisions from the inside-out and let your heart run the show, you’ll:


  • No longer let fear dictate what happens. Yes, there is an appropriate time to listen to your fears when in a dangerous situation that requires you to stop engaging or leave it altogether, yet that time isn’t all of the time. Sometimes we need to try something new, do the more risky thing, take a new path, or choose differently than we have in the past in order to fill our life with the potential and possibility that we’re really looking for.   
  • Develop a sense of inner trust—Making decisions from the inside out, which I’ll describe next in detail, lets you trust that know what the best decision is for you; as a result, you’ll trust yourself and be able to make choices more easily now and well into the future.
  • Know that you are choosing and living in the right way for you, not anyone else. Our fears often arise from belief systems that we were taught or somehow adopted while growing up and these belief systems don’t always align with our own values or perspectives of ourselves, others, or the world. Making decisions from the inside out guarantees that you’ll more consciously choose and live in the right way for you, and less so based on how other people or society says you should live.
  • You’ll be more able to honor and take a stand for what you believe in. As you make decisions from the inside out rather than the outside in, you’ll let go of behaviors that weren’t in alignment with the greatest version of you, like people-pleasing, over-explaining, over-compromising, etc. Over time, you’ll notice that you focus far more on how you feel about yourself and your actions than on what other people think or feel about you.   
  • Learn that you can handle the things you are afraid of. If you avoided a certain conversation because you were afraid of what someone would say, for example, turning inward and making decisions from the inside out might encourage you to lean in to the conversation. You might even soon learn that ‘yes, it can feel really uncomfortable when someone doesn’t like something I say or a boundary I set, but I will come out in one piece, and maybe even feel more whole than I’ve ever felt before’. And this is because making decisions from the inside out helps you grow bountifully in inner strength.  


So, how do you do it?

Now for the good stuff...


How to make decisions from the inside out





I noted in the beginning of the article that making decisions from the “outside in” resembles focusing predominantly on your worries, fears, and apprehensions and weighing the good against the bad. Making decisions from the inside out, in contrast, means making decisions from a calm and balanced center within yourself. It means tuning into your heart and asking your heart what decision is really best for you to make. While our fear-based impulses can be automatic and spontaneous, our heart-centered desires are typically less glaring and wait for us to turn toward and connect to them. And that’s exactly what we need to do.


The 5 steps to making decisions from the inside-out:


  1. Acknowledge your thoughts.

    Mindfully acknowledge what your thoughts are regarding the decision that you need to make right now, whether they’re pretty singular or all over the place. Making decisions from a heart-centered place isn’t about kicking your mind to the curb; it’s about bringing your heart on board with your mind.


Making decisions from a heart-centered place isn’t about kicking your mind to the curb; it’s about bringing your heart on board with your mind.


  1. Tune into your body and listen to your heart.

    As you begin to feel more grounded and present, notice how your body responds to the possible decisions through its subtle sensations. Our body has a way of communicating with us through subtle physical sensations whether an opening or relaxing to indicate a “yes” or a stiffening, hardening, tensing, or pulling away to indicate “no”, and that’s what we want to spend extra time tuning in to. Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘Listen to your heart?” Well, this is how you do it.


Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘Listen to your heart?” Well, this is how you do it.


Be sure to tune in to your own inner experience and develop trust in it over time because everyone’s inner world is a little bit different. The more you do it, i.e., the more you ask your heart for guidance and listen to its response, the more intuitive the language of your heart will become to you and the more receptive you’ll become to it.


  1. Feel your way to a decision.

    As you keep feeling your way into a decision through tuning in to your bodily sensations, zero in on a likely decision and ask yourself, “Is this decision in alignment with the best version of myself?” This is a way to let your mind and heart collaborate a bit on the decision-making process.


  1. Act.

    This can sometimes be the most challenging part… acting on a heart-centered desire that you’ve felt into but that your mind maybe judges as incorrect, childish, or stupid. Begin with just a small step and let your trust in your inner self develop rather than jumping head-first into a decision and scaring the $h!t out of yourself in the process ;) Then take another step in your heart-centered direction. Go as slowly as you need. There’s absolutely no rush.


  1. Practice and reflect.

    Practice is how you build self-trust and self-confidence, and reflection is how you help your mind to make connections between the actions you took and the outcomes that followed (which is key to our learning about the difference that outside-in and inside-out decisions have on our life, in the first place!). As you keep practicing turning to your heart for direction on your decisions, reflect on how previous decisions have gone. Journal, draw, and/or talk about these heart-centered decisions to let your mind know that seemingly irrational yet heart-centered decisions can lead to pretty great outcomes, too.





… Seemingly irrational yet heart-centered decisions can lead to pretty great outcomes, too.


In short, making decisions from the inside out is all about tuning into your heart and noticing, by feeling, the messages that your heart shares through your body’s sensations and acting on them. You can’t analyze and logic your way to a heart-centered decision. Rather than judging or thinking your way to a decision, enlist a collaboration of your mind and heart and feel your way to a decision. According to the Institute of HeartMath, it’s when the mind and heart are cooperating together that they increase outcomes that fit the need of the situation.” Which is what we all ultimately want, isn’t it?


How do you know when you’ve made a decision from the inside out vs. the outside in?

What if you’re not sure where your decisions came from? What if your decision-making process was all a jumble of a mess and you’re not sure whether it happened from the outside in or inside-out?

I mentioned earlier that your mind, if left to its own devices, is not unlikely to make decisions from a place of fear, lack, or concern. Well, your heart speaks the language of understanding and love, not the language of fear, worry, and regret. So rather than feeling afraid of having made the wrong decision or afraid of what’s to come, if you’ve made a decision from the inside-out, you’ll feel grounded in trust. Rather than feeling the often hectic, hurried, and rushed energy of fear, you’ll feel more balance and in flow.

Having made a decision from the deeper aspects of you rather than surface-level logic, you might feel some tension in your mind as it tries to understand and grasp your decision, but over time, as you build your inner trust, you’ll feel less fear in making decisions, whether as small as what to eat or as big as taking a new job, choosing a life partner, or moving across the country because you’ll know that you’ve got your heart on your side.


How about you? When was the last time you listened to your heart? What’s hard about making decisions from the inside-out? What’s easy? I loooove to hear your comments and questions so leave them below and/or come join our conversation on the topic in The Happiness Hub. I’ll see you there!



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