Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Someone once said we make more than 5,000 decisions a day. Now before you decide to disagree, think about all the mundane choices you make every morning -- sometimes before you even get out of bed: yes or no to the snooze bar, cereal or bagel for breakfast, caffeine or decaf, milk or orange juice, two percent or skim, local morning news or The Weather Channel. Now add to this a series of decisions on what to wear, and you've got a couple dozen decisions knocked out before you even leave the house.

All through the day decisions present themselves to us, demanding resolution. Each decision made carries a corresponding consequence. Sometimes our professional occupation can determine how serious these consequences can be. Take the auto mechanic, for example. His decisions on taking the extra time to do his job right can make a difference in the safety of those who entrust their car to him. Then there's the surgeon whose continual pursuit of learning offers new hope to her patients by bringing them the latest health options for their condition. On the other hand, sometimes the decisions we make are more mundane -- but not without their own special consequences. Think about, for instance, how a spicy Mexican or Indian dish can wreak havoc on the stomach later on. We regretted that one but, boy, did it taste good going down!

Most of us feel better if we have someone else to consult when making significant decisions. I know I do. For example, in my house I make all the big decisions, and I leave the small ones to my wife. I make mine based on the latest U.N. resolutions, a close-reading of The Old Farmer's Almanac, and a daily review of how the markets are doing, from Beijing to Wall Street. She decides on things like our budget, raising the kids, and what's for dinner, consulting (now get this!) her own intuition and impeccably good sense.

As for the kids, they have their own take on how the decision process goes. They learn early how to pit parent against parent, as they ask for permission to spend the night at a friend's house or delay a curfew. A "no!" from dad means a "why not?" to mom, banking on the hope mom won't consult dad on the matter. It's important for parents to work out a system to prevent this sort of circular negotiating. To fend this off, I simply ask, "What did your mother say?" When I see them hem and haw, I already know what their mother said.

Sometimes we make decisions in haste without thinking through all of the ramifications too. It is these decisions that can sometimes lead to future regrets. Hence it is always best to take a little time and weigh life's most important decisions. A good example of decision deliberation was my wife's review of the pros and cons of marrying me. Her careful consideration of my proposal bore all the trademarks of a general on the brink of a major campaign. She knew there would skirmishes, battles won as well as battles lost. She knew there would possibly even be some treaties along the way, but she believed the effort was worth it, so much so she committed all her resources to the operation.

When she said, "yes," I knew just how good a decision-maker she was, and smart too.

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