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Help Me Decide, Please.

Of all the vexing challenges we face, deciding what and how to decide is among the worst.


Think about it. Chicken or fish? Yes or no? How about "maybe"?

Ever since we began to make up our own mind we have been faced with options. Choices. Decisions.


Small, big, unknown - they are always there.


Millions of them. Literally. Here is the math.


If you make 1 decision a minute, such as "I want to put that in my mouth" at 10 months old or "let's have pasta for dinner" at age 35, in just 12 waking hours you will have made that is 720 decisions a day. In a week it becomes 5,040, in a month over 20,000 and in just one year over 260,000. So, by age 35 a typical person has made over 9 million decisions.


Yet that is way too low an estimate.


Realistically, we make WAY more than 1 decision a minute and most of us are awake more than 12 hours a day. Some estimates are that we make 35,000 decisions a day, an amazing 12.75 million decisions a year. In other words, other than our heartbeat, our most frequent actions are to breathe and make decisions.


Many of us do not give the process of deciding much thought. We learn this ability by osmosis, just by doing. It is rarely taught in schools. Like our heartbeat and breathing, decision making comes naturally.


What if there are simple ways to improve such an important and frequent activity that makes such a huge difference in our life?


Decide like you Breathe


Mindfulness, the practice of intentional self awareness, has exploded in popularity in recent years.


A core aspect of mindfulness is attention to our breath. Awareness and conscious attention to how we breathe has been credited by researchers as having many, significant health benefits.


See original articles here: Science Direct, Frontiers in Psychology, Harvard Health Publishing, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.


Emotionless decision making is attributed to the fictional Vulcan's or android Mr. Data of the entertainment franchise Star Trek fame.


Only mentally ill humans are capable of purely unemotional decisions, typically diagnosed with schizoid personality disorder or psychopathy.



So what is a passionate person with normal emotions to do to make better decisions?


Learn to decide like you can learn to breathe.


Similar research on mindfulness and decision making shows the power and benefit gained from applying the skills of mindfulness to our ways of making decisions.


Fast Company, Insead, Psychology Today, Psychology.


Mindfulness challenges us to be aware of something we are usually unconscious about. That is as true of decisions as it is of breathing. Remember, we about the same number of decisions in a day as we take breaths (~35,000).


Where to Start


For decision making, start with a solid deep breath before you are about to make a decision. Take time, reflect, "see" your decision and observe it like you are watching a movie.


This skill, one ALL of us can spend a lifetime improving, needs to start simple and small. Start with something that has become a habit, like your breakfast decision. Take a slow gentle breath in, pause, then exhale. Now turn your mind to the decision. Reflect on your breakfast options, what you want, what you believe is best for you and the various aspects of the choice.


Then make the choice and see how it resonates with you.


Mindfulness is about growth, about exploring the depth and breadth of yourself.


If this little exercise leaves you feeling just fine about your breakfast choice, awesome. Then, when the time is right, move on to another habitual decision you make. This is not "second guessing". It is more like "first deciding", being truly aware of how you actually made your choice.


What If?


Yet what if this exercise left you aware you had become a creature of habit, doing something you actually do not like or want as if you had no choice?


To that I say "that is even more awesome". It reveals through one quick exercise that you are more aware, capable of more awareness. That, with practice, will lead to more intentional decision making.


Add these steps to a deeper understanding of the decision process and you are on the path to better decisions that can lead to more of what you want to achieve.


© Kirby James 2021

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