Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How to make good decisions

When my nephew was 9, he came home with a homework assignment that struck me. The teacher was trying to emphasize a linear thought process in decision-making so kids could learn how to accept responsibility for their actions. It required asking yourself 5 simple questions.

5 Questions for Decision Making:
1. What are your thoughts?

2. How do those thoughts make you feel?

3. When you feel those feelings, how do you want to act?

4. What would the consequences be for those actions?

5. Are those consequences you like?
Whoa. Read ANY news story and imagine if they'd gone through this process first -- would there even be a story? I mean, apply it to anything: road rage, bullying, cheating, lying, overspending, drunk driving, exceeding the cat limit, avoiding laundry, acting mean, being self-righteous, cluttering your car, overeating... I mean, all kinds of things that can cause trouble and regrets.

What if everyone did this?

They were teaching my nephew this in 4th grade. It's such a simple concept that it can be taught to 9 year olds yet how many people actually do this?

It can be tough to manage intense feelings. You make good decisions when you are not struggling with your feelings. It's one reason why it's so easy to see what your best friend should do but not yourself: you're not clouded by feelings.

What do you do when you are beside yourself? When you are lost, scared, lonely, raging, lovesick, heartbroken, uncertain, bewildered, or overwhelmed?
"Make good art." 
~ Neil Gaiman

It's about escape sometimes, isn't it? Look at the biggest industries in America: food, entertainment, sex, drugs.... we all want escape. It's because it can be tough managing intense feelings. What do you do with sadness, rage, loneliness, despair? There are good outlets and bad outlets, but there MUST be outlets. Make good art.

Carolyn Hax writes:
"I think the topic of escaping pain has broader application, since pain avoidance takes so many forms: drinking, drugs, affairs, compulsive shopping/eating/dieting, compulsive exercise or sex, or over-the-top involvement in this or that, organizing and collecting and baking under the auspices of various worthy causes. Workaholics and over-involved parents fit here, too. Some people invest more time in their pets than they do the humans in their lives. I think pain drives more behavior than we realize, and so it’s useful to look at our choices occasionally with their pain-relief potential in mind. It’s also a compassionate way to look at some difficult people in our lives, just by asking, “Is s/he in pain, too?”" ~ Carolyn Hax


  1. Shouldn't #5 be "Are those consequences you like?" ?

  2. You're right, and I'm going to change this now -- I'd copied it straight from his homework but your version is more accurate. (For anyone reading this after the change, the original read: "5. Are those actions you like?")