The art of good decisions in a world of excess choices

Do you know there is an art, or skill to making good decisions? 

In a world where the buffet of choices and opportunities is expanding exponentially, how well you make decisions dramatically influences your life.  If it is important for us, as adults, then it’s even more important for our children. Getting good at this is a core gift to pass on to our children.  Access to opportunities is a wonderful gift and brings with it certain costs that are powerful to be aware of. 

Everyone has 24 hours in a day

How you spend your day is up to your values, priorities and what feels important.  While in times gone by it may have been easy to choose between watching live sport, a movie, series or animal planet.  Now you have Netflix, Showmax, apple TV, DSTV etc….  

The reality of this is that in the past it was an easy choice between what you like and what you don’t.  Now it’s between what you like or value a lot, a little and just a little bit less.  

And if we don’t consciously make these choices our schedules cram themselves to overflow. Suddenly in the overflow and abundance our lives are leaking joy at the seams and we barely recognise the parent or human we are.   If we pause and reflect we may discover we are unconsciously making choices that are taking us further away from the life we want to live.  

 Here are four simple ways to begin being intentional with your decisions making muscle.  Begin firstly with applying one, maximum two and see how it goes. 

1.  Get clear on what your values are

It’s important to know what matters to you most.  Those things that in the big or very still moments of life you know are closest to your heart.  Then there are also the character values that are core to who we are.  If the core values of our home are kindness, collaboration & service it is likely the choices we make will be very different from another home where the values are adventure, growth and fun.   And that’s the point.  Not that there is a wrong and right set of values it’s that they reflect what matters to you and your family.  The powerful thing is when you or your children are faced with decisions or choices you get to run them by your values and this helps guide your decisions.  

2.  Tune into your body wisdom

How often can you sense somewhere inside the discomfort when you’re saying yes to something that isn’t in integrity for you.  We even say it just doesn’t feel right.  I, for instance, get a knot in my stomach.  Our bodies are powerful ways for us to know in the moment if something is outside of what is true for us. Many of us adults have been taught to ignore this but it’s still there.  The younger we help our children learn to tune into their body's wisdom the less they have to unlearn.  When you’re chatting about decisions, help kids notice if they think of one option how they feel? Maybe lighter, more ease? or perhaps heavier? Tense? tight? Test it. It’s powerful.

3.  Make a real assessment of the costs and benefits

Costs and benefits include not just actions but mental and emotional costs of choices.  Sometimes decisions have short-term costs for long-term benefits and these take courage and an understanding that decisions don’t always suit us in the immediate.  For example; choosing to say no in the short term knowing the discontent a child will experience immediately yet strongly believing the long-term benefits of the decision are worth it. Your 10 year old may be begging to load Instagram and you weigh up the costs and benefits including their argument that they will be left out socially and only then you make your decision versus going with your immediate reaction.  It’s worth sharing your thinking with your children in an age-appropriate way so they can begin to develop the Emotional Intelligence skill of consequential thinking.

4.  Review the choices you make

The power in reflection is even in making poor decisions, we gain something when we join the dots between the choices we make and the results.   It is through review that we can see if we are moving closer or further away from where we want to be.  Often it is in making choices that are out of alignment with our values or don’t work out that we begin to make better choices.  And it is powerful for our children to learn about accounting for their decisions when the consequences are smaller.  Sleeping late. Leaving lunch boxes. Not doing homework. Rather than later when choices relate to safety, substances and sexuality. Accountability can only be learnt through being accountable. It is so important to reflect with you our children and help them dot-join.  Did that work out how you’d hoped? How would you do it differently if you could do it again?  What learning can we take from this situation and use in the future?

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