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How to Make Good Decisions

For many, making a decision is one of the hardest challenges presented by life. It need not be. The very fact we are faced with decisions emphasizes our very special gift of free will. Without free will we would be mere automata, biological machines going through the motions. Consciousness without meaning or purpose.

So, why is decision making so difficult? Perhaps because of imperfect knowledge. We cannot know in advance how each option will “pan out”.

Perhaps because making a choice means by definition the rejection of one or more previously existing potentialities. It’s comfortable to have choices. Making a decision means closing doors.

Being faced with decisions is a very real reminder that we are more than flesh and blood, atoms and molecules. We are Spiritual beings temporarily clothed in flesh. Although subject to the constraints of physical existence we maintain responsibility for, and control over, our personal destiny.

When faced with a decision remember two things.

Firstly that being in that position is a marvelous privilege. It demonstrates our power to make a difference, to ourselves and the universe as a whole, through the exercise of conscious intent.

Secondly, difficult as decision making may seem, it is unavoidable. To try to ride two horses at once is to fall flat on one’s back.

A Rational – Intuitive Decision Making Model

Our decision making process tends to work in one of two ways, referred to metaphorically as the head and the heart. The head is associated with the conscious, rational, logical, thought-based approach. The heart is associated the subconscious, gut-feeling, intuitive approach.

Making decisions with the head involves listing the pros and cons of each option and associating (numerical) values and weights to each identified factor. It involves concepts such as best case, worst case and most likely scenarios, and the assignment of probabilities to each.

Here’s one rational approach to decision making.

First identify what factors are important to you in the outcome of the decision. Eg if it’s a decision about moving house you might be concerned about the safety of your new neighborhood, commuting time to work, local school quality and the condition of the house (amongst other things). A real decision could involve many more factors than this.

Next list the available options. Don’t forget the “do nothing” option, if applicable.

Now decide how important each of the factors is. Formalize your priorities by allocating 100 units of weight among the factors you identified. It might help if you first rank them in order of importance before allocating scores. For example, let’s say 35, 10, 35, 20 reflect the relative importance you attach to safety, commute, schools and house condition.

Then, for each factor allocate 100 units of score among each of the choices, according to how well it satisfies the factor. Eg you might allocate 25, 30, 25, 20 among houses A, B, C, D with regards to safety.

Finally, multiply the house scores for each factor by the weight of the factor, and find the total for each house. The house with the greatest score represents the best choice (rationally speaking). (NB: to check your math, the sum of the totals should be 10,000).

It’s probably easiest to carry out this process using a spreadsheet such as Microsoft Excel, as shown below.

Decision model

If time permits it’s good to carry out this process over several sessions. Our minds are often subject to momentary (but unimportant) emotional noise. By returning to the task on a number of occasions this noise is likely to be cancelled out, leaving what’s truly important to our constant essence.

Making decisions with the heart involves listening to the voice within. Visualizing each of the choices and its implications, noticing the feelings associated with each. Possibly even observing your dreams, after asking your subconscious for guidance.

Both the head and the heart have their place in decision making. When both are in accord the choice is easy. But what happens when the head says one thing and the heart says another? In such cases it’s almost always best to follow the heart – unless the head’s verdict is very very clear, and the heart somewhat less so.

Taking counsel from others is something that some feel inclined to do. There is certainly no harm in seeking to benefit from others’ experience, but don’t use friends or relatives as a means of abdicating personal responsibility. There are no absolute right or wrong choices. The best choice for you is dependent on your particular characteristics and circumstances. So listen to the advice of others by all means, but only you can make the final decision.

Don’t make such a big deal over decision making. There isn’t just one route that fulfills our life purpose, but many. Each is slightly different, offering slightly different experiences and opportunities. But each leading to the same ultimate destination, and of the same Spiritual merit.

Don’t seek perfection in this world. We are born imperfect, into an imperfect universe. Whichever way we turn is inevitably flawed. But whichever way we turn brings opportunity to learn and grow. Make your choices to the best of your ability, follow them through to the best of your ability. Be glad you have the power to choose, and learn what you can from the choices you make.

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