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Decisions, Decisions


Our lives are a series of decisions that we make, for good or ill, that lead us down the course that we take. So many of them we wind up regretting for one reason or another. Sometimes we make those decisions out of ignorance of all the facts, but often enough they are conscious decisions. So why are so many of them so poor?

Sometimes, the decisions we’re faced with are simple, either-or types of things. Should I study or go out? Should I watch TV or do the dishes? Should I kiss him or just shake his hand? Generally, the better decisions are the ones that require more willpower to execute whereas we as a species tend towards strolling down the path of least resistance. It is easier to turn on the boob tube but those dishes can sure pile up in a hurry. Still, the either-ors tend to be clearer cut.

More often, the important decisions we face are not just black or white. There are a lot of variables, grey areas that can send our brains to spinning around in out skulls. Often we tend to postpone dealing with these more complex decisions because, as I said, we prefer easy to hard. Still, not making a decision can be a decision in itself and it’s usually a bad idea. We give others the opportunity to make those decisions for us when we do that, and generally those people rarely have our best interests at heart.

Making choices isn’t a passive activity; it’s active. Sometimes we just go on instinct but even if we’re not putting lots of thought into our actions, we’re still acting (or at the very least, reacting). If we know that we’re making a life-changing decision – whether to take a job that we will have to move away for, whether we should take our relationship with our boyfriend/girlfriend to the next level, what college should we attend – we should at least put more effort into it then we would at selecting picks in the office NFL pool.

The best thing to do when you have to make that kind of decision is to run it by someone you trust. A family member or a friend is usually a good bet, especially if you trust their judgment. If the decision involves family or friends, it doesn’t hurt to get some objective advice – maybe a co-worker, a member of the clergy or whatever floats your boat. The point is, sometimes another point of view can give you insight you might not be able to provide yourself.

The most important thing is to assess our motivations. What are we trying to do, and why are we trying to do it? This becomes especially important when we become emotionally invested. Emotions are usually a bad thing to base decisions on. Emotions lie, confuse and distort. When we make an emotional decision, generally it’s an impulsive one and especially when it comes to matters that are life-changing (such as choosing romantic partners or deciding if the relationship needs to be serious), can lead us to do things we wouldn’t do if we only put some thought into it.

We don’t always get time to adequately consider all our options when it comes to making choices in life, but we should take all the time we are given and avoid rushing into anything. There’s nothing wrong with going with our guts – our instincts can be much more perceptive than our noggins – but generally the more complicated the choices, the more consideration should be given to it. It’s one thing to decide on a major in college; it’s another to decide what topping you want on your pizza.

One thing you don’t want to do is go into decision paralysis. Keep in mind that we all make mistakes and despite our best efforts, sometimes we make the wrong choice. Obviously we try not to but if we do make a mistake, do what you can to rectify it and if you can’t, learn how to adjust to life with the consequences of your actions. It is possible to deliberate too much however, and if you are prone to this (are you listening all you Libras out there?) then set yourself a deadline, make your choice and go with it when the time comes. However, keep in mind that our first instincts are generally the best ones.

For all you slackers (of which I count myself a proud member), I’ve learned that too often choosing the lazier course of action leads to more grief and effort than I would have had if I’d just chosen the selection that involved a little more effort. I call it “constructive laziness” and it has made me a little more organized and effective in getting things done than I used to be. Very often, we know what the right thing to do is; we just flat-out are too lazy to go that way.

There are a lot of things that go into making good decisions. First, we need to make sure our motivations are clear. We need to be able to accept the consequences that come from our decisions and live with them. We need to be sure that we are making the right choice for the right reasons and not acting on the easiest possible course of action.

Doing the right thing is generally doing the hard thing. Having the self-discipline to do the right thing is a whole ‘nother barrel of chimps entirely. If you can’t be bothered to take the time to do the right thing, don’t expect people to give you a whole lot of sympathy when you complain about how hard your life is, especially when you had the opportunity to make things better and refused to take it. Instead of complaining how much things suck, why not try finding a way to make things better? It’s certainly a more constructive use of your time.

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