Or maybe you’re standing in front of your closet on Monday morning, running late for work, and you don’t know whether to dress up or down, as you know you’re going to be shredding files.
Here it is Wednesday already, Hump Day, and you have a pile of assignments, all with their respective deadlines (i.e., yesterday…), and you don’t know how to prioritize them.
It’s Thursday already? Okay. It’s Thursday, and you’re agonizing over whether to watch reruns or look for a good movie. Oh wait a minute! You were supposed to write that PR for a friend’s upcoming poetry collection so the publisher can make THEIR deadline.
Friday. Thank the four corners of the galaxy that it’s Friday, where all you have to decide is whether or not to reheat leftovers or head down to The Blue Parrot for a fish taco and a Margarita sin sal. You’ve already decided to focus on that novel gathering dust. No–wait a minute! There’s that novel for Sam’s Dot Publishing you promised to finish by month’s end and it’s already the beginning of the next month.
Then it’s Saturday, and you’re staring at your 565 unread emails wondering if you should just delete them all.
And that’s just one week out of fifty-two…
Life is about decision-making isn’t it? As I’ve said before, if you’re not up to the task of thinking for yourself, there is “always” someone out there willing to make decisions for you… But doesn’t that choice come with a hefty price tag? Are you willing to give up control? In what areas of your life might this really work for you?
Yet another decision to be made…
While the “picture this” scenario at the beginning of this column portrays a mixture of decisions to be made, what is at the heart of the decision-making process? How are we taught to weigh and measure, to make choices, to refrain from the proverbial “bad” decisions and to embrace the so-called “good”? How many times have you heard someone attempt to defend their position on something (e.g., remaining in a dead-end job; signing up for a college major that they’re not interested in but hey, it’s supposed to pay well and there’s a demand for it; living with roommates when you really want your own place; and so forth) only to have one of those well-meaning others say: and how is that working for you?
Maybe it does work for you… But what if it doesn’t?
Then there’s The Monkey-See-Monkey-Do phenomenon? Get on that bandwagon! I mean come on… if everybody is doing it (e.g., going skydiving; hanging out at 24-hour Fitness; becoming a Vegan), then why aren’t you?
But what occurs when we regret a decision made, a decision not made? I think the phrase, “life’s too short”, has become the new “whatever”. There seems to be a rampant cultural “trend” to do what you want to when you want to and who cares what anyone else thinks or wants or needs… Hey—life’s too short, right?
What happens when our decisions—or the lack thereof—impact others? Like voting, for example. Or paying the utility bill… Or getting divorced or remarried or having children.
I recently discovered a site titled Mind Tools: Essential Tools for an Excellent Career, where Pareto Analysis is defined and discussed. While this is a career site, and the focus of this section appears to be managerial tools, aren’t we are own life managers?
Basically, you realize that you want to and/or need to make some changes (e.g., such as how to be a more effective decision-maker). How do you know what to address? How do you solve the equation?
According to Pareto Analysis, which “is a formal technique for finding the changes that will give the biggest benefits”. The primary principle here is stated as being “the idea that by doing 20% of work you can generate 80% of the advantage of doing the entire job”.
The article suggests that from here, you would make a list of everything that needs to be addressed, categorize accordingly, and then score it based on profitability, customer satisfaction, and so forth. I think that this method is definitely a no-brainer; however, once these lists are made, categorized, and scored, action is needed, isn’t it? We can make lists. negotiate, mediate, discuss, and plan, but if we don’t combine praxis with theory, if we don’t put these plans into action, we’re right where we started from—aren’t we?
I am reminded of my former Kung Fu teacher, Jungsee Rich Robson, who used to say, “where the mind goes, the body follows…” Sage words, these, but no doubt some of you might be thinking that this is all so esoteric, and not for the proverbial (and non-existent in my book) “average” person. Think again. Why not conduct an experiment? Pick something simple at first, like making a list of all the things you’re good at. How does your body feel? Your mind? (It’s an integrated system, you know.) Do you feel inspired—or perhaps more inclined—to repeat those actions? Now make a list of all those things you’ve been avoiding for whatever reason? How does your body feel? Your mind? Now add to that list the reasons why you haven’t finished those things (e.g., tax prep, looking for a new job, reading up on election ballot issues, engaging in physical activity, etc.). Now add to that list possible ways to complete these tasks… Think inside and outside the box. What are you thinking now? Feeling? Deciding?
Explore further and repeat as necessary…
I suppose this is one of my long-winded ways of asking a very simple question: why don’t people engage in critical thinking on a more regular basis? Okay. Perhaps the question is really why don’t people like to think? Okay. Why don’t people think? Sure, there’s cognitive processes going on. Basic stuff like I think I need to get up now and go to work… But what I’m talking about is the proclivity (and many of my readers have asked me this question—made this comment—repeatedly…) to avoid serious thinking. Critical thinking. Thinking about major issues—and not whether you should wear comfy shoes or those three-inch-spiked heels when you check out that new over-priced wine bar Monday night. Why not put on your thrashed-out boots and head down to Winston’s for some live music, have a Guinness, or two… or three…
True, I am told constantly—and consistently—that “people like me” (whatever that’s supposed to mean) think too much and over analyze. One very cerebral friend of mine goes so far to say that life doesn’t have to be so hard… This always gets me thinking about Occam’s Razor, which according to F. Heylighen, is:
The principle states that one should not make more assumptions than the minimum needed. This principle is often called the principle of parsimony. It underlies all scientific modelling [error in the original] and theory building. It admonishes us to choose from a set of otherwise equivalent models of a given phenomenon the simplest one. In any given model, Occam’s razor helps us to “shave off” those concepts, variables or constructs that are not really needed to explain the phenomenon. By doing that, developing the model will become much easier, and there is less chance of introducing inconsistencies, ambiguities and redundancies.
So how might a theory posed by and attributed to a medieval philosopher, William of Ockam, assist us with our thinking today? I’ll leave you to ponder that… Just remember that when faced with several possibilities, to look for the simplest, the most obvious, solution—and then put it into practice!
And remember, time is one of our greatest resources!