How to Make Good Decisions

From Pro/Con List Logic to Gut/Intuitive Knowing –
How do YOU Decide on the Big Stuff?

 

It’s 1992, I’m sitting on a wooden bench in the plaza of a small barrio in Mexico. Surrounded by fuchsia bougainvilleas shades brighter than the cotton candy stucco church that is the centerpiece, I watch street vendors hocking churros to small children.

Giggling, sticky grins pause briefly in their cinnamon bliss to gawk at me, the gringa with the pad in her lap looking sad.

The emotions I am actually feeling – confusion, fear, and doubt – have me feeling fried like the kid’s churros, but my stress looks simply like sadness to my young audience. “Ella esta cansada!” one yells, as tears roll down my cheeks.

I am 19, and about to make the biggest decision of my life. Of course, I have no idea then that it will also turn out to be my best decision, so far.

It’s 2010, and I’m sitting in a screen porch at sunset, on an intercoastal waterway of Florida. Nature lights the sky fantastic – yellow orange cloud flames illuminate the gray green shifting banks of a just passed summer storm and it all reflects in the shimmery salt water.

In one ear, the voice of a potential business coach/mentor on an info call for her new program, in the other, the hush of post-rain nightfall peace. Not a human soul in sight, just a great blue heron eyeing me from the dock – do I have fish?

I sit. Again, there is a pad in my lap. I listen. I am 37, and determined to figure out a way to finally get serious about my business. My spirits reflect the sky, or perhaps, it’s the other way around – soggy, cloud heavy weariness and salt water tears backlit by the cyclic hope and promise of the flaming glory of sunset. I am tired of not quite getting there, not quite getting it with my business, and considering an expensive coaching program.

I think, though, for the umpteenth time, I am ready. I think. But I need to decide. To commit.

 

On my pad are four columns. My desperation for clarity in this decision making has driven me to practical, black and white solutions. Two options, two columns, a “pro”and a “con.” for each. I make lists, I compare lists, I create the solution to my problem – voila! Right?

But the other problem is, as I soon discovered, not all of the things under consideration seem to fit neatly into a clearly defined category. Some are neutral, defying either value. Others have both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ aspects, so I write these across my divider line. Then I realize I need to weigh the degrees of ‘pro’ or ‘con’ in some instances, too.

Simple math, where I can add the number of entries in each column for a quick and simple answer, does not suffice. Some influencing factors are more impactful than others, and I must symbolize this in my lists. I decide on stars. At some point I take out a highlighter, appropriately pink, as I attempt to further highlight the biggest influences in, or across, the columns.

Which year am I talking about now? Either. Both.

By the time I’m done with this brainstorming, star-assigning, categorizing values game I’ve created, my paper for a ‘practical black and white solution’ ends up as messy, disorganized, and ambiguous as my mind was when I sat down on that bench. As when I sat down in that patio chair. So much for my organized strategy! Now what?

The words of my favorite band, the Indigo Girls, remind, “Down at the watershed, standing at the fork in the road, you can stand there and agonize, ‘til your agony’s your heaviest load . . . you’ll never fly as the crow flies, get used to the country mile . . . when you learning to take the path at your pace, every choice is worth your while.”

Back on my bench more than a decade ago, back on my patio chair more than five years ago, I was agonizing indeed, burdened by the weight of the decisions, and the mess of stars, black lines, pink streaks, pro’s, con’s, and in betweens staring up at me.

So I put my pad away, and sat and sat, gazing at the palm trees. I sat until I finally closed my eyes, and let myself feel what I really wanted to do, instead of what seemed the most ‘logical’ according to my pad and it’s black and white (and pink) wisdom.

Factors that affect us all when we make decisions were on that pad – big financial considerations, the safety and security factor, the familiarity of the old opposed to the scary unknowns (or exciting opportunities?) of the new.

Whether it’s which job to take, which partner to marry, or in my particular case in Mexico, age 19, which college to attend in the fall, or in my case in Florida, age 37, deciding whether to invest in a long term, expensive business coaching program and take both my business – and myself seriously, finally – the basic issues are often so similar. How do we reconcile our fears with our trust? Our logic with our desires? Our idea of stability with our yearning to explore, and take a chance?

 

In short, how do we truly DECIDE?

 

In 1992, and in 2010, I ended up tossing out my columns and going with my gut.

The attempts at clarity in black & white logic were ultimately helpful, however, in that they showed me, most importantly, that I needed a whole different set of criteria for deciding, and, they helped me be really clear on what I would be committing to, would be accepting responsibility for with either decision.

They just weren’t THE deciding factors in the end, just a part of the process. In fact, in 2010, I reminded myself of that pivotal 1992 decision, and how I came to it. It empowers, and comforts me to look back on a good decision for guidance in making what I hope is another.

As you already know, that 1992 decision has turned out to be worth the distance it took me from my family, the significant financial consequence, and all other risks involved in moving from a small Midwestern town to Eckerd College here in St. Petersburg.

As you have guessed, I’m sure, I invested in myself – and the business coaching program in 2010 which continues to guide and support me years later. Yep, I took myself and my business seriously, “showing up”, with “skin in the game” as my mentor likes to say.

This is not unlike what job seekers do when they invest in resume writing assistance and interview skills practice, either. These are investments that we can reuse, revisit, and continue to give value over time, too.

What gifts I’ve gained from those decisions. I found my true home – here in Florida – in that 1992 choice, and in my best friend of now 20 years among numerous blessings that came from that choice of college.

I sure didn’t know these wonderful outcomes would materialize at those times. We never do, do we? Yet I believe if we make a well-considered decision to turn down the job that is not quite what we want or to try a relationship amidst the lingering vulnerability from our last heartache, that as long as we truly DECIDE, commit, and then accept all that may come from that conscious choice, then truly, we will be okay. Even more than okay I’ll bet.

Sometimes we even find more than we originally expected from that commitment, including confirmation on the value of our decision making processes.

From Pro/Con List Logic to Gut/Intuitive Knowing –

How do YOU Decide on the Big Stuff?

It’s 1992, I’m sitting on a wooden bench in the plaza of a small barrio in Mexico.  Surrounded by bougainvilleas shades brighter than the cotton candy stucco church that is the centerpiece, I watch street vendors hocking churros to small children.  Giggling, sticky grins pause briefly in their cinnamon bliss to gawk at me, the gringa with the pad in her lap looking sad.  The emotions I am actually feeling – confusion, fear, and doubt – have me feeling fried like the kid’s churros, but my stress looks simply like sadness to my young audience. “Ella esta cansada!” one yells, as tears roll down my cheeks.  I am 19, and about to make the biggest decision of my life.  Of course, I have no idea then that it will also turn out to be my best decision, so far.

 

It’s 2010, and I’m sitting in a screen porch at sunset, on an intercoastal waterway of Florida.  Nature lights the sky fantastic – yellow orange cloud flames illuminate the gray green shifting banks of a just passed summer storm and it all reflects in the shimmery salt water.   In one ear, the voice of a potential business coach/mentor on an info call for her new program, in the other, the hush of post-rain nightfall peace. Not a human soul in sight, just a great blue heron eyeing me from the dock – do I have fish?  I sit. Again, there is a pad in my lap. I listen.  I am 37, and determined to figure out a way to finally get serious about my business. My spirits reflect the sky, or perhaps, it’s the other way around – soggy, cloud heavy weariness and salt water tears backlit by the cyclic hope and promise of the flaming glory of sunset. I am tired of not quite getting there, not quite getting it with my business, and considering an expensive coaching program.  I think, though, for the umpteenth time, I am ready.  I think.  But I need to decide. To commit.

 

 

 

On my pad are four columns. My desperation for clarity in this decision making has driven me to practical, black and white solutions. Two options, two columns, a “pro”and a “con.” for each.  I make lists, I compare lists, I create the solution to my problem, viola!   Right? 

 

But the other problem is, as I soon discovered, not all of the things under consideration seem to fit neatly into a clearly defined category.  Some are neutral, defying either value. Others have both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ aspects, so I write these across my divider line. Then I realize I need to weigh the degrees of ‘pro’ or ‘con’ in some instances, too.

 

Simple math, where I can add the number of entries in each column for a quick and simple answer, does not suffice.  Some influencing factors are more impactful than others, and I must symbolize this in my lists.  I decide on stars.  At some point I take out a highlighter, appropriately pink, as I attempt to further highlight the biggest influences in, or across, the columns.

 

Which year am I talking about now?  Either. Both.

 

By the time I’m done with this brainstorming, star-assigning, categorizing values game I’ve created, my paper for a ‘practical black and white solution’ ends up as messy, disorganized, and ambiguous as my mind was when I sat down on that bench.  As when I sat down in that patio chair.  So much for my organized strategy!  Now what?

 

The words of my favorite band, the Indigo Girls, remind, “Down at the watershed, standing at the fork in the road, you can stand there and agonize, ‘til your agony’s your heaviest load . . .  you’ll never fly as the crow flies, get used to the country mile . . . when you learning to take the path at your pace, every choice is worth your while.”

 

Back on my bench more than a decade ago,  back on my patio chair more than two years ago, I was agonizing indeed, burdened by  the weight of the decisions, and the mess of stars, black lines, pink streaks, pro’s, con’s, and in between’s staring up at me.  So I put my pad away, and sat and sat, gazing at the palm trees.  I sat until I finally closed my eyes, and let myself feel what I really wanted to do, instead of what seemed the most ‘logical’ according to my pad and it’s black and white (and pink) wisdom.

 

Factors that affect us all when we make decisions were on that pad – big financial considerations, the safety and security factor, the familiarity of the old opposed to the scary unknowns (or exciting opportunities?) of the new.

 

Whether it’s which job to take, which partner to marry, or in my particular case in Mexico, age 19, which college to attend in the fall, or in my case in Florida, age 37, deciding whether to invest in a long term, expensive business coaching program and take both my business – and myself seriously, finally – the basic issues are often so similar. How do we reconcile our fears with our trust?  Our logic with our desires?  Our idea of stability with our yearning to explore, and take a chance?  In short, how do we truly DECIDE?

 

In 1992, and in 2010, I ended up tossing out my columns and going with my gut. The attempts at clarity in black & white logic were ultimately helpful, however, in that they showed me, most importantly, that I needed a whole different set of criteria for deciding, and, they helped me be really clear on what I would be committing to, would be accepting responsibility for with either decision. They just weren’t THE deciding factors in the end, just a part of the process.  In fact, in 2010, I reminded myself of that pivotal 1992 decision, and how I came to it.  It empowers, and comforts me to look back on a good decision for guidance in making what I hope is another.

 

As you already know, that 1992 decision has turned out to be worth the distance it took me from my family, the significant financial consequence, and all other risks involved in moving from a small Midwestern town to Eckerd College here in St. Petersburg.

 

As you have guessed, I’m sure, I invested in myself – and the business coaching program in 2010 which continues to guide and support me years later. Yep, I took myself and my business seriously, “showing up”, with “skin in the game” as my mentor likes to say.  This is not unlike what job seekers do when they invest in resume writing assistance and interview skills practice, either.  These are investments that we can reuse, revisit, and continue to give value over time, too.

 

What gifts I’ve gained from those decisions. I found my true home – here in Florida – in that 1992 choice, and in my best friend of now 18 years among numerous blessings that came from that choice of college.

 

I sure didn’t know these wonderful outcomes would materialize at those times.  We never do, do we?  Yet I believe if we make a well considered decision to turn down the job that is not quite what we want or to try a relationship amidst the lingering vulnerability from our last heartache, that as long as we truly DECIDE, commit, and then accept all that may come from that conscious choice, then truly, we will be okay.  Even more than okay I’ll bet.

 

Sometimes we even find more than we originally expected from that commitment, including confirmation on the value of our decision making processes.

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This blog is kept spam free by WP-SpamFree.