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Posts tagged Decision Making
"I'll have time later"

Is this really a relevant reason to delay something that’s important enough to do today?

And — is it really a relevant reason to keep something around that’s not important enough to do today?

What using time in the future enables us to do is alleviate the tension of deciding today. We’re hiding.

What’s more, that time that feels so free in the future isn’t actually any more cheap than our time today; it simply feels that way. It’s a mirage.

This is a downward spiral of pressure, firefighting, and unmade decisions. Or we can make the choice of the professional — she decides, today.

Step 12

A mistake that many of us make in our decision making is basing our decision about whether to take the first step or not on a future step down the road that makes us nervous. It’s a mistake because, probably, the step that is making us nervous is simply one possibility for how the future could play out — hardly a certainly. And yet we treat it as such.

What we’re calling Step 12 is in reality simply a potential future path — one of many, in fact. The truth is there’s many variations of how the first 11 steps play out that would impact the reality of Step 12.

Deciding to take Step 1 does not force us to take Step 12. It would be like not going to the zoo because we might fall into the lion exhibit. Irrational isn’t it?

Photo by Jeremy Avery on Unsplash
“Don’t chase the night”

I heard this catchy piece of advice a lot as a university student and young adult.

Maybe a better way to get at the truth behind this phrase could be: Don’t chase the outcome.

Just like we ultimately can’t control the results of the night, no matter how hard we chase it, we also can hardly control any outcome that really matters. There will always be circumstances beyond our grasp. That’s life.

We can continue to futilely resist this reality if we wish, or we can choose to focus on the thing we can control — our decisions.

Chase good decisions. Over time, this is the path of progress (and winning the night).

Photo by Zac Ong on Unsplash
Scalable choices

These are choices that make a difference more than once. Here’s some buckets:

The ones that make a difference for more than one person. (My whole team will benefit from me doing this.)

The ones that make a difference for someone more than one time. (I’ll still feel the benefit of this a month from now.)

The ones that make a difference for future decisions. (If I do this now, the rest will be better.)

The appeal is obvious. Who wouldn’t want to make decisions like these as often as possible? Ones that can grow in value over time.

Unfortunately they aren’t labeled. We have to look for them. They’re included in the list of all our other possible options.

The tyranny of the urgent is a very real force in the society we find ourselves in today. It takes a focus switch from ‘urgent’ to ‘important’ to fully see the value of these decisions that scale — they don’t always hold the highest immediate value.

And then the commitment to practice seeing. They’re out there for us to find.

Photo by Zachary Domes on Unsplash
When the ice starts to crack

All survival instincts go into red alert. Everything inside our bodies starts screaming to head back to shore, where it’s safe. It’s the only rational thing to do.

The sound is undoubtedly unnerving, yes, but it is proven that this eery noice doesn’t necessarily mean the ice is weakening. Experienced ice fisherman often say it’s the ice forming. While that’s not 100% scientifically accurate, the picture it paints for us is beautiful.

The cracking sound we immediately attribute to ice weakening, may just as likely be the ice shifting to strengthen itself.

Turning around is always an option. A life of total safety and security is available to us on the shore whenever we’d like. For those of us interested in something more, there is a second option: take another step.

The ice may hold.

Photo by Paxson Woelber on Unsplash
Split-second decisions

They happen all the time in life.

We get a call from our friend asking for help this evening when our plan was to recharge.

Our sister stops by after a rough day just as we’re rushing out the door to a dinner we’re tight on time to make.

They’re tough calls to make even now; in the moment they can feel impossible.

The best we can do is to do our best.

We’re not going to have a perfect record on these in life, and that’s ok. More harmful than the initial decision is the self-inflicted punishment afterwards of beating ourselves up about it.

Acknowledge that we wish we made a different choice, yes. Even more-so acknowledge why we wish that, yes. But maybe skip the part where we’re hard on ourselves about it. It’s doubtful that will do us any good.

Clutter

It may not seem like it makes much of a difference at first.

But then we consider all the extra time we spend searching for misplaced items, stepping over piles, sorting through the mess to find what we really need. Not to even mention the additional energy and mental space we use up along the way.

We start to add them all up and it becomes hard to avoid seeing there’s a cost to the clutter. On the flip side, it’s unclear what the benefits of clutter are (do they exist?).

The first practice is to decide. Not later, now.

Decide that it belongs. Decide that it doesn’t. Decide that it goes here. Decide that it goes there. Whatever it is, decide it.

The second practice then is to follow through. Do it right now. It will take twice as long later, if we’re lucky.

Slowly the clutter disappears, and we’ve developed a habit of making decisions. All of a sudden we have more space for the important decisions, and a lot of practice at making them. Win-win.

Am I willing to change my mind?

If ever our answer is “No”, a decent next question could be, “Why not?”.

If someone were to bring different and better information to us that reveals the truth may be different than we previously thought, the rational thing to do would always be to consider its validity. And if proven true, be willing to change.

So if we’re unwilling, it could matter a great deal to us why exactly that is. Not just for this moment, but how we see all of life.

We’re going to get frustrated.

It’s inevitable. Accidents happen. Surprises happen. Unexpected outcomes happen. Conflict (the non-hostile kind) is often born out of these things. Frustration usually isn’t far behind.

It’s not bad to be frustrated. And it’s certainly not wrong. More accurately, it’s natural.

If we think it’s bad, that’s because we’re connecting our frustration to our response to being frustrated. Most likely what we’ve found is the fear lurking within us. Our natural reaction when frustrated is to act out of this fear. And acting out of fear rarely produces a result we’re proud of.

So we come to see getting frustrated as bad.

But it’s not.

And we’re letting ourselves off the hook.

Because it’s actually our response to our frustration that is bad.

And while being frustrated and our response to being frustrated are related, they don’t have to be connected. Our gift as a human is that we are free to choose how we respond. Always. Frustration included.

As much as responding out of fear is an option, so is responding out of care, kindness, and empathy.