Effective decision-making can take some practice

“I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would chose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.” — Sylvia Plath, “The Bell Jar”

Psychologist William James said, “There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision.”

Fear of making the wrong decision is one of the reasons that many people hesitate when faced with a choice. Some people ride the fence when it comes to decision-making, not wanting to be accountable if a decision is wrong.

Snap decisions aren’t necessarily a good thing either. Sometimes we need a little time to think things over, gather more information and weigh the facts. There comes a time when no matter how much information you have, or how much logic you apply, the decision isn’t going to get any easier.

Marty Rubin summed it up by saying, “If you always think before you act, you’ll never get off the couch.”

Indecision can sometimes become decision by default. If we decide not to decide, we give up our power of choice. Everyone can learn to make decisions, just like we learn how to drive a car.

I had a friend who was a psychologist. I loved visiting with him. In upcoming articles, I will share with you some of the things he taught me. (No charge for his professional advice.) He believes it is not healthy for a mind to continually be in a state of indecision. He taught me a very simple procedure that I have used many times. Some of you might already use it too.

He told me when I cannot make a decision, I should get a piece of paper and draw a line down the center. On one side, I should list the pros and the other side the cons. Sounds too simple? Sometimes all these thoughts race around in our minds, and it is difficult to separate them. It is amazing how clear a decision can become if you look at your thoughts on paper. When I make a list, which I have done in both my personal and work-related decisions, the answer always jumps out at me.

As the teller department manager at Citizens Bank, I worked with a wonderful group of employees. I know most workplaces tell employees to leave their personal problems at home.

Well, I can tell you, I always knew when something was wrong with one of “my work family.” Sometimes an employee would come into my office to tell me about a problem, and occasionally, when I noticed someone with a change in personality, I would ask if I could help.

Their problems ranged from if they should buy a house, break up with a boyfriend, get a loan, ask for a divorce, get a pet, change jobs etc. I could not make their decisions for them, nor did I know what was best for them. However, I often encouraged them to analyze their situation, gather facts and then to make a decision-making list. The results were amazing.

Personal problems often affect an employee’s work performance. Helping them deal with problems might not always be an answer, but I believed it was worth the effort. The same held true with my city of Shawano work family.

If you have problems making decisions, like anything, you need to practice. Start making small decisions every day without asking for opinions. As little things come up throughout the day, practice making faster decisions. Unless it’s a big decision, don’t put it off. Give yourself a time limit and decide. Often, going with your “gut feeling” is the right thing to do. Trust yourself and your instincts.

Sometimes decisions can seem overwhelming, actually bigger than they really are. Remind yourself that many decisions are reversible. For example, you can’t decide what job to accept. If you take a job and you really don’t like it, you can always look for another one. Try not to take the decision more seriously than you need to.

Pope Benedict XVI said, “Evil draws its power from indecision and concern for what other people think.”

I took a chance on writing an article about decision-making. Some of you may enjoy the article and some of you might not. I stand by my decision. Make yours a good day!

Answer to last week’s question: Prior to becoming Thimke Jewelers, the site was the Wavrunek Harness Shop.

This week’s question: What Shawano graduate won first place in the 1973 National Wheelchair Archery competition?

Lorna Marquardt is a former mayor of Shawano.