When You Need to Make a Decision

As a published author for many years by several different publishing houses (okay, back in the day when that wasn’t so hard) I’ve currently been enjoying helping with the other end of writing books—the editing end—as one of three managing editors for Herald Press/MennoMedia.

It helps to recall or rethink your overall goals and vision for your life. Try to look at the bigger picture than an immediate decision in front of you.

It is fascinating to me how each and every word in a title or subtitle, including prepositions (to, for, or) and articles (a, an, the)—if you remember those terms from long ago English/grammar classes—get hammered out. Each syllable (even) is sweated out, strategically planned, and reasoned. And the book may still fail to become a bestseller, or even a medium seller.

It is mindboggling to me (since I’m not an artist) how the cover designers construct each and every element of a cover including title placement, author name placement, endorsements or marketing phrase, photo, and more. Every element needs to work. White space is in. Busy is mostly out.

I write about all this not to bog you down in myriad publishing details (and I’ve probably already lost you if you are NOT interested), but to say life is full of tiny but important choices. And if you ask a dozen people for opinions on these matters, you get a dozen answers.

The month of May feels like big-decision time to me. Graduates are often looking at jobs, or at least summer jobs, and what they’ll do come September. These big decisions often lead to friendships: new connections—even romance, marriage, children. It is only in looking back do we ponder: wow, if I had not gone to that roller skating party, I might have married someone different and my children wouldn’t have turned out the way they did. My grandchildren would not look the way they look. Or if I hadn’t taken that job, I never would have met so-and-so. Our small decisions can affect many generations—indeed, history itself.

I know a young woman who took a job at a restaurant when she moved to a new city. There, she met a young man with whom she is very much in love. It remains to be seen what their next steps are, but he has undoubtedly affected her life in deep ways. If and when they marry or have children, their paths and immutable decisions will wedge even deeper.

So how do you approach decision making and ensure that you make the best one possible with the information available at the time?

One common method is to make a “pro” and “con” list of all the reasons you can think of in favor or against.

Do research—testing the waters online, or in person, is helpful. What do my friends, family, or small group say? My work colleagues? But it can also be confusing. At some point you have to say, okay, I’ve gathered enough information, what are the facts? Also, how do I feel about this decision?

Am I comfortable moving ahead? Are there still nagging doubts and questions? Or… are there niggling questions, the ones that flit through your mind and though you think they are too little to worry about, keep coming back?

Many of us pray. We pray for clarity and signs—often feeling that when things work out and move in a positive way (you get the interview, you have good options for housing) that helps to offer clarity. But sometimes when there are consistent roadblocks it doesn’t necessarily mean a no answer, either. Just more hurdles to jump through or problems to solve.

Another classic technique is to give yourself time to think it over. My husband and I have always used that approach especially for any major financial decisions: buying a house, a car, even a new piece of furniture or appliance. Over time, your mind will think of new angles and rationale for and against.

When decisions involve your health—whether or not to have elective surgery, what kinds of medicines am I willing to take for this issue—decision making gets even tougher and more personal.

In all of these things, it helps to recall or rethink your overall goals and vision for your life. Try to look at the bigger picture than an immediate decision in front of you. When you value relationships over money, you can accept the new job that pays a little less but is more in line with your values and what you want to do with your life.

How do you make decisions? Who do you consult most often? Which of these decision-making methods appeal most to you?

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Posted 5/1/2014 7:00:00 AM

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