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Making Decisions
by Earle Donelson, Ph.D.
Samaritan Counseling Center

“ Where do you want to eat tonight?”
“ I don’t care. Where do you want to eat?”
“ Doesn’t matter to me… What do you want to do?”

Sound familiar? Sometimes even the easiest of decisions can become maddening. But in the grand scheme of things, choosing a restaurant is not really that hard of a decision to make. Decisions about our family and children, money, work, relationships, education, church, faith and spirituality, rules, laws, ethics, morality... that's another story. Depending on what’s at stake, making these types of decisions can be both difficult and stressful.

So, how do you make decisions? What factors into your thinking? Do you try to predict the outcome? Do you intuitively know what to do? Are you confident and decisive? Do you gather information carefully, weigh the pros and cons, and then act? Are you cool and logical or impulsive and emotional? Do you hesitate? Do you worry before, during or after the decision has been made? Do you second-guess yourself? How we make decisions often says a lot about our personalities and how we feel about ourselves.

While some individuals appear confident and can make firm decisions in a timely manner, others seem to struggle with almost any decision. They simply cannot make up their minds without the guidance, advice and support of others. They may simply lack confidence. They may want to please others and gain their approval, affirmation and support. Some stall, avoiding the process altogether in the hope that it will go away. Others may procrastinate until someone else makes the decision for them. (That, of course, gives them someone to blame should it ultimately be the wrong decision.) Still others are simply paralyzed by the fear of making a bad decision. They wonder, “What if…?” and then proceed to a worst case scenario.

Most people have their own individualized style. Making decisions is a process we all do differently depending on a variety of factors. Experience and history; faith/spirituality; values and morals; emotions; personality features; and the support, advice and suggestions of family, friends, pastors or therapists can often influence the process. Money, power, status, self-esteem, ego, pride, image, anxiety, fears, health, drugs and alcohol, issues of dependency, current stressors and many other factors can also affect our decision making. What are your factors? What are your strengths or weaknesses?

What role does faith, beliefs, morals and values play in the process? Many of us turn to prayer and contemplation, the Bible or other sources of spiritual inspiration. We seek God’s input and guidance. We make use of discernment, contemplation and meditation. We may talk with our pastor or therapist for guidance, comfort or support.

Part of the process is being aware of who you are, how you make decisions and the factors which influence the decisions you make. Some of the questions you might want to ask yourself include:

-How do I make decisions?
-Do I typically struggle with decisions?
-What types of issues do I struggle with?
-Do I go by instinct, information, intuition or emotions?
-What is the question or decision? Framing it often helps in the process
-What are the benefits?
-What are the consequences?
-How will this affect me?
-How will it affect others?
-Am I trying to please others?
-Can I live with the wrong choice?
-What role does my faith play in the process?

Making decisions is best accomplished with attention to who you are, how you make decisions and the factors that influence your thinking. If you’re aware that you struggle in this process, assistance is available through pastoral and psychological counseling and in the many books that have been written to aid in the process. Time spent addressing the problems you have with making decisions can enable the growth necessary to more effectively face those choices that, inevitably, will come your way.


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