Decisions make or break us. And there is no escaping decision-making (as not deciding is a decision on its own).
“No decision is, in itself, a decision.”– William James (an American philosopher, historian, and psychologist).
The more you know your nature (i.e. a being with both basal animalistic instincts and the light of consciousness), the less you want to live unintentionally. Because living unintentionally seldom keeps you fulfilled in the long run.
Animals are easily manipulated, entrapped, and slaughtered not because they are weak, slow, or small (most animals surpass us in most of these regards), but because their thinking is ridiculously simple.
If a hen wants maize, it doesn’t matter if it’s going to live the rest of its life in a pen. Even lions are oblivious to the complexity of a trap contraption – they think too simply.
This is popularly known as Fast Thinking. But I like to call it A-B thinking. Because there is no (sufficient) gap between desire and action. And this often leads to short-sighted, limited, and foolish choices.
You do not want to be the chicken or the lion. You want to be satisfied in the short term, and fulfilled in the long term.
But first, here is how to get your short-term needs met (because even that is a struggle for many today).
Alignment: How To Reduce Friction In Decisions Making [And How To Make Mutually Beneficial Agreements]
You can easily get what you want if you can thoroughly understand the simplicity of the other beings’ thinking – food, safety, a sense of belonging, recognition, etc. – then align its simple interest with yours (your interests are also simple if you understand them).
For example, you can offer to give the hen all the maize and water it needs, and make it feel happy in life. Only to get your equally simple needs met on Christmas day.
For advanced beings, you want to single out what they crave at the moment (as their needs are often numerous, yet individually simple). This may be appreciation, knowledge, or even food.
Once you can guarantee them any of this, you can effortlessly get your interest – love, respect, money, etc. – from them; by alignment of course.
“The only way I can get you to do anything is by giving you what you want.”– Dale Carnegie (an American writer and lecturer. Author of the bestseller “How to Win Friends and Influence People”)
Don’t think, “I need money, love, or respect”, but rather think, “What can I do for this being that will cause it to give me money, love, and respect?”.
It is a subtle difference, but a significant one. One assumes a lack of what it needs, but the other assumes that what it needs is abundant and can be easily handed over (if the right thing was done).
One is backed by wish, the other by faith.
If you have faith, you can make the right decisions – because you have the confidence that your seed (i.e. effort) will yield fruit, eventually.
If you want money, go help out someone with something that they need help with. It is perfectly okay to want something in return for your help – it is called “being helpful without allowing yourself to be used”,
If you want to be loved, it will behoove you to care. Not in a manipulative way, but in a genuine way. It is also perfectly okay to let go of someone who doesn’t value it (not because you don’t love anymore but because you deserve someone who loves you too). It is called “not being needy” and “having self-respect”.
Earn respect by proving yourself. Do things that make you proud of yourself whilst amazing others. It is only the people who are aligned with and understand what you do that can truly, deeply respect you. So, go where you are appreciated and be awesome.
The best short-term decisions are usually those that bring you the most fulfilment in the long run.
Decision-making gets easier the more you understand your simple desires and those of others.
In business, for example, most consumers want cheaper, faster, safer things. Think, “How can I give those?”.
The more you appreciate how “simple” the mind works, the less you wonder why songs that appeal to sex, God, or money sell like crazy.
These are deeply entrenched in and into our psyche. And the lyrics are simply what we all want to scream (but are too self-conscious to…the music is only the outlet)
Understanding this will make your life much easier as you learn to avoid making decisions that are in friction with other people’s interests and master alignment.
A lot of people are interested in something you aren’t interested in (but hold), and hold what you are interested in (but lack).
Why not find a way to give them what they want in exchange for what you want? That’s alignment.
Of course, there are things you ought not to give away, but then, how much do you have (and aren’t utilizing) that you aren’t giving?
Caution: How To Stop Yourself From Making Bad Decisions
But all these are not the major reasons I wrote this – I didn’t write to tell you how to get what you want from people or a hen – but how to be sensitive to the yank of others.
At this very moment, someone is planning to influence your decision in order to take something from you.
It may be your time, money, energy, mind, or even life.
Are you gonna let them have it?
There are a myriad of strategies they deploy to accomplish this, and almost all are based on the simplicity of your basal animalistic instincts.
At this very moment, you may be in need of money. So, they’ll offer a job (to take your time, energy, and sometimes mind) in exchange for money.
You may be in need of some appreciation, and they will offer praises, compliments, and even gifts in exchange for your commitment, love, or time.
You may want food. So, they get busy boiling, frying, and baking food for you.
They are plotting.
They are planning to serve your needs (so they can get theirs).
Yeah, most of these are harmless.
Most are also distractions and exploitative – a shitty job, empty praises, or crappy food.
And some are malevolent – a job that leaves you emotionally and physically damaged, compliments that nudge you to do regrettable things, and food that poisons your body.
Perhaps you should also know that all contents you consume – skits, reels, movies, music, books, discussions, sermons, lectures, etc. – are equally influencing your decision.
You must not make decisions simply based on those things that align with your basal instincts, but scrutinize everything with your light of consciousness, ensuring they bring fulfilment in the long run.
This is popularly known as Slow Thinking. But I call it A-Z thinking. Because there are a lot of letters (steps) between desiring and getting. And this often leads to wiser choices.
Should I take that job?
Should I hang out with this guy/lady?
Do I eat this junk food?
Sometimes it could mean being jobless and struggling to pay the rent;
It could mean being single;
It could mean being hungry or eating something less savoury.
But is it worth it?
Think about the fat chicken on Christmas.
Think about the caged lion.
Think about how by simply sitting down to think things through, humans have ruled the whole world (water, earth, and sky), with impunity.
Allow the light of your consciousness to drive you.
If your impulses pull you, pull yourself aside and think for another minute.
It is okay to miss an opportunity or two.
There will always be another.
And remember, it is much better to drink only a cup of tea than to gulp down a jar of hemlock.
It is better to accumulate small wins (and let them compound to success), than to incur huge losses (and risk ruin).
Beyond Basal Instincts: 8 Factors To Consider In Making Better Decisions
It is not always easy making decisions. It is doubly so when the decision is a big one. Triple when you’ve got to get it right. And quadruple when you’ve got to get it right for you and others.
What to do?
- Consider Your Values (And That Of Others): Even though selling cigarettes is not illegal, is it something you’ll be okay to start selling? Will you be proud of this decision in the future? Do you feel right about it? Is it something you are willing to defend and stand by when things get tough? Of course, values change, but it is usually better (for you) to do things that are in alignment with your values. If the decision involves others, ensure to find out if they are all wholeheartedly on board.
- Consider Your Well-Being (And That Of Others): A decision that will end up harming you or others (especially in the long run) is a terrible decision. On the other hand, if a decision hurts in the present but has huge upsides in the future, it is most likely a good decision. Hence, you want to take out time and consider how the present decision will affect you and others. Then communicate this clearly with them.
- Consider Your Goals (And That Of Others): There are a lot of great choices that aren’t great for you. I have turned down multiple mouthwatering offers and opportunities to learn the piano, web development, graphics design, etcetera because I wanted to focus on writing. To make better decisions, you need to be clear on what you want. Also, ensure others want the same thing if it involves multiple people, so your inputs get multiplied not divided. And, if you are not clear on what you want, maybe you need some data.
- Get The Data: They often say, people can lie , but the data doesn’t. Or, facts don’t care about feelings. And it’s true. Getting data is important because it answers (or greatly reduces the uncertainties in) the questions – will this harm us? Does it align with our goal? Can it work? Etcetera. Get the data and study them till you get meaningful information for the decision.
- Consider The Cost: Decisions often need to be backed up, or paid for. The cost could be money, time, or other resources. There is no need to start something you can’t finish because of inadequate resources. Of course, there are situations where you can garner more resources as you go, but this should be put into consideration. Decisions that are hitched on hope often fall flat, unless they are rescued by someone who comes on scene with resources. Interestingly, you can present your values, goals, and data to someone (or people) with the resources and leapfrog the obstacle of cost.
- Get Qualified Opinion: Some decisions are simply above you, and it is often wise to seek the advice of those who have demonstrated better judgment. An example of this is going to a doctor for medical advice. Sometimes they may recommend something as mundane as sleeping or drinking more water, whilst other times they may insist on carving your gut open. You may never know, because you simply are not trained for that level of decision-making. So, when you encounter a problem where you don’t have the qualifications, be humble enough to accept that you need help.
- Wait (If You Can): Waiting can vary from a minute of thinking to a full week of contemplating. When a decision feels important and will cost a lot, you should give yourself some time to ensure it’s not your monkey-brain seeking instant gratification at your long-term expense. Wait till the emotional excitement dies down.
- Imagine The Future: They say if you can’t decide, you should flip a coin, and that the side you wish it landed on is the decision you should take. Sometimes you simply have to close your eyes and imagine how you will feel in the future if you make or don’t make that decision.
For example (and this happened to me), if you had a loved one whose medical expenses were enough to wipe out your entire savings.
Apply this knowledge by doing the following:
- Consider if you value your money more than the person’s life.
- Consider how paying the money could affect you and the other person. And consider which will cause the greater suffering in the future.
- Consider if losing all your money aligns with your goals, or perhaps if saving their lives is a greater goal.
- Consider if your money (or access to money) will be enough to save them.
- Seek the advice of the doctor and those who have lost a loved one (they are the qualified people to tell you this).
- Take a minute to breathe. Allow yourself time to think about this major decision.
- Finally, imagine what the future will be like without the person in this world. Also, think about what the future will be like without the very money you hold now.
For me, it was an easy decision because I value life more than money, have been robbed and lost someone in the past (so I know the discrepancies in pain), have a goal of bettering my life and that of others, and know that money can solve the crisis, have been told by the doctor that the condition was critical, thought about it for a day, and decided it was better to not have that very money in the future than not having them.
I felt relieved after deciding because it was the side of the coin my heart would have chosen.
Have you ever made any decision that hurt but still felt like a huge relief?
“Decisions decide destiny, there is no action without decision.”— Tony Robbins (an American author, coach, speaker, and philanthropist)
Sheeple: Why Are So Many People Sheeple? [Or Why Very Few People Ever Decide For Themselves]
Most people do not decide what happens in their lives. They live all their lives following the dictates of the environment they find themselves in. They act like mindless sheep.
It’s cliché – peer pressure, societal pressure, social norms, religion, “the devil”, etcetera. There are countless external factors people blame for causing them to act the way they do, and they are right.
Sadly, most people go from one of these factors to the next (never having a mind of their own).
Some live in fear, others in blind obedience or complacency, and the majority are utterly oblivious to these.
And whilst it is tempting to point at those people and call them weak, most of us are also this way – a result of all the myriad of factors pushing, pulling, turning, stretching, and squeezing us.
It is seldom the case that an individual’s decision was formulated without external influence.
“Whether we like it or not, the reality is that our decisions are influenced by a whole host of factors, many of which lay beyond our conscious awareness and control.”.– Nathalie Nahai (an international speaker, best-selling author, and web psychologist)
Have you noticed how the son of the preacher gets preachy? Or how the successful idea of one friend becomes the common idea the other friends invest in?
It is literally the origin of “role models”, “celebrities”, and “influencers” we hear and see today. We see someone make a decision that seems pleasant, we all copy.
I’ve seen people try to draw because they saw me drawing. One time, everyone in my hostel got obsessed with solving “Rubik’s Cubes”. At another time, it was “Tetris”, and at another time it was “Color Switch”. Did I forget to mention “Whot”!?
It is usually one person starting off stuff, then every other person copying.
Our actions ripple through people’s lives, time, and space.
And, sadly, it’s why corruption and other evil also proliferate.
Humans are good at mimicking, especially when there is instant gratification from doing so.
There is just so much effort in thinking A-Z. Who wants to consider their values, the data, or even consult an authority? It is much easier and appealing to grab something now (A-B thinking).
So, how do you fight off all the environmental influencing factors and your proclivities to think A-B?
Answer: You don’t. You simply tweak things a bit.
This is how you do it
Flywheel: 5 Steps To Make Better Decisions, Easier
- Make time to highlight your values and wants (or simply be attuned to your heart). This is you figuring out the Z – the end result you want – your success. Without this, It may be impossible to find satisfaction and fulfilment.
- Come up with a plan to get what you want, be it relationship, money, health, etcetera. This involves getting the data, and figuring out what it would cost – i.e. enumerating the B-Y of the decisions.
- Break down your plan into goals. Figure out the things you can do to feel happy in the short term whilst gradually progressing towards the bigger goal. It is planning a lifestyle, career, or routine. It is compiling a listing of A-Bs that lead to Z. It is using bricks to build a castle.
- Make a schedule to hit those goals. You do this to ensure you don’t veer off from or ignore what is important. It is keeping yourself focused. And finally,
- Find and put yourself in an environment – this could be people, places, or positions – that force you to archive those goals. By doing this, you set up yourself for success. Because, rather than struggling against the current, you will be flowing with it – all the external influences will only serve to push you towards your goal. The trick is to figure out which stream you want to be in. Then get in.
And, you should constantly review your “values and wants” to ensure your plans, schedules, and environment are in alignment with them.
All these sound simple on the surface, but is no easy task – it is not easy to figure out then nudge yourself towards the lifestyle that aligns with your “values and wants”, especially when those “values and wants” change from time to time – but it is doable.
And, in a future post, I’ll explore in detail how to go about it.
But for now, realize the best decisions are made with the light of consciousness, not the reflex of impulses.
A Self-Help Writer And Editor Who Keeps It Simple (Yet Elegant)