The Work Is Not A Tool For Making Decisions (Or Is It?)

Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble
An’ if I stay there will be double
So come on an let me know
Should I stay or should I go?

This hit song by The Clash from the 1980’s always stuck in my mind. Maybe it’s because I heard it a lot in high school. Maybe it’s because I’m such a Libra, and decisions are sometimes hard for me. Or maybe it’s because this song strikes a common chord in all of us.

Decisions can be stressful. We put pressure on ourselves to make the right decision. And we suffer until we can resolve our internal dispute. In short, decisions can rob us of our peace of mind.

So You Might Think That The Work Would Be A Great Tool For Decision-Making

The Work of Byron Katie is a way to question what you believe is true. When you question your stressful beliefs, it leads to peace. The Work is a way to find peace in stressful situations.

If you applied The Work to decision-making, it might help cut through the fog. But there’s one problem with this approach.

It’s Easy To Use The Work In A Way For Which It Was Not Intended

The Work is about one thing only: loving what is. It is about finding the advantage and value of things exactly as they are. In this way it can bring peace no matter how terrible a situation may be.

In this way, The Work is meditation. It’s a way to make peace with what is, without changing anything other than our thinking, or our perspective.

But Decisions Are A Little Different

They belong to the field of action. And action is about doing and accomplishing. It is about changing things. Action brings greater happiness when we change things in our environment for the better.

And that’s what we crave when we make a decision. We crave the happiness of success. We make our decisions in order to avoid bad results and to get good results. In this way, decision-making brings happiness, but it’s a conditional kind of happiness.

This is very different from The Work, which brings us happiness regardless of whether things in our environment are good or bad.

Which Is Why Decision-Making Requires A Different Process Than The Work

Decision-making requires education. It requires patience. It requires listening and investigating. And it ultimately requires a leap of faith, because we can never completely know the future and how our decision will affect our lives and the lives of others in the times to come.

It also requires a willingness to take full responsibility for the decision. Until we are willing to do that, a decision never really feels right.

But What We Shouldn’t Do Is Put The Responsibility For A Decision On The Work

The Work is a tool for self-discovery. It is unbiased. It doesn’t care if you take a decision one way or another. It is simply a set of questions to ask yourself whenever your vision feels constricted. It is a tool you can use any time you want to see things from an expanded and opposite point of view.

If we put pressure on The Work to give us a decision, then we’ve lost the spirit of The Work. We start pushing The Work towards what we want to hear. And the unbiased nature of inquiry is lost.

So Does The Work Have Any Value In Decision-Making At All?

Yes and no. No, as we have seen if we are using The Work to get what we want to hear. And yes, if we consider the decision-making scenario itself as the stressful situation we are investigating.

Here are some potentially useful ways to use The Work when you’re making a decision:

1. I have to make a decision. Is it true?
2. I need to understand all the repercussions. Is it true?
3. I could make a bad decision. Is it true?
4. I have to do it right. Is it true?
5. I don’t want to be held responsible. Is it true?

You can even question the lyrics of the song by The Clash:

6. “If I stay there will be trouble.” Is it true?
7. “If I go there will be double.” Is it true?

I invite you to lay aside the actual decision-making process for a moment and question what’s actually stressful about making the decision. You may find that there is no stress in decision-making at all, other than the self-induced pressure you put on yourself to do it right.

Seeing this makes it possible to keep an open heart even when considering the question, “Should I stay or should I go?”

Next Week we’ll consider how to use The Work when searching for a job.

About the author 


Todd Smith has been doing The Work of Byron Katie on an almost daily basis since 2007. He is just as excited about this simple process of self-inquiry today as he was when he first came across it. He also enjoys writing about The Work, and training others in the subtleties of this meditative process. Join Todd for The Work 101 online course, private sessions, virtual retreats, and his ongoing Inquiry Circle group.

  • thank you! this was exactly what i was looking for. Having worked with the work during this last year, brought on by hard times in my relationship, my situation suddenly worsened and i am left at the point where i’m doubting to stay or leave my boyfriend, who is also the father of our little beautiful daughter. it is very hard. and i find myself pushing myself to make a decision, affraid to end up in the wrong situation, affraid to start trusting him again if i do not get out soon, afraid to leave and break the beautiful thing that also is between us, and the home for our child, affraid for change, affraid for wrong choices, affraid to loose something that might have been worth staying for.
    While i simply do not yet feel the answer.
    thank you for this. the work does help me, also now, but your view was very clear and helpful.
    thank you

    • You’re very welcome, Lenneke. I’ve been in that place a lot over the years with my partner. As I keep doing The Work, it keeps getting clearer and clearer that it doesn’t matter what I decide. I never thought I could be peaceful with not knowing, but that’s where I am now. We’ve been together 11 years, and I could leave tomorrow, and I notice that I keep choosing to stay.

      I invite you to join us for Slow-Cook Inquiry. There are a number of us in there with relationship issues that really support each other as we do The Work together.


  • That was an awesome read, exactly what I was looking for.

    Ive always had this difficulty with meditation of any kind since it collapses the situation and just leaves me with what is. I find that awesome as a prescription when not feeling great about my thoughts but not so helpful when I want to make a change of scenery/job/etc.

    In some ways this has helped reaffirm my trust in my own decision making while still reminding me that I don’t run the world 😀

    Much appreciated!

  • What an article. This answers so succinctly the question that came up for me today. I had been guided by a trusted friend to listen openly to my fears about a possible future path as there may be a message in there to keep me safe. I couldn’t see how to reconcile that with The Work through which I would be exploring the fearful thoughts and thus ‘collapsing them’. Though I am new to The Work I am not new to meditation. You explaining The Work as meditation really helps. It also really helps to see a use for this meditation in the decision making process – but not as a way to make decisions. You have explained it so well. Thank you.

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