Decisions Archives

creativity

Photo credit Jef Safi, available from Flickr.

 

Have you ever seen a woman whose wardrobe is full of clothes but she has nothing to wear?
Have you ever seen a child whose room is filled with toys but he doesn’t know what to play with?
Have you ever caught yourself in an endless analysis of all possibilities yet unable to make a single choice?

I bet you have.

Yet ….

The very same woman can survive a month with a suitcase of clothes only.
The very same child can be thrilled by playing with airplanes made from paper.
The very same you can make a choice when presented with two options only.

***

We live in the world full of junk. We are overcrowded with toys, tools, ideas, gadgets and possibilities. Yet, the more is possible, the less clear it becomes what is important. Too many things and too many ideas. All of them seemingly important, of course.

We are stuck, unable to move forward.

More is less, because more overwhelms. The huge amount of information, possibilities and choices, keeps us in a state of indecision. This is very much related to the process of rational decision making. The brain wants to take all the information into account. However, once you have more than 5-7 pieces of information to consider, your brain runs in vicious circles. The brain needs a simple criterion to optimize, but with the abundance of information, some partial or contrary, it becomes a mission in vain.

Unless you choose a path with a heart, you may get stuck in analysis paralysis for years.

***

When I was a kid we used to have a very few toys because they weren’t many available. At that time, we developed lots of both simple and sophisticated ways to play with everything that was at hand. A long piece of elastic, a few skipping ropes, pebbles, sticks, conkers or old tires could have provided us with endless fun.

I don’t remember being ever bored. Why? Because everything around was potentially an inspiration for a good play. The imagination was wild enough to make use of it.

It is exactly the limited resources that inspire us to be creative. It is the lack that helps us move forward. It is the shortage that encourages us to invent.

Creativity lies in reduction. Creativity lies in limitation. Creativity lies in subtraction.

Open your eyes to recognize it.

***

Look at your life. If you are in a position in which you feel inferior to others because of your scarce resources, blessed you be!

It is exactly your lack of money, your lack of experience or skills that is your blessing in disguise.

Perhaps you lack communicating skills or perhaps you have some physical handicap. Perhaps you struggle to meet your ends. Perhaps you don’t know how to make a transition to a new carrier.

Blessed you be! 

Find a way around it. Make use of what you have at hand and ignore all shortcomings, resistance and social pressure.

As a child, you can have a great fun by playing with elastics, running games or role playing. You don’t need the best gadgets in the world to become highly intelligent, earn good money or have a great life. Once your creativity is awaken, you will forever enjoy your learning and hacking solutions to life setbacks.

You can have a fulfilling carrier by amplifying your skills and finding ways around or through the shortfalls and deficiencies. Once you unleash imagination and feel the excitement of working through and despite of your paucity, you will slowly develop novel ways of using the skills you do have. And with time, you will not only develop new skills that lie dormant, but also find new resources. You will become strong, visionary and innovative.

If you thought you could achieve this or that once you had a better education, richer parents or just by being smarter, you could be very wrong. Once you got everything you needed, you would likely find yourself unmotivated. You would be uninspired to act because there would be no satisfaction in getting things the easy way.

The fun comes through the rough ride, not an easy and smooth wandering. The toughness and roughness of the path make you excited and alive.

It is exactly what you didn’t have that made you who you are today.

Open yourself to the inspiration that comes from limited possibilities or scarce resources. Welcome your creativity back.

Life is a development process. It is a thrilling journey. Make it creative.

Blessed you be!

 

This post is dedicated to Inge and Bob who taught me about trust.

 faith_trust

Trust and faith are fundamental in our lives

Trust opens you up and allows you to learn in a moment. Outside your comfort zone.

Faith is a framework of your beliefs, in-flows and out-flows, approaches to learning and making use of your knowledge.

And here comes a story ….

***

One day I discovered I was pregnant. This was the beginning of a new journey into my second pregnancy. It turned out I was carrying twins. Quite a shock: double trouble and double blessing 🙂

During pregnancy, the ultrasound scan at the 18-20 weeks serves as a tool to evaluate the development of the baby. It is an early diagnostic of some potentially serious health problems. I had one at the 18th week.

A sonographer was pleased with the pictures and gave me happy news – the kids were growing well. Yet, there was a little bit of hesitation in her voice. I ignored it.

I entered the room of the consultant with the ultrasound results. I was expecting the confirmation of the good news. There was, however, a big surprise waiting for me.  After a moment of silence, there was a shot in my heart.

“Are you going to terminate the pregnancy?”, the consultant asked calmly.

“What???”, my jaw dropped. I thought he was taking nonsense. “What do you mean?”

“There are two strong markers indicating that both your kids may have the Edwards syndrome.”  his voice was emotion-less.  “Moreover, your age makes the picture much worse.” he continued. “The chances are high.”

“What is it?”, I whispered. (I knew that statistically I was prone to much more genetic disorders of the babies than young mothers.)

“It is a serious genetic disorder of the 18th chromosome. It makes it impossible to support life. There are usually stillbirths. When born, majority of babies die in the first week.  Nearly nobody makes till 1st birthday. There are a few exceptions above one year old, but overall, there is no hope”, he explained calmly.

I suddenly knew it all. My friend’s baby died a few days after birth because of this disorder. And the next two babies died in the womb. Since I helped him to overcome the dark hours, I knew how devastating this experience was for him and his family.

I was petrified. The darkness was sudden and overwhelming. I could hardly breathe. The monsters were running wild.

– “We can perform amniocentesis from both amniotic sacs, but there is the risk of miscarriage for any of the twins. About 3%. “, he continued. “The risk is much higher with twins than with a single baby.”

Again a pause.

“You will know 100% whether the babies suffer from this disorder or not. “

I had no idea what to say, yet I felt I had to say something.

– “What would you do in my situation?” I asked.

– “I don’t know what I would do”, he said, “I’m a man.”

There was a pause. 

– “… but I know what my wife would do.  No hassle. Termination.”

I left the clinic with a leaflet on the Edwards syndrome in my hand. Little information really.

Dark hours

I returned home and spent hours on the web to educate myself on this genetic disorder, markers, amniocentesis and so on. I learned what was to learn there.

I felt angry, scared and abandoned. I felt as if I was the only person in the whole world. Deeply lonely.

The darkness was slowly competing with the Light for space both in my head and in my heart.

I studied the information. With detail.
There was intent. There was conscientiousness. There was devotion.

I listened to my feelings.

I was crying. Desperately.
There was pain. There was anger. There was drama.
 
I punched the pillow.
There was blame. There was anger. There was force.

I had done it all until I felt I became empty.
There was no more blame. No more guilt. No more emotion.

There was just silence and calmness. In the emptiness, a healing space was being created.

I was there, present, in the moment.

I had collected all necessary knowledge.
I returned to my center.

In the center I was able to create trust.  I recognized I was in God and God was in me.
 
I looked again at the data.

“Why would I choose a real risk of miscarriage of the twins for the hypothetical risk of their death resulting from the chromosome disorder?”

I wouldn’t.

In that moment I decided against amniocentesis (as the termination was out of question, anyway). The consultant was surprised.

The choice to trust

This was only the beginning. The pregnancy challenged me on all levels: as a human, wife, mother, scientist, and coach.

I chose to trust and have faith in great uncertainty. As never before in my life.

During pregnancy the lives of the twins have been threatened multiple times based on various grounds: lack of development, inappropriate support of my body, internal and external conditions. The twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome was at the background. At the 28th week I was pushed to be delivered because one of the babies stopped growing. In my opinion, the decision was based on insufficient data and the worst-case scenario approach.

I again studied the all the data diligently and read as much as I could to learn about the subject. I connected to my inner knowing. I decided to continue the pregnancy on my own request and risk.

The children arrived seven week later. Beautiful babies with no sign of Edwards syndrome.

***

In all these weeks, I was always in touch with the babies. I talked to them in my consciousness in order to send them love and respect, support them and respond to their needs in a moment. It was a remarkable experience.

I created a beautiful tunic of trust from various fabrics of knowledge, beliefs, experiences and understanding. By wearing it daily, I have kept faith.

What is the moral of the story?

Trust is not given, neither earned. It is not a data collection of gives-and-takes, scores of kindness, neither a one time learned approach.

Trust is being created in a moment and supported by an inner process.

Trust relies on the past experiences, but only relevant ones. It is created in a moment, in response to the needs. (For the advanced ones in pattern recognition: it resembles transductive learning).

It comes naturally when you are at the center.

To arrive at the center, you simply allow it. You remove resistance and let emotions flow. Freely.

Whatever comes, you let it pass through you in a safe way – without any harm to others.

In the moment you are empty, you can plant a seed of trust. It is a decision.

You simply say “I trust”. And you follow with your intention.

You keep your garden of thoughts clean and watered.

Your seed of trust will grow into a bush of roses.

Strong. Supportive. Beautiful.

***

Photo copyright by Moyan Brenn. Photo available under the Creative Commons license on Flickr.

***

needs_and_wants

 

Your distinction between needs and wants determines the quality of your life. It may lead as far as the difference between mediocre and remarkable.

Needs are the essential or necessary things that support your well-being. On all levels.

Wants are of two kinds. The first kind are your long-term intents and deep desires.These are of significant importance but are not the subject of this post.

The second kind of wants are the momentary impulses to satisfy your greed for pleasure or status.They run on an instant gratification principle.

You can not only survive, but thrive on much less

We buy stuff because we want it. We buy more stuff because we want it. And then, we buy even more stuff. Soon, our lovely stuff becomes clutter.

Of course, many things are useful. They enrich our lives, add convenience, entertainment or fun (or at least a possibility for these), but overall they are not the most important things.

The truth, easily forgotten, is this. You can survive on much less than you currently do (unless you are very, very poor). Even more, you can finally thrive when you focus on your basic needs and make space for growth in your life.

You don’t need the many things you buy or use. These are your wants. Your instant reward for pleasure, worth or status.

For instance, if you have internet at home, you can perfectly cancel your TV subscription and follow the most important news only.

You can choose to drive a second-hand car or use public transport. Even better, you can commute by bike. In the end, the car is your means of transport and usually your liability.

You may stop buying sandwiches at work and prepare your own lunch at home. You may stop buying coffee and start drinking water and herbal teas instead. You may stop indulging in smoking or alcohol.

You may buy moderately-priced clothes instead of fancy designs.

You may rent a smaller apartment than you currently have.

Do you need to buy the latest ipad just because it is there? Surely, it is cool to play with the newest technology. It is fun. But, do you really need this? Unless your job depends on being up-to-date with the latest technology – let’s face it – a new gadget is your want.

Note: I am not advocating to cut your spending for the sake of saving money. It makes sense, of course, but concerning your finances, a more efficient strategy is is to earn additional money aside.

My point is different. Surviving on less is about essential needs and conscious practices that make space in your life, be it physical, mental or emotional, so that you can gain clarity and focus on what is the most important. It is also about the awareness behind the choices you make or impulses you follow.

Happiness and stuff

It is an illusion that the abundance of possessions will give you true happiness. Possessions have to be handled and maintained. They require attention, care, time, energy and money. They will make you either very busy to the point of exhaustion or make a mess of your life when you become a stuff collector. Happiness does not depend on how much you own to impress others, but actually on the quality of living in the now.

If we consider the feeling of happiness as the function of the amount of stuff you own we will observe a specific behavior, following the curse of dimensionality principle in statistical learning or rational decision taking. Initially, with the increase of possessions you become happier until you reach a point where the reverse trend begins. Then, the more you own and maintain, the less happy you become. Why? Because you have all the stuff or possessions you may want but hardly any time to enjoy them.

Surprisingly, this saturation point is not as high as you would imagine. Stuff multiplies super-fast and occupies any room it finds.

Why do we buy stuff?

We buy stuff because we blindly follow the instant gratification principle and/or we accept consumerism as the working model of reality.

Instant gratification vs delayed reward

Instant gratification is the satisfaction you gain from impulse behaviors. When something appeals to your senses, be it beautiful clothes, a fancy handbag, great climbing shoes or the newest smartphone, your natural response is to want it.

You see a delicious cake, you want it and you eat it. You feel like having the fifth cup of coffee. You want it and you drink it. You see the newest ipad. It is even thinner and slicker in the design than you imagined. You want it so you buy it.

Wait.

Wanting a thing and wanting it badly now is the key characteristic of toddlers and preschoolers. It is the time window, between one and four, where the emotional-cognitive brain is being hugely developed. The verbal-intellectual brain (neocortex) will begin a fast development only around the age of four.

Children at the preschooler age are emotionally very expressive, going from a perfect laughter to a total frustration in a split of a second. There are battles of wills, stubbornness and tantrums about the things they want to have now or their way. They are learning to experience and handle their emotions. They have not yet developed a time perspective, not even mentioning any reasoning ability (to be developed much later). Emotions are in the moment and they need to be expressed excessively.

Any conclusions from this?

Delayed reward

It is possible to teach preschoolers simple ways of waiting before you turn your attention to them. Similarly, it is possible for us to practice patience. Persistence and ability to delay gratification are the antidote for getting out of debt and taking care of own financial future. They are a must-have qualities of conscious people: happy, fulfilled and successful.

Concerning the aspect of delayed gratification, the most famous experiment is perhaps the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment studying the impulsiveness of four- and six-year old children at a nursery.  The kids were offered either a single marshmallow or two marshmallows if they would wait for some time. The experimenter told the children that he had to leave for a while. The children could choose to eat the marshmallow immediately, but if they waited for him to come back before eating it, they could eat two marshmallows instead.

Some children ate the marshmallow immediately, but many attempted to wait for the extra reward. Of those, one third was rewarded with the second marshmallow. Not surprisingly, age was a major determinant.

The same children were tested 10 years later and while entering the adulthood. The ones who ate the marshmallow immediately were compared to the ones who were able to delay gratification. The later group described more competent adolescents who also scored better academically. An additional study in 2011 shows that such characteristics remain for life. See the article here.

In short, the conclusion from these and related articles is this. Instant gratification is related to people who tend to be stubborn, impulsive, easily overwhelmed, prone to stress and jealousy with a low self-image. On the contrary, delayed gratification is associated with people who are assertive, self-disciplined, dependable, eager to learn, able to cope with disappointment and frustration and more competent academically.

If you want to apply delayed gratification to your life, learn how to practice patience and self-discipline.

Consumerism

We have subscribed to the consumerism-based reality where consumption of goods is the central theme. It is a concept in which our worth or value is reflected by what we consume. The idea has repeatedly been broadcasted in media and by various companies and corporations for a long time. As a result, we have come to believe that it is what we buy and have that reflects who we are.

The philosophy is narcissistic in the sense that the primate emotional self is put on pedestal to be worshiped or satisfied. We buy things to feel good, to express ourselves or our personalities, to show off or reflect our importance, or to seek approval from others. We buy for pleasure, acceptance or status. We buy to belong. We buy to keep up with the peers, colleagues, friends, family and so on. We buy to look better than the neighbors. How pathetic is this!

It is quite common that women will go shopping when they are emotionally low, depressed or frustrated. New clothes, shoes or bags will often cheer them up. We have come to celebrate our life by spending money on goods. This is however unsustainable, as on average, at least in the USA and the UK, we spend much more than what we are making.

What do you really need?

Spend some time on this question.

What do you really need?

Your answers should relate to things that contribute to your long-term health, emotional and mental well-being and success. Begin to question anything you want to buy that cost more than, say, 25 GBP / EUR / dollars.

Think about your recent impulse purchases. Think about what happened in the moment of buying the thing and just before it. What was the trigger behind the purchase? How did you feel at that moment? What did you think at that time? How did you justify the purchase to yourself?

Identify the triggers in your mind and simply pre-program the desired action that should happen instead.

Find a way to distract yourself from buying or avoid the trigger from arising in the first place. Know your touch buttons and simply have a procedure in operation that saves them from pressing.

Play the scene in your head and choose a strategy that leads to non-buying.

You are ready for the next time.

A very short guide to buying stuff

  1. Repeat this mantra multiple times a day for a month: “Owning more stuff wastes my time and energy, creates hassle and takes me off track. I only buy what I need”.
  2. Pause before you buy small things. Are they really your need?
  3. If there is something above 50 GBP/EUR/dollars that you want to buy (different than your regular food or expenses), wait before your purchase. Wait a week for small things. Wait a month or more for big things.  Do you really, really need them?
  4. Pay cash.
  5. Invest the money you have not spent. Begin building your wealth: health, education or skills, relationships or assets.

In a month you will start to see the results.

***

A great book on consumerism is Spent by Geoffrey Miller. Read it and you will learn new things.

***

Photo credit Fe Langdon, available under Creative Commons on Flickr.

***

the-letter-to-the-king

It is a deep night, long time ago. Five young men are keeping vigil in a chapel. There are on their knees, lost in darkness with some shadows cast by a pale flame. They are not allowed to talk, neither to react to any noise from outside. They must not open the door.

This is their last challenge before the important event that awaits them. Tomorrow they are to be knighted! It is such a longing of these young souls. It is the greatest honor to be a knight in the empire of the King Dragonaut.

Tiuri is especially excited. He is the youngest among them, with perhaps the biggest hopes. His father, Tiuri the Brave, is going to become proud of him. Greatly.

But then…

In the penetrating silence, a knock at the door. A voice from out of the darkness: “Open up in God’s name!”

Tiruri hears the voice, but others in the chapel seem to be unaffected. “Are they also hearing the same noise?”, he wonders. Or, is this his imagination, oversensitive in these circumstances?

Tiuri wants to neglect the noise. It is the safest thing to do. Just to pretend he doesn’t hear anything. In the end, it may be a servant of the king to check upon the young men.

But then …. again…. a strong whisper “Open up in God’s name!”

“What to do now?”, Turi wonders.

Tiuri is not allowed to open the door. “But what if it is an emergency, someone in need, being pursued and seeking a place to hide?” Tiuri is hesitative.

But it doesn’t take long. Turi makes a fast decision. He opens up the door….

***

For sure, the life of Tiuri is not going to be the same now. He broke the rule, so even if there is a real emergency he cannot become a knight tomorrow. And it is a true shame.

Even worse, if nobody is out there, but the voice in his imagination, he will still break the rule. There is no way he can lie about it as knighthood and honesty go hand in hand together. His decision creates a conflict.

How would he explain to his father and his king that he failed the final test? Perhaps it is the biggest failure in his life. But perhaps it is not.

What if it leads to adventures and transformation that only few can aspire? His decision is a turning point. And there is a story of development he can now tell to himself….

You tell yourself a story of your life

You also tell yourself a story of your life. It can be an encouraging story or a disempowering one. Everything depends on your interpretation. The same event can be interpreted differently depending on the context or circumstances. Even a simple event such as rain.

Heavy rain may make you unhappy if this is your wedding day and your party is planned in the fresh air. Or, the same heavy rain may make you relieved if you are a farmer and this is the first serious rain after many days of draught.

There is what happens, an event in your life, and there is what you tell yourself about it. And these two things can be totally different.

What you tell yourself usually focusses on a few aspects of the event intertwined with some emotions. And this is all taken from a particular point of view. It strongly depends on your interpretation which, in turn, depends on your perception, mood at that time, overall well-being and many other factors.

Your story is about the meaning you attach to the event or its characteristics.

If you doubt that, you can easily check how facts trigger a story to emerge. Just ask two different people taking part in the same event to tell you what happened. Even views on a movie watched together by the same people may differ greatly. The more complex or emotional the event, the bigger variety of interpretation.

And there is one thing even more appealing.

You believe in a story of your life

You believe in a story of your life as if it is the only and ultimate truth. But, in fact, what you tell yourself is an interpretation, a point of view from a particular angle. There exist many other interpretations depending on your criteria, point of focus or a time scale. Your life story is just a way to look at the events. You can have another look.

There are things that happened in your life that have been very touchy or emotional. And it colored your life. There were habits of your parents, teachers and authorities who influenced you deeply. There were circles of peers that shaped you accordingly. There were rebels who inspired you to explore beyond the rules.

There were songs, stories, books, games or movies, which helped you built your identity.

What has been impressed on you as a child has often been carried with you for years in adulthood, sometimes a lifetime. And these early experiences and conditioning, often through the means of simplification (omitting facts and some details) and generalization made you believe in the story about yourself you developed at that time. It is a story of the past.

Your story can change

Yes, there is a story of your life. But there are many other stories at the same time. You are the one who attaches meaning to the events and chooses which ones to emphasize and how.

The way we tell ourselves a story is in fact not in the telling. It is more in a mixture of our imagination, hearing or feeling, depending on our preferred processing and learning styles. We mostly see the events, hear the accompanying words or feel the related emotions. And these events become like glimpses of a story we have built for ourselves.

For example, you may tell yourself a story about being a looser or incapable of learning. And this story is being reinforced by the memories you hold about your father’s harsh criticism or your mother’s reprimands. And you remember the tone of the voice with the bitter words “You’ll never learn anything” after you have broken their favorite tool / blender / cooker / washing machine, etc, remove the plants instead of the weeds in the garden, or spoiled a meal. And this made you feel like a child, indeed incapable of doing anything well.

Your story of being a looser lives on such events. And instead of perceiving this particular story as an example among many others, you take it as the only story and the only interpretation of who you are.

It is the time now to re-evaluate the story of your life, who you are and how you are with respect to people, money, skills or achievements. Recognize that a story is just a way of looking at your past, perhaps even a childhood. This story is not an ultimate description of you. You are a conscious being ever developing and growing. Anything about the past is only a static glimpse. You are much more than that.

The challenge is to perceive yourself as a Process, capable of making choices, being who you are and becoming a better conscious Self.

Use another story

How to change your story into a process? I believe that another influential story can help us to do it.

Strong stories move us, both emotionally and to action, shape us and inspire us for growth. These are the stories of the past but they are based on universal struggles and confrontations. We can recognize these universal patterns and relate them to our lives. In addition, stories carry seeds of values that can be transferred and implemented in our lives, as well.

Stories speak to us in indirect, metaphorical ways, and allow us for multiple interpretations. They allow us to subconsciously recognize what is important and what is not. They speak to us in images and emotions and allow us to grasp new meanings. Stories and, especially, life stories make us grow.

The letter for the king

This time I want to encourage you to follow the story of Tiuri, who will be given a task of delivering a very important letter to the king. This children’s book, “The letter for the king” (De brief voor de konig, or Der brief für den Köning) is written by the Dutch author Tonke Dragt, and is is truly captivating. It was voted as the best youth book in the second half of the XX century. It really means something!

The English version is currently hard to find, unless you search Ebay or second hands books such as AbeBooks. I expect a new edition soon, so stay alert.

***

With the opening of the chapel’s door, Tiuri begins a secret and dangerous mission. He has to deliver a letter of the utterest importance to the king of Unauwen, from the neighboring empire. This is a story of dark forests and high mountains, filled with secrets and spies, treason, friendship and love. All attributes of a great story!

And the story is captivating, indeed. The plot is developing fast. There is little analysis of emotion, but yet, at the same time you feel the tension of the turning points and the moments the choices have to be made.

It is a book where the characters face dilemma, are forced to make choices and follow the consequences, and constantly seek who they are and what they are up to.

It is a book which shows you that friendship is not a candy-sweet, but lives on discussions, disagreements and bonding.

It is a book which shows you that good and evil are not necessarily what they seem to be and that events can be interpreted differently from a different context.

It is a book which tells you that transformation and development is the only path in life. That is, an interesting life 🙂

Overall, what is so permanent on all levels in this book, it is the issue of trust. Many times, at the moment of conflicts, Tiuri shows trust or is being trusted. Sometimes it leads to dangers, but overall it shapes Tiuri to become a man. And this is one of the multiple messages of this book: trust is necessary for a conscious development.

Tiuri develops as a conscious person and his adventures can be metaphorically related to our lives, where trust and honesty are ones of the most important principles to live by.

Read the book

Read the book. And if there are insufficient reasons for you to read this book, consider the issue of trust as being the important one!

It is a great book that can help you to see your life’s dilemma or struggles from a different perspective. It can help you to find a new motivation. It can help you to develop trust. Obviously, I recommend it for children. But it reads so well for adults! I read it originally dutch, only before my 30.

Stories and metaphors touch us more than facts, arguments and any type of reasoning. Read “The letter for the king”. If not, choose another inspiring book for youth. There is no substitution for becoming who you desire to be.

***
The book is 50 years old as of 2012.  Amazing!

There is a sequel to this book, “Secrets of the Wild Forest” (“Geheimen van het Wilde Woud“).

***

Other inspirational or educational posts:

***

best_decision

How would you characterize your best personal decisions?

Think about it.

What is coming to your mind?

  • Are you thinking about producing results, personal growth, or a great outcome?
  • Are you thinking about a more balanced living as a result?
  • Are you thinking about fast decisions, in which you joyfully skipped the agonizing pain of analyzing all options?

Any of these or something else?

Best decisions is not what matters

While we like to talk about good and bad decisions, the factor of goodness is completely irrelevant in a decision making process. Why? Because the goodness criterion is hard to implement into this process.

“Bad” and “good” is all about judgment which you can only make while looking back, isn’t it? You judge your decisions as good when you experience its benefits or you produce results that exceeded your projection from the past.  You can call it “connecting the dots” or “understanding”. It doesn’t matter.

There is no way to assure the decision you are going to make will be any good for you. Why? Because you cannot truly foresee its benefits, costs and consequences. And in addition the evaluation depends on the context and the time frame. What you judge as bad now may turn out to be considered as good later on. Hasn’t that happen to you yet?

The consequence of the above is far reaching. The challenge is not about making best or even good decisions. We cannot take this aspect into account. Instead, the challenge is to make effective§ decisions.

Effective decisions

Effective decisions lead us towards becoming who we aspire to be and doing the things we aspire to do. Effective decisions lead to a transformation either on the level of who we become or how we approach things in life, and ultimately what we have. These are consciously made decisions.

Effective decisions are intuitive and/or informative, fast and congruent.

Intuitive decisions integrate both emotion and rational thought in a creative way. They utilize knowledge yet they make use of the subjective evaluation of what matters in the moment. They are led by inspiration, insight or a high level perception.

Fast decisions do not necessarily mean decisions in a split of a second, but in a relatively short time. Fast decisions mean that they can be made in the presence of little information, partial information and/or uncertainty. We need information but only some as too much information inhibits decision making.

Congruent decisions mean that we are in alignment with them. This is crucial because decisions either inspire the beginning of a transformation or direct towards a change. And this requires action. When integrity is missing it will be hard for you to take action steps. A part of you who is unhappy with the decision will sabotage the action taking, optimal focus or the working towards the results. You may still rip some benefits, but often below what it could have been.

The effective guide to effective decision making

Set up a time limit and make a decision. Be it an hour, a day or a week, whatever it needs to be for the given case. Make it simple and fast. You will improve with practice.

  1. Rational thought: Use analysis, information and previous knowledge to learn about the situation. Enumerate the options.
  2. Emotional pruning: Trust the feeling of what feels s right, important or interesting to prune the tree of options. Stop at a few alternatives.
  3. Test the alternatives: Play the scenarios against your mental models, or simply visualize where the alternatives lead to. How the involvement feels. Be specific.
  4. Trust: Carefully observe how you respond to each scenario and make the final choice.

The points 1-4 above coincide with the intuitive decision making. There are two simple strategies that will help you develop trust and confidence in the final choice. These are placing yourself into a decision process and using the yes/no inner guiding system.

“Is it like me?” – integrating who you are into a decision process

The key understanding here is that decisions are creative outlets for self-expression. Decisions will inherently lead to a new experience or change, hence you may evaluate a decision by the perception of how you will fit or go with it. In the act of a similarity search or comparison, you will compare the thing with the ideal you, the you to become.

When you are considering a few options, you may ask yourself:

  • Is this bag / jacket /computer / TV set / car like me?
  • Is this job like me?
  • Is this house like me?
  • Is this country like me?
  • Are these colleagues like me?
  • Are these friends like me?
  • Is this meal like me?
  • Is this holiday like me?

This is something that you can feel or know. If you really don’t know how to answer such a question, use the tools below.

Tool #1: Make a list of five features describing the thing itself. How well will these adjective describe you?

  • Are you open, tolerant, individualistic, courageous and organized as the country you want to live in?
  • Are you slick, sophisticated, modern, compact, and well-rounded as the desk you are considering to buy?
  • Are you red-loving, detailed, spacious, elegant and classic like this bag?

Give yourself a minute or a few at most to make these evaluations. Mind becomes more creative in the time limit.

Tool #2: Consider your 5-10 personal values, such as intelligence, openness, honesty, friendship, individuality, humor, etc, whatever matters to you the most. Obviously you need some time to determine your values first. Ask yourself. Is the subject of your decision reflecting the values you appreciate the most?

  • Is this company (offering you a job) having similar values to the ones you have?
  • Is the neighborhood and the community around the house you consider supporting the values that are important to you?
  • Is this bag / jacket / computer / TV set helping you to develop the values that matter to you?

Find it out.

Yes/No guiding system

Another practical way to look at your decision option is to pay attention to the signals and subtle cues from the body. Your body will communicate with you how you  feel about each choice. If you are congruent with the decision then you will experience the positive ““Yes” in your body.  Otherwise, in case of mismatch, you will experience the “No”.

How do you tell the difference?

Stand up and think about something that you really dislike, such as spiders, cleaning the house or talking to strangers. Thinking about it should make you emotionally upset.

How do you know that you do NOT like it?

Answer these questions:

  • If you are seeing a scene in your mental eye, how does it look like? (Is it bright or dark, occupying the whole space, what are the shapes, etc)
  • If you are telling yourself about it or hearing it in your mental ear where does your voice originate from? Whose voice is it? (You at the age of 15, your boss etc)
  • What is your general feeling? (Tension, compression, gloom)
  • What is your posture? (How are your shoulders or feet positioned? Where is your head pointing to?)
  • Where is your gravity center? (Head, chest etc)
  • How do you breathe? (Short, shallow etc)
  • Where do you feel discomfort in your body? (Lungs, chest, stomach, shoulders)
  • What are the sensations you experience? (Goose bumps, butterflies in your stomach etc)

Just feel the sensations. Intensify them by thinking about even more horrible circumstances concerning the thing you dislike. Remember the sensations.

Breathe a few times in and out and then repeat the same for the Yes-guidance.

Stand up and imagine something that you really enjoy, e.g. drinking delicious smoothie, resting in a sun, playing volleyball, painting, etc

How do you know that you like it while you are thinking about it?

Answer these questions:

  • If you are seeing a scene in your mental eye, how does it look like?
  • If you are telling yourself about it or hearing it in your mental ear where does your voice originate from?
  • What is your general feeling? (Ease, expansion, joy)
  • What is your posture? (How are your shoulders positions, feet, where head is pointing etc)
  • Where is your gravity center? (Abdomen, tummy)
  • How do you breathe?  (Deep, long, etc)
  • How do you feel joy / comfort in in your body? (Sensations in the  lungs, chest, stomach, etc)
  • What are the sensations you experience? (Thrill of excitement, tickling in your stomach, open shoulders etc)

Be as detailed as possible.

In these Yes/No situations above, the image you see will usually be in a different place and differ in qualities, colors, use of light etc.  When you talk to yourself about a particular thing that you enjoy, this voice  will be different from the voice about the thing you dislike. You need to pay attention to tonality, speed or volume. Your perceptions and feelings will be different in both situations. Your posture will be different. And so on.

Notice the differences and remember them.

Next time pay attention to your body cues and you will know which decision to make.

The need for a change

You can use the guidance above to find out whether you are in agreement with yourself concerning the daily issues: house you live in, job you have, clothes you wear etc. It is the first step to admit that some things around you are perhaps not like you. You may have overgrown them and you need a change.

Be honest and admit this to yourself. It is all right not to know what to do next yet or how to improve. When you admit the truth to yourself, you empower yourself to start searching. Explore actively and you will find out what to do.

Summary

It is possible that your decision will not be good. And this is all right because your goal is not to make optimal decisions. You cannot judge them beforehand.

Your goal is to make conscious and effective decisions that support you in your personal growth. If your future-Self is unhappy with the decision or its results, you can make a new decision by incorporating whay you have learned on the way. Since your decisions are fast, you gain extra time and a free mind to experiment and learn how to improve your decision making.  And with practice, you will master it.

Time is now.  Effective decisions are yours to live by.

***

§Note that there is a difference between efficiency and effectiveness.  Efficiency is to do things right, i.e. use the time well for doing the tasks. Effectiveness is to do the right things, i.e. things that matter and things that produce results. And it is a fundamental difference.

***

A series of posts on decision making

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