advice choices

5 Things You Need to Know to Make Good Choices.

6:00:00 AMJoe Rooney

Life is full of hard choices.

I wonder sometimes about the soundness of my friends's strategies for making good choices. There is the strange conception abroad that when faced with important life choices, you should, “go with your gut” or “don’t think too hard about it or over complicate it” or, worst of all, “make up your mind when you are most depressed and miserable, because it is then that you can see most clearly what you truly want.” 

To these three expressions, I hereby place myself in stark opposition.

Everyone has to make hard choices sometimes, and, more often than not, these choices rivet us with terror. There is a “ought” and an “ought not” riding on many of the crossroads of our lives. And there is a right way to sift through the choices. Allow me to propose five simple guiding principles of good decision making.

1) Sleep

Seriously.  Life does not make sense when you are sleep deprived. Neurologically speaking, your mind is just not functioning right. Your thinking and reasoning processes are all foggy. Things just become illuminatingly clear when you are well rested and healthy.

If you are unable to stay awake in class or in prayer, you are not properly disposed to make life long decisions. And there is a simple solution: sleep more!

2) Advice

 You cannot go it alone! The moment you are isolated, you have lost half the battle of making the best possible choice for you life. 

Talking things out with a trusted friend can help, but there is something much deeper here. Wise people often see things in us that we do not see. Those who are wise and love us the most will be able to give us sound counsel - counsel that we often do not wish to hear. This counsel can change the course of our lives for the better. If your friend is a wise and insightful person, then trust them! 

When you disclose the choice you are debating to others, you come to greater clarity about what you should NOT do. The wise friend gives you the strength to live in this way.

3) At Your Best

Identify when you are at your very best. Then look at what you desire in that moment. This is an excellent indication as to what will make you most happy in life.  

In those moments when you are flooded with joy and peace of heart, these are times you are most keenly aware of what you truly want in life. Aim the direction of your decisions with this axis of what you deeply desire in mind.  Moments of consolation are good times to make decisions.

Conversely, do not make choices when you are desolate. When nothing in you wants to remain faithful to your values or stay strong to your obligations: stick it out. Do not quit. Do not be deceived as to your true desires and longings. 

When you are desolate, your priorities are confused. You begin to wade dangerously far into a deep and confusing whirlpool. Do not change the resolutions you made when you were in consolation. You will always regret it.

After weeks and months of becoming aware of accepting what you desire in consolation and rejecting what you desire in desolation, then it will become clear where your heart is really inclined.

4) Scales

Weigh your pros and cons. Make a list. Ask yourself: will this choice make me more fully myself? How will I grow? Will I become a more virtuous person as a result? How will it affect others around me? 

Do not simply ask yourself, “what do I want?” Be practical. The state of your life is often a great indication as to the direction your life should take. 

Zeal must be tempered by responsibility. 

I find it often the case, that a very difficult choice becomes crystal clear when I sit down and actually crunch the numbers.

Note: fear is never a good counselor. (Fear in this sense is distinguished from responsibility and prudential judgement).

Also write down the obstacles which stand in your way. Watch to see if the obstacles are removed. This is also a powerful indication as to what you ought to do.

However, do not paralyze yourself. Take the pros and cons for what they are and do your best. Stress and anxiety are not good companions. That being said, to make a reasonable and responsible choice, you need the facts.

The feeling you get when you are relaxing and fishing, it feels like all your worries have disappeared. Only in North American you can get that feeling.5) Patience

Give it time! Making big choices takes time. I think we often deceive ourselves in believing we have no time. Allow me to propose two ways to practice patience.

Fishing. It is like taking a retreat, retreating from the world for a short time to recollect (re-collect) myself and reorder my priorities.

Lines. Be content with waiting in line. Do not always be plagued by the need to be in the front. Those times when you are waiting for your food can be moments of great clarity. Seek an inner peace by contentment with what is in and out of your control.

This is not an exhaustive list. 

But I think it is a good start. These are principles that can be applied and practiced in your daily life, if you so choose. Whichever way you decide to implement them in your life, when making that decision, remember these five things: sleep, advice, at-your-best, scales, and patience. 

You are sure not to go too terribly wrong.

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Joseph Rooney

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