Decisions…. Decisions

Decisions are relentless.

They can sometimes be the fleeting thought that is processed in the gut, or the grey matter that hovers around, sucking energy from us.

They can follow us through life and replay in our minds or appear casual, flippant and maybe even relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

But there is no denying the power they have to direct our lives and the lives of others. Like an intricate web, our decisions steer us in a multitude of varying alternate pathways and play out in a ‘Choose your own Adventure’ narrative, that is our life.

So this week, with a few bigger decisions than usual to be made in our household, it got me wondering about the significant role decision-making  plays in all our lives and the power it has in determining not just our future, but our present state of affairs.

So, how do we go about making decisions?

Well, there is no end to the research and psychological studies on this topic and a great place to start is Dan Gilbert’s TED talk ‘Why we make bad decisions’.

‘The only thing that could destroy us is our decisions’ Dan Gilbert

When faced with a decision we often do one or a combination of the following:

  • Weigh up the pros and cons, do a bit of background ‘research’
  • Go with our gut – supposedly trusting our ‘instincts’ is something no one can define, but we all are capable of
  • Ruminate on it with a trusted friend
  • Look back to our past, drag up memories of experiences where we’ve faced a similar situation.

These are all pretty much common place go to’s when making at least some of our more ‘important’ decisions, like whether or not to purchase a house or move to another country.

But in truth, there are many hidden aspects to decision-making that have just as much power in steering us towards certain thoughts and then actions.

Who we are, affects the type of decisions we make

Now this probably comes as no surprise to you, but for me (at least) it provided an ‘Uh ha!’ moment.

According to Herbert Simon there are ‘Satisficers’, those who are happy to approach decisions with the view to opting for a satisfactory or ‘adequate’ solution.

This is me; ‘should I have a piece of chocolate cake?’ Weigh up some odds ‘not very healthy for me, but mmmm so damn tasty’. Consider some consequences ‘will I feel happier partaking in a little treat?‘, then make decision ‘Go on then’ …. eat cake.

And then there are ‘Maximizers’, those who require perfection, nothing but an exhaustive search is optimal to reach a decision and then, they still deliberate on whether they really made the best choice after all.

Can I know how many calories are in that cake first? Will I be having cake later in the week anyway? Will I feel guilty while eating it and therefore negate any enjoyment I might achieve while consuming it? Uhhhh

Maybe it looks good, but doesn’t actually taste good! Is cake what I really want right now? Is it $6 I could be saving to go towards that holiday I’d rather have?

Fascinating to note here that Satisficers often feel happy or ‘satisfied’ with their decisions, while Maximizers tend to feel regretful post decision-making.

I’ll admit that placing ourselves into these two finite categories of decision makers, ‘Satisficers’ V ‘Maximizers’ is not ideal, but it did make me laugh a little when I pondered which categories my husband and I more commonly fitted in to.

It now makes sense why he ruminates on them, and I’m too flippant making them……decisions, that is.

Quality control

There is of course the whole issue of ‘uncertainty’ like an umbrella, overarching all decision.

When making a decision we are inevitably basing it on an event that is yet to take place, so of course the element of the unknown can be enough for some of us to place a decision in the ‘too-hard’ basket, before we’ve really even begun.

Likewise, the notion that once a decision is made, it is somewhat irreversible, can send even the most free-spirited thinker into their quiet corner.

“The truth is that for the most important decisions, there can be no certainty” Malcolm Gladwell ‘Blink’.

We may think the more time and effort spent making a decision, the better off we’ll be with the outcome.

But Malcolm Gladwell argues in his book ‘Blink’ that sometimes it is those snap decisions, made in the blink of an eye, (still with a degree of education and control), which can be just as valid and ‘good’ as those made cautiously and over time.

Then there is that ‘fifth dimension’, that ‘unexplainable’ part that makes up us. The unconscious, unpredictable, somewhat symbolic responses that can influence our decisions.

We don’t know why we did it really, we just did. Or we come up with an elaborate story to justify our decision, but at the heart of it, we really can’t explain why we did that.

According to Gladwell, “people are ignorant of the things that affect their actions, yet they rarely feel ignorant. We need to accept our ignorance and say ‘I don’t know’ more often.” I like this.

So, what next?

Maybe just accepting that we can’t know or have it all, is the starting point to avoiding a meltdown while making a decision.

Maybe knowing a little better who we are and what ultimately matters to us, can allow us to feel more in control during the decision-making process.

But, as I’ve discovered (yet again…. the hard way) this week, a lot of this doesn’t help a great deal when the decision is not yours alone to make and you live with a ‘Maximizer’.

Why You’ll Learn More About Yourself, Thanks To Kids

Arguably one of life’s greatest mysteries is understanding who we are and why we are here.

Heavy stuff I know, but at the heart of it all, it’s true. Whoever we may be.

Over the years, I’ve cheated… quiet a bit in this area.

I’m a little embarrassed to confess to reading my fair share of self-help books (some ridiculously cheesy), watched enough Oprah in her hey-day to be considered ‘sad’ and listened to quite a few inspirational speakers, all in an effort to make me feel as though I was learning something about who I was.

I’d travelled, lived and worked abroad and changed careers a few times. Couple that with the shirking of some nasty fears along the way and it felt like at least, a culmination of personal experiences counted for some extra points on the ‘life path’ ladder.

For a fleeting moment there, I felt like it was all coming together. I knew who I was and where I was going.

Hha ha, I hear you snigger. Yes, that was all BC (Before Children). Such a long, long way back… or so it seems.

Kids are soooooo many things: cute, cuddly, annoying, destructive, loving, creative, emotional, demanding, dirty, loud and the list goes on. But what I never took them for were Teachers.

If you’re around them long enough, often enough, either in a parental capacity, Aunt or Uncle, teacher or tutor, they inevitably have this profound ability to teach you more about yourself, than anything else ever could.

I wanted to acknowledge just some of the invaluable life lessons all our kids teach us.

You won’t find these in any self-help book. There’s possibly not even a TED talk about it yet, but here they are. And credit, where credits due, I give thanks to the amazing little teachers my three boys are.

  1. Practicing patience – I use to practice yoga, now I just practice patience….every minute of everyday. While I’m not often perfect in its execution, I’m pleased to say I’m at least practicing it daily…actually every minute of each day. (Did I say that already?) Road rage is a thing of the past, when you’ve now got screaming kids in the back car laying into one another over who gets to eat the last two raisins, recently discovered hiding between the car seats.
  2. Discovering how much you have to give – even when you’re running pretty much on empty…….2 days ago, there seems to be a reservoir of forgiveness, love and compassion for your kids, that remains hidden deep below. I think this sometimes manages to infiltrate into other areas of our lives too. Perhaps it’s in the early stages of becoming my default setting…..or so I’d like to think.
  3. Learning the real value of things – the absolute truth of it is that kids don’t really care about ‘stuff’ or ‘things’. They care most about the time and attention you can afford them. Humans interaction is their currency.
  4. The importance of looking after ourselves – because the idea of eating Kale and devising several ways to serve it up to your kids, would never have occurred to you prior to being a parent. You now know it’s nutritional value and are quite happy to quote this information to whomever should ask…..or not ask.
  5. Being silly is good – laughing at yourself is one of life’s simple pleasures and kids certainly know how to bring out the buffoon in us all. The child that accidentally farted at the dinner table, has turned a hectic weekday meal into a competition of epic proportions and allowed for thrilling dinner time entertainment, all for free.
  6. Discovering where your real breaking point is – forget the stress of work! It’s a big stress most of the time trying to look after kids. There is no time for private retreats to the toilet, no such things as an ‘easy’ day and you’re effectively their Personal Assistant night and day. Your personal pressure point has somewhat shifted to allowed for increased variables in what can and does go unplanned in any given day.
  7. OMG look how resourceful I can be!- makeshift nappies -I can do, outstripped food supplies – no problem, bruised bloodied limbs – I’m your registered nurse, tantrum trouble – a constant counselor I’m learning to be and happy to say, making personal steady progress in the anger management department.

From kids we learn more about ourselves, than we ever could on our adult own. We might raise them, care for them and even teach them, but they’re really the ones offering us something special…. amidst all the chaos!

 

A Functioning Society Needs Women

Some days offer up a chance for reflection, some for action and some for simple acknowledgment of just what is.

Of course, we can do all of these things in ONE day.

As society acknowledged ‘International Women’s Day’, it encouraged me to reflect on what that means and prompted a stirring admiration for all the women, I am fortunate to know.

There are many wonderful humans out there, who just happen to be women.

Here’s a chance to acknowledge their humble lives, reflect on their unfailing contribution to community and shout from the rooftops that they are the ones who arguably make up the most meaningful part of our society.

They may not be the ones in the limelight, hitting the headlines or with massive influence, but their ‘ordinary’ existence amongst the everyday is exactly what makes them worthy of our appreciation and support.

They are the fabric of our society; the ones really running the show from behind the curtain. The ones keeping the family functioning, collaborating in community groups, volunteering their time in schools and libraries.

They are the ones who more often than not, deal with the multitude of dilemmas that child-rearing can bring; picking up poo, placating screaming toddlers, racing round with drop-offs and pick-ups, remembering birthdays and organising a household.

They are the ones who can magnificently multitask, despite feeling frequently overwhelmed; working in a paid professional capacity AND unpaid at home.

They are our mothers; selfless, loving, unfailing (although we all know they’re tired too) and brave.

They are our sisters; accepting, compassionate, candid.

They are our daughters; affectionate, sensitive, energetic.

They are our friends; supportive, dependable, perceptive.

But the one trait all women seem to share, is generosity. An unassuming willingness to give to others, without which I think it’s fair to say, our society simply would not function.

To all the women out there, Thank you.