4. Decision Making

On a daily basis, we all are faced with making decisions of one sort or another. We all have to make decisions all the time, ranging from trivial issues right up to life-changing decisions. Most decisions made on a daily basis one might put in the category of insignificant decisions which certainly do affect our personal lives. Some of these decisions are not only important to ourselves, but to our families, friends and community. We all have made good and poor choices.

In our youth decisions are made for us by our mother or father or perhaps another guardian. This might be other family members, teachers, religious leaders or other like individuals who are concerned with our welfare. This is a very normal process for us as young children. As young children we do not have the capabilities to filter information properly and decide for ourselves. Most parents have long understood that kids don’t have the judgment, the maturity, the impulse control and insight necessary to make complicated lifelong decisions so they make decisions for their children and this is proper. This is true, there does come a time as we age and grow within our own intellect where we are able and should break away from being told what is right and wrong, what is good or bad for us taking the responsibility of decision-making. This does not mean that the information and guidance that we received in our youth should not play in our future decision-making process. If we do not take control of our lives and the decisions that are made by us, we have given way to being controlled by others. We are stuck in the mud when it comes to our belief systems which may include our ideologies which were inbred in us during our formative non-decision-making years. We become an easy target for the spin doctors, and the very large and powerful advertising media within our nation. Money and power control this process and we find that we are little more than pawns on a chessboard moved around by the powerful and wealthy.

My mother, a very wise woman, said to me many times; “Ira listen to the ‘Still Small Voice’ within yourself.” I believe she was speaking of what most referred to as intuition. Some may speak of this as a ‘gut feeling’. Others may see it as a more metaphysical message sent to us from a ‘higher power’. Mom would add to this advice with the statement that if your motives are right the message that you received from that ‘Still Small Voice’ will lead you to the proper decision to be made. I must admit that although I did attempt to gather the information that would be necessary to make decisions that were needed, my final conclusion to the action that I would take did come from mom’s ‘Still Small Voice’. Many times the result of this was that although my motives were honest as well is good the results that came from the decision that was made by me was not a happy one. Perhaps that ‘Still Small Voice’ was wrong or perhaps I was just not listening to it properly.

There are various techniques that can be applied during the process of decision making. The method used depends on the nature of the decision to be made. Most wise decisions are made through acquiring knowledge. The more knowledgeable you are, the better chance will be that the decision made will be a productive and wise one, however the collection of too much information may lead to stagnation and no action being taken at all. If you don’t make a choice, life will make it for you and then you’re stuck with what others may choose as your destiny. Do not be afraid to make decisions, do not be afraid to make mistakes.

John Dewey wrote; “A problem well-defined is a problem half solved.” Simply stated he is advising us that before a decision can be made one must understand what our determination is based on, and what are the choices we have in making the decision. Robert H. Schuller wrote; “Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come.” And I might add quick decisions made in anger most times end in regret.

Ben Franklin wrote concerning how he made decisions as quoted here; “My way is to divide half a sheet of paper by a line into two columns; writing over the one Pro and over the other Con. Then, during three or four days’ consideration, I put down under the different heads, short hints of the different motives, that at different time occur to me, for or against the measure. When I have thus got them altogether in one view, I endeavor to estimate their respective weights; and where I find two, one on each side, that seem equal, I strike them both out. If I judge some two reasons con equal to some three reasons pro, I strike out five; and thus proceeding, I find where the balance lies; and if after a day or two of further consideration, nothing new that is of importance occurs on either side, I come to a determination accordingly.

When I was making my living in the sales business I used this method teaching it to my sales people as a selling tool. I would ask my sales people to ask the client to use the Ben Franklin decision sheet listing what would be the advantages to either purchase the product offered or not purchase the product. After the client did this the conclusion that the client came to was a logical conclusion made. It was their decision and not the decision of the sales person. The sale was either made or not made with no, or at least, little need for rebuttal as was the case in most sales presentations. It worked! If we were offering a product or service that the client really needed or had use for the sale was made. If the client found that the cons were greater than the pros I strongly felt that the sale should not have been made and in turn felt that as a sales team we were offering an honest and needed product or service.

Outside of working in the sales field I have used this method of decision making to form my own decisions that had to made. What I found to be true in the use of this method of decision making is that it was important that I took my emotional feelings out of the process as much as it was possible which is not an easy thing to do. We all, I believe, go into the process of making decisions with a lot of baggage that is not at all times logically based on facts.

Most individuals in this now busy world does not have the time to spend doing deep research, obtaining facts needed to make most decisions yet facts are easy to now come upon presently and are surly an aid to conclusions desired. When using this Ben Franklin decision method, it is not just important to list the cons and pros, but as well to rate each item on the lists as to the importance to the decision maker. This is what Ben Franklin did.

A good example of a decision to be made is who one might support and vote for in the coming presidential election. I myself may find that I agree with one individual more than another, yet do not agree with all of that candidate’s views. I believe that this is common to most voters yet their decision on who to support is based too often on one or two emotional preset opinions which are too often enforced by media and personality.

Do I believe that most American voters will use this simple method of decision making at least searching out facts to come to their personal reasonable and logical conclusion – I do not! This is true, I do believe that if our nation and its people really desire a more representative and fair solution to our present national problems, and there are many of them, the voter should go into the voting booth armed with needed facts and a reasonable decision making process which will leave the individual voter in control of his/her destiny.

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