“We must make the choices that enable us to fulfill the deepest capacities of our real selves.” ~ Thomas Merton
If you view my tag cloud, you would see choice as one of the most frequent tags. It is also one of the 14 categories about which I blog. It’s omnipresent in our everyday lives.
Each of us has the power to choose the path of our own thoughts and actions. The ability to make wise and fulfilling decisions, however, is a skill that is learned over time. One way to practice your decision-making skills is to make up of a pro and con list. Why? Because the creation of a list weighing the advantages and disadvantages of a choice can help you avoid focusing on the potential benefits or drawbacks of an option without addressing all of the variables.
A ‘for and against’ list represents a concrete way of looking at a problem. It can help you view a set of choices more clearly, giving you a chance to analyze each variable in an objective manner, while providing a sense of the most pleasing outcome. And it’s an easy exercise. Simply create a page mirroring the below image but keep in mind that some decisions have many aspects and may require you to make multiple choices, thus the possible need for more than one ‘pro and con’ list.
Some choices will simply involve moving forward or not, or changing or not, and will require only one list. The work comes in examining each potential outcome relating to the choice under consideration. When you have reviewed each outcome, tally the two columns and compare the pros and cons. If you were objective, the results may surprise you.
Philosopher and psychologist, William James, once said, “When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.” By looking at a choice in terms of the positive and negative results that will occur, you may distance yourself from it. That distance creates a perspective in which the problem at hand is an issue that needs to be resolved, rather than a decision that will have an impact on the person you are. But a list is a tool that needn’t have the final say in a decision. Rather, it can be a helpful stepping stone in your decision-making process.
Choosing can be a variable mix of subjective and scientific. Following are three random ideas to consider when making decisions:
- Don’t problem solve, decide. A decision can solve a problem, but not every problem can be solved by making a decision. Instead, decision-making often relies more on intuition than analysis. Deciding between vendors, for instance, requires examining historical data, references and prices. But the tipping point often rests with your gut. Which feels like the right choice?
- Just because someone observed it doesn’t mean it’s true. We all overestimate what we believe we know, observed, and experienced. We are famous for our overconfidence — psychologists dub it “The Overconfidence Bias” — which hampers successful planning. Mistrust your knowledge — and everyone else’s.
- Think about how you will feel when you are 70. First, it will put the difficult decision into perspective (maybe it’s not as big a deal as you think it is) and secondly, it will help you make a good decision for the long-term, rather than just for instant gratification.