IF THE MIND CAN CONCEIVE IT THE HAND CAN ACHIEVE IT.
G rander truth is always found within a paradox. I am not referring to beliefs when I say this, I am referring to a Universal Truth, or something that simply “is” regardless of what anyone choses to believe. I would like to share yet another example of this through the understanding of “Selfishness.”
When we think of selfishness, our conditioned mind usually tends to leap instantly to the negative connotation of the word. Selfishness is bad. It means that you are being self-centered and egotistical and no one will like you. We are taught as children that being selfish is bad behavior and sharing is good. But they fail to teach us the positive side to selfishness. While the ideal of sharing has obvious value, it leaves a bad taste in our mouth for the rest of our lives, because who wants to be known as selfish? When someone calls you selfish it is not uncommon to feel shame and guilt, right? As we know this lowers our vibration and closes our heart. This childhood conditioning is important to understand – and overcome. It is overcome by broadening your perspective of the term and understanding that it has a powerfully positive side.
Being selfish and self-centered is a paradox, because that behavior, in its positive form, is the only way to attain true selflessness. A state of selflessness happens only when we let go of the ego and realize that there is no “self.” But our mind has the tendency to associate selfishness with a negative view because that is what we have been taught and it’s most often our experience with it. Black Friday is quickly approaching, this offers the opportunity to observe ego-driven selfishness as people fight over sales items and even kill one another in the name of getting what they want, or even something as meaningless as a parking place. Is this any way to follow a holiday that occurs just the day before that is focused upon being thankful? Bookstores carry massive amounts of titles in the Self-Improvement or Self-Help section, yet they don’t title this section as “Selfishness” because who would want to be seen purchasing one of those books?
I would like to help you change your negative view of selfishness to a positive perspective of empowerment. I would like you to know the difference between selfishness and Self-ishness. I would like to help you to reclaim a positive view of this term and thereby opening your mind to a new perspective and positive mental conditioning that can free your mind from the mental shackles placed upon it by negative conditioning.
The key factor to grasp here is whether you are referring to selfishness generated by the ego, or selfishness implemented by the essence (spirit). The distinction makes things more evident and only one will lead to letting go of the self in order to attain selflessness.
When we truly act selfishly, driven by our ego, we act with only our own best interest in mind and disregard others completely. We choose not to consider what is right and wrong, or the feelings or well-being of others, only our own. When selfishness is the product of the ego the only outcome is to be dragged deeper into our own egoic mind, becoming lost as it dominates our entire being. Ego-driven selfishness can be witnessed by those who crave and create drama, use guilt and shame to manipulate and control, and those who otherwise act with their own best interest in mind without care for the consequences. While it is this ego-driven selfishness that is the most well-known, it is not the only side to the coin. Viewing selfishness only from the negative perspective can actually cause a mental and emotional block that will keep you from personal and spiritual improvement.
I have taken some training in my business field by a person who once had a meditation business that he called “Self-Centered.” Pretty clever spin on the paradoxical nature of selfishness, I thought. So did he. The business, however, failed quickly primarily due to the negative perspective associated with being a self-centered person. This was most unfortunate because this person was offering some valuable and effective meditation methods that people missed out on experiencing. This demonstrates the mental conditioning of our childhood as well as the limited perspective, and negative focus of the mind. When you’re practicing meditation, you are indeed centering upon your self and within your self, this is actually an incredibly healthy activity. nothing negative about it. I feel that the inability to unplug the negative emotional connection associated by the accepted social norm of such terms as selfishness, without the ability to reclaim a positive view of it, is a leading cause in the worldwide epidemic of egotism that we face today.
Selfishness, when produced by the essence (spirit), is our ability to focus upon ourselves. It is not only a necessary practice but a beautiful one that allows us to create a better world one person at a time as well. This form of selfishness has our own best interest at heart and offers no negative impact on others. Of course, the ego of others may not always see it that way, in fact, they usually don’t. However, such essence-inspired selfishness is the case when we are applying self-improvement practices of any kind. It is this positive focus of selfishness that I would like to expose in this article and hopefully shift your mind to see this good selfishness instead of the bad as your initial mental perspective. Essence based selfishness is a natural and necessary step on the path to personal and spiritual expansion as you cannot obtain a state of selflessness without first turning your attention inward on your self.
In other words, you cannot become selfless without first becoming selfish!
When we center our focus upon our self and begin to improve ourselves, this is the positive form of selfishness. You will generally find that it requires great effort and focus at times. But until we get things right within ourselves, things will never be right in the reality we create all around us. When we are selfish in regards to taking the time to focus on ourselves and what is required to become the best version of ourselves that we can be, it can never be a bad thing. Indeed, it is a great act that requires a serious degree of courage and hard work that few seem to be willing to put forth. Meditation, Qigong, and Yoga could be viewed as selfish acts, but in a very positive way. They invoke positive changes and growth within our own being. This inward reflection where you focus only on yourself is the first step on the path to selflessness.
Reprogram yourself to understand that there is also this good version of selfishness. Feel the vibration of the word selfish when you know that it is referring to improving and expanding your own sense of self. Allow this good feeling to replace the bad in your focus of selfishness. Then, as you continue your self practices, you will be see that the flip side of this form of selfishness is not a bad version of it, but instead selflessness. Once you attain a state of selflessness, you will transcend selfishness as you will come to grasp that there is truly no “self” to begin with. When I hear the word “selfish,” I think “Oh good someone is focusing on their own personal growth and that’s awesome!”
It is through selfishness that you become more and more selfless. It’s then that you truly know how to share because your desire to do so comes from the heart. You care more for others than you care about your self. You give of your self freely without any expectation of return. You act in service of others because it is your heart’s desire. It is through selfishness that we come to live this way as our sense of self dissolves into the void and we return to oneness.
What selfish act have you performed today? I feel its important to act form this positive form of selfishness every day. At least until you transcend the sense of self and realize that there is no self to improve upon anyway. I feel that paradoxes always make for wild rides! But then, I suppose we should expect nothing less of a Universal Truth.
Although God is invisible to us mortals, He can become the most reliable, trusted and loving reality in your life!
How to Build a Close Relationship With GodKing David poetically described His experience of God’s greatness and nearness to us:
"Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell [the grave], behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall fall on me,' even the night shall be light about me; indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You. "For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well" (Psalm 139:7-14). David was inspired by God's omnipresence (He is everywhere present) and His omniscience (He is all-knowing and all-wise). When people are not close to God, they like to think it—whatever "it" may be—is God's fault. Not true. People forget about God, but God never forgets about us. He is always available to you if you "seek Him with all your heart" (Deuteronomy 4:29).
Draw Near to God, and He Will Draw Near to You
The psalmist wrote, “It is good for me to draw near to God” (Psalm 73:28), and hopefully you are learning how good it is for you. A relationship with God begins when God calls us or draws us. Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up [resurrect him] at the last day” (John 6:44).
After God calls us, He expects us from then on to exercise initiative in seeking to draw near to Him. If we do, we have this very encouraging promise: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).
The promise of a resurrection to life after death becomes a primary motivator. It is that “better hope, through which we draw near to God” (Hebrews 7:19).
This lesson will cover some specific ways to develop and maintain a close relationship with God.
How valuable is it to read and study the Bible?
2 Timothy 3:14-17 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. Proverbs 3:13-15, New International Version Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she [wisdom] is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.
The Bible is more valuable than all the rest of the books in the world, combined; it is priceless! It is the Creator’s revelation to His creation regarding His plan and how we should live our lives to fulfill our purpose and to obtain, by far, the best results. Even kings were commanded to read the Scriptures daily (Deuteronomy 17:18-20). The Bible is God’s Word—God speaking to each of us. We must listen, and listen carefully!
To make one’s Bible study personally “profitable,” what is a major key?
Joshua 1:8, God's Word Translation Never stop reciting these teachings. You must think about them night and day so that you will faithfully do everything written in them. Only then will you prosper and succeed. 1 Timothy 4:13, 15 Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine... Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.
It’s important to not read the Bible in a rush. Take time to really think about what you are reading and you will get a lot more out of it. Meditate and reflect deeply on the meaning of the scriptures and their application to your life. Meditating on God’s laws helps immensely to write them on your heart (Hebrews 8:10).
Can we talk to God at any time and know that He hears us?
1 John 5:14-15 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. John 16:23 [Jesus said], "And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you."
Sincere prayer is powerful because the Creator of all the universe loves to hear our prayers and loves to answer them. The Bible has many scriptures that exhort us to pray and many that give pointers on how to pray. God expects us to maintain daily two-way communication with Him—reading His messages in the Bible and talking to Himin prayer. And the more you pray, the more natural it will be for you. The Bible compares the “prayers of the saints” with sweet-smelling incense, because they please God (Revelation 5:8).
Can we walk with God? And what exactly does that mean?
1 John 2:6 He who says he abides in Him [Christ] ought himself also to walk just as He walked. 2 John 1:6 This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it. 1 John 2:3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.
In the Bible, the word walk is often used to refer to one’s lifestyle—how we live our life. To walk according to God’s Word means to apply it, to put it into action. To walk with God means to obey His commandments and to follow—imitate—Jesus’ example. This includes keeping the Fourth Commandment as Jesus did. Observing God’s Sabbath day provides a whole day to focus on drawing close to God.
As you see, we must talk and walk with God.
Does spiritual fasting also help in drawing close to God?
Ezra 8:21, 23 Then I [Ezra] proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions... So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer. Matthew 6:17-18 "But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly." Joel 2:12 "Now, therefore," says the LORD, "turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning."
Among the spiritual tools for drawing closer to God, fasting is a real power tool! Fasting is valuable when we are faced with a big problem and we urgently need God’s help. Even when we aren’t faced with big problems, we should fast occasionally as a special form of worship and to draw closer to God. When you sincerely fast, God is pleased and will help you grow spiritually.
When we meditate on God’s ways and His creation, can we learn valuable lessons?
Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse. Psalm 143:5 I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands. Psalm 145:5 I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works.
As we discussed in Lesson 4 in this series, God has two primary means of revealing Himself to humanity: His written revelation—the Bible—and the evidence of creation. Creation is fascinating, because we never cease to learn from it and be inspired by it. From creation we learn many things about the Creator.
Will we be much closer to God if we stay away from bad influences?
1 Corinthians 15:33 Do not be deceived: "Evil company corrupts good habits." Proverbs 12:26 The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray. 2 Corinthians 6:16-18 ... As God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people." Therefore "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you." "I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."
We are continually faced with choices. We often must choose between exposing ourselves to bad influences or surrounding ourselves with good influences (including other believers). God is very displeased when we choose evil or what will lead us toward evil. The mind is like a sponge that will soak up whatever you expose it to, whether good or evil, and what goes in stays in, to a great extent.
A computer is a good comparison. A computer’s output depends on what was input. Garbage in, garbage out. God knows our every thought. Don’t allow experiences and thoughts in that you will be ashamed of when you face God.
Do materialism and an overly-busy life interfere with relationships?
Luke 16:13 "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [money, materialism]." Mark 4:18-19 "Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful." 1 Timothy 6:9-10 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
Money is not evil, but the love of money is a major root of evil. So, yes, materialism and a super-busy life interfere with all our relationships and especially our relationship with God. They can choke to death our spiritual life like weeds choke to death the life of garden plants. When money and things become overly important to us, they are becoming our gods, which means we are breaking the first of the Ten Commandments (by prioritizing them over God).
Are satanic and demonic influences a significant danger?
1 Peter 5:8-9 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith... James 4:7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Ephesians 6:11-12 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Satan “deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9), so even followers of Christ can be deceived by Satan or a demon when we aren’t continually on guard. Satan hates all people, but he especially wants to deceive and destroy anyone trying to obey God. We attract Satan and the demons and become vulnerable to them if we are sinning, dabbling in spiritism or the occult, or letting down spiritually in some other way. And when one walks in the way of the devil, he or she is alienating himself or herself from God.
What is the ultimate, most powerful way to stay close to God?
Acts 2:38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Romans 8:6-9 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
How is it possible for a mortal human to have an intimate and ongoing relationship with the divine God? The most important key is God’s gift of His Spirit to dwell in one’s heart and mind! God’s Spirit works to transform human nature to a godly nature and the mind of Christ, so instead of being inclined to selfishness and sin, we become inclined toward love and godliness (Philippians 2:1-5). To receive the Holy Spirit, we must repent of our sins and be baptized.
God desires a close relationship with everyone. In fact, He wants all people to eventually be His “sons and daughters” (2 Corinthians 6:18).
Do you long to have a close, intimate relationship with God, similar to that of a best friend? Perhaps you’ve been a Christian for a while and although you’ve learned many disciplines to help you lead a godly lifestyle such as reading your Bible and praying every day, and going to church every week, you still sense a loss of connection and closeness to God?
I spent many years living under a performance mentality, partly due to my “Marine” upbringing. I was taught from a young age that discipline and performance were paramount, so when I became a Christian I approached my relationship with God the same way. I remember I used to go through a long prayer list every day, worrying that I’d make a mistake and leave someone or something out. I also thought that in order to “get God on my team” there must be a certain formula, or specific actions that I needed to follow. But nothing I tried seemed to bring me feeling closer to God.
At some point, I began to wonder, “Is this what being a Christian is all about?” And what I discovered is that having a real, intimate relationship with God is not about using the “right” words, spiritual techniques, twisting God’s arm, or trying to live a perfect life.
It’s not about what you do, how long you do it or where you do it…but it’s about knowing who God really is.
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus demonstrates with His own life that a relationship with God is not about rules, rituals, man made religions. These things are used to exalt and impress people and they are fruitless when it comes to attaining a real knowledge of God.
In Luke 11, we read that even the disciples struggled with really knowing God. One day when they were observing Jesus’ deep communion with the Father while He prayed, they noticed how He spoke to God intimately. He wasn’t caught up with following certain rules or rituals. The disciples wanted to have that same connection so they asked Jesus to tell them His secret to having close communion with the Father.
Jesus revealed the answer to them in an astounding parable, which is summed up in verses 9-10: “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seek finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Jesus’ message — for all of us as God’s children — is that God earnestly desires to talk to us and spend time with us through prayer. And when we come to the Lord prayer we can be certain that He is not reluctant to help us, but instead He is exceedingly ready to come to our aide and to bless us.
Jesus goes on to explain further. “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13)
Many of us were taught to fear God and to see Him as an angry or hard-to-please taskmaster. But Jesus tells us that God is someone entirely different! He assures us that when we pray we don’t have to be afraid of not being able to perfectly follow certain rules or rituals, but we can pray with a confidence that our Father in heaven loves us just as we are. We can also believe that God is a good, generous, warm, receptive and an absolutely “on-our-team” God.
More than anything else, God longs to spend time with us and He wants us to see Him as a God who desires to bless His children.
We make decisions every day; everything we say and do is the result of a decision, whether we make it consciously or not. For every choice, big or small, there’s no easy formula for making the right decision. The best you can do is to approach it from as many perspectives as possible and then choose a course of action that seems reasonable and balanced at that time. If you have a big decision to make, it can seem daunting. But there are some simple things you can do to make it less intimidating, such as identifying the worst case scenario, making a spreadsheet, and following your gut instinct. Keep reading to learn more about how to make decisions.
Part 1 of 3: Understanding the Source of Your Fear
1 Write about your fears. Journaling about your fears may help you to start to understand them and make a better decision as a result. Start by writing about the decision you need to make. Describe or list everything that you are worried about regarding this decision. Allow yourself to vent about these fears without judging yourself for having them. For example, you might start your journal by asking yourself, “What is the decision that I need to make and what am I afraid might happen if I make the wrong choice?” Ad Make Decisions Step 9 Version 2.jpg 2 Identify the worst case scenario. Once you have written about the decision you need to make and why you have fear regarding that decision, take it a step further. Try to identify the worst case scenario for each possible choice. Pushing your decision to the limits of what could go wrong if all goes wrong may make the process less frightening. For example, if you need to decide between staying full time at your job or taking a part-time job in order to spend more time with your kids, think about what the worst case scenario of each decision would be. If you chose to keep the full time job, the worst case scenario might be that you miss out on important moments in your children’s development and that your children resent you for this when they are older. If you choose to keep the part time job, the worst case scenario might be that you might not be able to pay the bills each month. Decide whether this worst-case scenario is actually likely to happen. It’s easy for us to “catastrophize,” or spin things out to the worst possible thing that can happen, without taking the time to think. Examine the worst scenario you’ve proposed, and then consider what would have to happen to get you there. Is this likely? 3 Consider whether the decision you make will be permanent. Once you have thought about everything that could go wrong, think about whether the decision is reversible. Most decisions are reversible, so you can take comfort in knowing that if you hate your decision, you can always make a change to fix the situation later on. For example, say you decide to take a part-time job to spend more time with your kids. If you end up having trouble paying the bills, you can reverse the decision by looking for a full time job. Make Decisions Step 12 Version 2.jpg 4 Talk to a friend or family member. Don’t feel like you have to make a tough decision all by yourself. Enlist the help of a trusted friend or family member to help you or at least listen to your concerns. Share the details about the decision as well as your fears about what could go wrong. It may make you feel better to just vocalize your fears about the decision and your friend or family member may have some great advice and/or reassuring words for you. You may also consider talking to someone who is removed from the situation and who will have a neutral opinion. A therapist can often be a helpful source for this type of perspective. You can even consider searching online for others who have experienced a similar situation. If you were trying to decide between full-time work and part-time work plus more time with your kids, you could post your problem on a parenting forum online. You will likely hear from people who have had to make similar decisions as well as some people who will tell you what they would do in your situation. Ad
Part 2 of 3: Considering the Decision
Make Decisions Step 1 Version 2.jpg 1 Stay calm. Riding high on emotions, either positive or negative, can impact your ability to make a rational decision. When you have any decision to make, the first step should generally be to stay as calm as possible. If you can't stay calm, put off making the decision until you're thinking clearly. Try taking a few deep breaths to help calm yourself down. If you have more time, go into a quiet room and do about 10 minutes of deep breathing exercises. To perform deep breathing exercises, start by placing on hand on your belly below your ribcage and the other on your chest. When you inhale, you should feel your abdomen expand as well as your chest. Inhale slowly through your nose. Aim to inhale for a 4-count. Focus on the feeling of the breath as your lungs expand. Hold the breath for 1-2 seconds. Gently release the breath through your nose or mouth. Aim to exhale for a 4-count. Repeat this process 6-10 times per minute for 10 minutes. Make Decisions Step 15 Version 2.jpg 2 Get as much information as possible. Most decisions are made better when you have enough information to make an informed decision. Making decisions, especially if they're about important topics, should rely on logic. Do some research to find out as much as you can about your decision. For example, if you were trying to decide between keeping a full-time job and switching to a part-time job to spend more time with your kids, you would need to know how much money you would be losing each month by making the switch. You would also need to consider how much time you would gain with your kids. Record this information, as well as any other relevant information that might help you make your decision. You would need to consider other options too, and gather information about them. For example, you could ask your employer whether it’s possible for you to telecommute at least a few days a week. Make Decisions Step 11 Version 2.jpg 3 Use the “five whys” technique to understand the problem. Asking yourself “why?” five times can help you to uncover the source of a problem and determine if you are making a decision for the right reasons. For example, if you were trying to decide between keeping your full time job and moving to a part-time job to have more time with your family, your five whys might look like this: “Why am I considering part-time work?” Because I never see my kids. “Why do I never see my kids?” Because I work late most nights. “Why do I work late most nights?” Because we have a new account that is taking up a lot of my time. “Why is it taking up so much of my time?” Because I am trying to do a good job and hopefully get promoted as a result. “Why do I want to be promoted?” To earn more money and provide for my family. In this case, the five whys shows that you are considering reducing your hours even though you are hoping for a promotion. There is a conflict here that requires further investigation in order to make a good decision. The five whys also suggest that this problem may be temporary -- you are working so long because you have a new account. Consider: will your hours remain this long once you are more comfortable with your new account? Make Decisions Step 6 Version 2.jpg 4 Think about who's affected. First and foremost, you should consider how your decision affects you. Specifically, how does your decision affect how you consider yourself as a person? What are your values and goals? Making decisions that are not “value-congruent” (i.e., they don’t align with the core beliefs that drive you) can leave you feeling unhappy and dissatisfied. For example, if a core value for you, something that is a deep part of your identity, is ambition, moving to part-time could represent a misalignment because you are no longer pursuing your ambition of getting promoted and become the top person at your company. Your core values may sometimes conflict with one another, too. For example, you may have ambition and family-orientedness as core values. You may need to prioritize one over the other to come to a decision. Understanding what values will be affected by your decision can help you make the right one. You should also consider how the problem or decision affects other people. Will any of the possible outcomes negatively affect people you care about? Take others into account throughout your decision making process, especially if you are married or have children. For example, the decision to move to part-time could have a positive impact on your kids because it would mean more time with you, but it could have a negative impact on you because you may have to give up on your ambition for a promotion. It may also have a negative on your whole family by reducing your income. Make Decisions Step 7 Version 2.jpg 5 List all of your options. At first sight, it may appear that there is only one course of action, but that is usually not true. Even if your situation seems limited, try to make a list of alternatives. Don't try to evaluate them until you've got a full list. Be thorough. If you’re having trouble thinking of alternatives, brainstorm with some family or friends. Of course, this doesn't have to be a physical list. It can just be in your head too! You can always cross items off the list later, but with crazy ideas might come some creative solutions that you might not have considered otherwise. For example, you could find another full-time job at a company that does not require so much overtime. You could hire a person to help you with housework, freeing up your time to spend with your family. You could even set up a “family work” evening where everyone does their work together, in the same room, helping you all feel more connected. Research also suggests that having too many options can lead to confusion and make it harder to make a decision. Once you have generated your list, eliminate anything that is obviously impractical. Try to keep your list of options to about five items. Make Decisions Step 8 Version 2.jpg 6 Make a spreadsheet to weigh the potential benefits and losses of your decisions. If your problem is complex and you feel overwhelmed by the variety of possible outcomes, consider making a spreadsheet to guide your decision making process. You can use Microsoft excel to make a spreadsheet or just make one on a piece of paper. To make a spreadsheet, create a column for each possible choice that you are considering. Within each column, make two sub-columns to compare the benefits and losses of each possible outcome. Use + and – signs to indicate which items are positive and which items are negative. You can also assign points values to each item on your list. For example, you might assign +5 points to an item on the “Switch to Part-time Work” list called “will get to have dinner with my kids every night.” On the other hand, you might assign -20 points to an item on the same list titled “will make $900 less per month.” After you are finished making the spreadsheet, you can add up the points values and determine which decision has the highest score. Just keep in mind that you may not be able to make a decision using this strategy alone. Ad
Part 3 of 3: Making the Decision
Make Decisions Step 18 Version 2.jpg 1 Advise yourself as if you were a friend. Sometimes taking a step back from the decision can help you to determine the right choice. Think about what you would tell a good friend who was struggling with the same decision. What decision would you advise them to make? What would you try to get them to see about that decision? Why would you counsel them in this way? Try role playing to use this strategy. Sit beside an empty chair and pretend that you are talking to yourself as if you were someone else. If you’d rather not sit and talk to yourself, you can also try writing yourself a letter offering advice. Start your letter by saying, “Dear ___, I have considered your situation and I think that the best thing for you to do is to ____.” Continue the letter by explaining your point of view (from an outsider’s perspective). Make Decisions Step 20 Version 2.jpg 2 Play devil's advocate. Playing devil's advocate can help you decide how you really feel about a decision because it forces you to take the opposite perspective and argue for it as if it is your own. If your argument against something you wanted to do starts to make a lot of sense, then you'll have new information to consider. To play devil’s advocate, try to argue against every good reason you have for wanting to make your preferred choice. If it is easy to do, then you may find that you really want to make a different choice. For example, if you are leaning towards going part-time to spend more time with your kids, contradict yourself by pointing out that you spend lots of quality time with your kids on the weekends and during your vacation times. You can also point out that the money and potential promotions you will lose are worth missing out on some family dinners because they can benefit your children more than an extra couple of hours of your time every night. They will also benefit your own ambition, which is worthy of consideration too. 3 Consider whether you’re feeling guilty. Making a decision out of guilt is common, but guilt is not a helpful motivator for healthy decision making. Guilt often twists our perception of events and outcomes so that we aren’t seeing them (or our role in them) clearly. Guilt can be particularly common for working women, who face extra social pressure to perfectly balance work and family life. Doing things because we feel guilty can also be harmful because it can lead us to make decisions that aren’t congruent with our values. One way to recognize guilt motivation is to look for “should” or “must” statements. For example, you might feel as though “Good parents should spend all the time with their children” or “A parent who works X number of hours must be a bad parent.” These statements are based on external judgments, not your own values. So, to determine whether your decision is being driven by guilt, try to step back and examine the actual situation, as well as what your personal values (your core beliefs that govern your life) tell you is right. Are your children actually suffering because you’re working full-time? Or do you feel that way because that is how you have been told by others you “should” feel? Make Decisions Step 21 Version 2.jpg 4 Think about the future. At the end of the day, the best way to make a decision is to think about how you're going to feel about it in a few years. Think about what you'll think of yourself when you look in the mirror. How you'll explain it to your grandkids. If you don't like what the long term repercussions are going to be, you may need to rethink your approach. For example, do you think that in 10 years you will you regret the decision to move to part-time? If so, why? What might you accomplish in 10 years of working full-time that you will not accomplish in 10 years of working part-time? Make Decisions Step 10 Version 2.jpg 5 Trust your instincts. You probably have a sense of which decision is the right one, so if all else fails you should go with your gut. Make your decision based on what feels right even if the spreadsheet says otherwise. Research has shown that people who make decisions based on how they feel tend to be more satisfied with their decisions than people who carefully weigh them out. Ask yourself what you want to do. Chances are you have a good sense of which decision will make you feel the happiest and you should lean towards that decision. It’s the change and the discomfort with the unknown that’s making the decision difficult. Taking some moments for quiet reflection can help you get in touch with your intuition. The more decisions you practice making, the more you can refine and hone your intuition. Make Decisions Step 4 Version 2.jpg 6 Have a backup plan. Thinking ahead may help you to feel less bothered by any possible negative outcomes. Make a backup plan to deal with your worst case scenario. Even if you are unlikely to need this plan, simply having a backup plan will help you to feel better equipped deal with the worst case scenario. People who are in leadership positions are expected to always have a backup plan because there is always a chance that something might go wrong. This strategy may be helpful for making minor decisions as well. Having a backup plan will also allow you to respond to unforeseen challenges or setbacks with flexibility. Your ability to adapt to unexpected circumstances can directly affect your ability to succeed with your decisions. Make Decisions Step 5 Version 2.jpg 7 Make a choice. No matter which decision you make, be prepared to accept responsibility for every outcome. If things don't work out, it's always better to have made a conscious decision than to have been careless. At least you can say that you did the best you could. Make your decision and be ready to stand by it
The landscape of our brain is not a rational place.
We still walk around with the same Stone Age brain our ancestors had – a mess of emotions, imperfect memories, and a short attention span. To top it off, it never has all the facts to make the “perfect” decision.
From here the story gets worse. We even make decisions without being conscious of having done so.
When neuroscientists examined brain activity during a simple decision-making experiment, they noticed people had often decided on a course of action 10 seconds before they were consciously aware of having made any decision at all.
How can we ever hope to make the right decision?
In reality things aren’t so bad, we make decisions all day, everyday. The world keeps turning and we feel like we are in control. S
The good news is that the field of neuroscience has made us well aware of the shortcomings of the human brain. By knowing these weaknesses, we can then use a simple strategy to work around them.
The 9 Ways to Make Good Decisions
- Listen to your instincts but don’t let them boss you around.
We evolved instincts for a reason – they work really well. To our Stone Age ancestors the ability to make a snap decision could’ve made the difference between being eaten by a saber-toothed tiger and eating one. But how many tigers have you been faced with lately? We rarely need to make snap decisions anymore but still, you can’t stop yourself from making them. Don’t fight it, but don’t simply stop there. Ask “why did I think that?” or “why do I feel that way?”
- List your alternatives.
The brain is the most powerful computer in existence, but it sucks at multitasking. It’s difficult to hold more than 7 different trains of thought in your mind at once, and impossible to concentrate on two of them simultaneously. The reason we don’t crash our cars while talking on our cell phones is because we can switch between tasks really quickly – but much slower, and less accurately than doing either alone. Write down every option you have for the decision you’re making, get it out of your head and spend some quality time on each one.
- Rephrase the question.
You know what it takes to be a genius or a brilliant scientist? It’s not good grades and it’s not memorizing facts. It’s simply asking the right questions. Whatever problem you have, try writing it down in three or four different ways. Forcing yourself to think about the problem in different ways makes it easier to come up with different solutions.
- Anticipate history.
Our memory isn’t as good as we think it is, and hence, we don’t remember how bad it can be. It’s this selective memory that lets you remember who you talked to today, but not what you had for breakfast on Tuesday last week. Using history to make a decision requires that we remember what happened last time we were in a similar situation. Go slow and be critical with your recall – beware of only remembering your wins vs. your misses.
- Remember that time is on your side.
Distance gives perspective. It’s the oldest advice out there – separate yourself from the emotions of the moment. Unless you’re a character from Star Trek this is impossible to do instantly, so the next best thing is to put some time between now and when you actually make the decision.
- Think of this as a test.
The human brain is not isolated – it’s hard wired to function in social situations with our peers. The upshot of this is that we devote a lot of time and energy to working in groups and maintaining friends and our status. Imagine that you’re going to be graded for the decision you’re making and you will automatically pay more attention to the process. Write down why you made your decision and follow this by thinking: “This is an exam. I’m handing this in, and I won’t get another chance to change it. Others will see it and grade my logic”. Doing this makes you more likely to examine the “why” of what you’re doing and weed out poorly made plans.
Common knowledge isn’t.
Spot those “taken for granted” moments and ask why that’s the case. Everyone knows that you shouldn’t swim after eating, but why is that? Is it actually true for everyone? What if you’re just wading in the water and you can stand easily enough? Question the assumptions you’re making and judge if they really apply to you.
- Make the damn decision.
Are you deciding your career path or what brand of cereal to eat? Not all decisions are equal so don’t waste your time. You don’t need to follow steps 1 – 9 every breakfast time.
Make the decision concrete.
You can endlessly re-analyze and agonize over what you’ve decided. You have to stop sometime. Make it real, write it down. Once your decision is out of your head and in the real world, your brain can stop constantly churning through the options and get on with the next task.
Remember, the landscape of our brain is not a rational place. You shouldn’t even force your brain to follow this list from 1 to 9. The best decision you can make here is just do the steps that appeal to you, in any order. I’ll leave you with one final thought: Whatever you do, the only key to making the best decisions in life, is to want to.