Tag Archives: Decision

How To Make The Right Choice

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine over a cup of coffee. We had met while we were out shopping, not really met, more like bumped into each other. We both had a few minutes to spare, and there happened to be a coffee shop nearby, and so we decided to have a cup of joe and a chat.

We started talking about mistakes, and big mistakes that we’ve made in our lives. I don’t know how we got on that subject; I think she was concerned with her current relationship, that it may not be the right one for her. She is getting close to 30, and some girls feel some pressure, both internal and external to find somebody serious by then. I think she is wondering if she chose him because he was “Mr. Right Now,” instead of “Mr. Right.” I didn’t really want to get into some prolonged discussion about her boyfriend, but since she was veiling her conversation about him through general life mistakes, I was game.

Sometimes you can solve problems by addressing them structurally rather than specifically. If you get too involved in the particulars of a problem, you can lose the forest for the trees. That’s how therapeutic metaphors work. You hear some story that has the same structure to your problem, and by vicariously going through the metaphor, you can figure out a solution to your problem, oftentimes unconsciously.

That’s how Milton Erickson was able to heal people. He was a therapist that invented a strange kind of conversational hypnosis. People would come in and give him their problem, like bed-wetting or fear of elevators. He would them tell them a story that was completely different in content, but similar in structure, that had a happy ending. The people would leave, and discover a couple weeks later that their problem had been solved.

For example, if somebody was afraid of elevators, the traditional approach would be to talk about elevators, how they became scared of elevators, or to try and convince them of how safe they were using statistics. But a metaphorical approach would ignore elevators altogether, and focus on somebody who was afraid of doing something, and then by changing his focus on the positive outcome, rather than the thing he feared, he was able to overcome his fear. And after he overcame his fear of whatever it was, he realized how insignificant his fear really was.

Which is kind of what I suspect my friend was getting at. She wanted to discuss the possibility that she was making a mistake with her current boyfriend, without actually talking about her relationship. Talking about mistakes in general, I got the impression she was trying to find out if there was a general way to tell going into a potentially troublesome situation if you stick it out, and hope everything works out, or eject as soon as possible.

Sometimes you don’t need to make that decision, as certain actions are short lived. If you are playing on a particular golf course for the first time, and you choose a pitching wedge instead of an eight iron, you might come up short. You could consider this to be a mistake, but it is one you can learn from and do better next time. If you ever play this course again, and have the same lie, you’ll know to use your eight iron.

Those that study learning and brain development suspect this is how all learning takes places anyways. We make all kinds of small mistakes, and automatically correct them as we go along. A baby’s way to learn how to speak is to move their tongues around and make a bunch of random sounds until they figure out which ones get the right responses. Same with walking and learning all other motor skills.

However, some choices have much more impact than choosing a club. Like choosing a job or a marriage partner can have horrible results if you don’t choose wisely. And since most of us don’t get married a bunch of times or go through ten or twenty jobs in our lives, it can be tough to “learn” how to get married or choose the right career the same we “learn” how to walk or talk or approach the green.

The question is, and this is what I think my friend was getting at, is how do you know if your intuition is telling you that you’re making a bad decision, and how do you know when you are just nervous? If it were easy, nobody would ever get divorced or find themselves in a job they hate. But many people get divorced, or are stuck in terrible jobs or terrible relationships.

So the topic of the conversation was mistakes we’d made, and how we knew they were mistakes, and how we rectified the situation. One thing I learned, or one concept I was exposed to, was to future pace. If you are in a situation, and you think it may be a mistake, project yourself out into the future a few years, and see how it comes out. Imagine the best possible scenario, and the worst possible scenario, and the likelihood of both coming to pass. This is where intuition can be very powerful. Sometimes it’s impossible to make an accurate prediction of the future, but your intuition can usually do a pretty good job.

Project yourself out in the future and do a “gut check.” Is it an overwhelmingly good feeling a bad, feeling, or a “blech” feeling? If you’re make a decent decision and are just nervous, you’ll usually get a good feeling if you’re honest with yourself. But if you immediately think to feel repulsed at a possible future, the chances are you’re making a huge error in judgment.

This can be difficult, as many times we are afraid to look into the future, and only pay attention to the immediate pleasures of the present. My friend didn’t particularly like the idea of facing 30 and being single, so that was keeping her from facing the future at 35 or 40 having lived with this guy for that many years. But when she did take a peek into the future, her gut told her that it didn’t look good. So she was faced with making a tough decision.
Break up with her boyfriend, and accept an unpleasant present, or get engaged to him, as she suspected this was where her relationship was leading, and face an even worse future.

As emotionally uncomfortable as it is, many times the lesser of two evils is the obvious choice. But sometimes something pretty cool happens. By making a strong choice in the present, however uncomfortable, the future suddenly looks a lot brighter, giving you more resources and peace of mind in the present than you thought you had.


To expand your resources in the present and make the best possible choices for the future, click on the link below:

Powerful Metaphysics

Powerful Metaphysics

The Elephant’s Path

Once upon a time there was an elephant. He was an adolescent elephant, but he had been separated from his pack. He was out playing with several friends of his, and had gotten lost. The whole elephant group was on their way on their yearly migration pattern. This young elephant was at the age where parents usually let the elephant find it’s own way; because they need to remember how stay on course of their yearly migration path. Most people know that elephants have very good memories, but one thing that many people don’t realize about elephants is that they need to practice this memory from a very young age.

As such, when elephants go wandering off like this young elephant did with his friends, they were concerned, but not overly so. They knew that the elephant would initially find its way. Of course different parents had different time when they let the elephants go roaming off by themselves. After all, they really couldn’t get very far. It was hard to find a large group of elephants slowly moving east. It might take a young adventurous elephant a few days, but they usually found there way fairly easily.

Which of course, was why the parents of this particular elephant weren’t very worried, because he had shown fairly good memory so far. They had made the trip three times already. The first two times the young elephant had stayed very close to his parents, and had wailed considerably when they tried to run up ahead to see if he could find his way. On the third trip, he seemed to be able to stay fairly clear of his parents. Whenever they tried to round him up when they were getting ready to leave with the rest of he group, although he had eventually caught up with them, he seemed to have an “I can do it by myself attitude.”

You know how it is, when you feel a little bit resentful when people are telling you that you should do a certain thing, even though you know that you should probably be doing it anyways, but you kind of resent being told what to do? That is exactly how this elephant felt on that trip.

But now it had been three days since he had seen any other elephants. He had found a couple of small streams to drink from, and finding food wasn’t a problem, because after all, he was an elephant. But he was starting to get lonely. He missed the company of his friends, and that feeling you get when you see something familiar. He was right at the halfway point between enjoying being on his own, and feeling that familiar pull of doing what you are used to all the time. Like you feel like if you go one way, you will go back to how things always were, but if you go the other way, there is no telling how much fun and excitement you could have. The only problem is by going the second way, you might encounter danger that you didn’t know existed before, and you don’t know if you can handle it.

It’s like you have to choose between normal, safe, medium amount of fun, to an opportunity of fantastic excitement and adventure, coupled with a chance of horrible slow impending doom. Even though you are afraid of the doom, you can’t help but to feel compelled to follow this new path. To keep going forward until finally figure out exactly what you are looking for. Like following the familiar path is following the path of other people, and following this new path is following your true heart, wherever it may lead.

The young elephant kept trudging along, all of these thoughts swirling around in his quickly developing adolescent elephant brain. He came up to a rise, and surveyed where he had been, and where he could go. Up ahead, about five miles, to the east, he saw a large, slowly moving cloud of dust. At first he was happy to see it, because he knew it contained his family, his friends, and the rest of the group. To the west, he saw a vast plain filled with unknown trees and mountains and animals he may have never seen before. He knew that up ahead, in six weeks, time, both paths would converge, and all off the elephant groups would meet together. He looked one last time at the far away and slowly moving cloud of dust and certain safety, and then to the west, to the unknown. And he made his decision.

Whose Thoughts are in YOUR Monkey Brain?

The other day I was sitting at a coffee shop. It is kind of a mix between a coffee shop and a bagel shop. Because I was only drinking coffee, in my mind I was at a coffee shop. Of course had I been eating bagels, I would have remembered it as a bagel shop. Interesting how the mind works like that. You can remember something, and based on slight change of angular memory, the past can take on a whole new meaning. Meaning is a fairly slippery thing. Many people don’t realize just how slippery it is. I guess that’s why so many people get into arguments about things that happened before. They aren’t really arguing about the events per se, rather the meaning each individual gave to the meanings that they each subjectively applied to the past. Because they each applied a different subjective meaning, or interpretation to the past, they actually stored the memory differently in their brain, from a neuro-chemical standpoint, which gives the illusion that they are remembering different things.

I was listening to a lecture once about this subject. The professor who was speaking was exploring how we code and store events have a large effect on how we remember them. She went on to explain that when some people say they have a “memory problem,” that is not entirely accurate. What they really lack is a storage problem. And because most people don’t consciously choose to store their memories in a certain way, when they go and try to recall them, they not only can’t remember where they put them, but they don’t remember what kind of box they put them in. Which makes looking for old memories a problem when you don’t know what color the box is.

So anyways, I was sitting there, drinking my coffee, waiting for the movie to start. It was one of those international blockbusters that has been heavily marketed, with signs everywhere, and trailers before every movie. I was looking forward to it, because I read the book, and I enjoyed it. I actually read the book twice, by accident. And when I say by accident, I don’t mean that I fell down a flight of stairs and read the book on the way down. I read it, and forgot that I read it. Then a couple years later I read another book by the same author, which I really enjoyed. Then I went to the bookstore to find other books by the same author. That’s how I generally read books, by the way. I’ll read one author, and if I like them, I’ll go to the bookstore or the library and read all their other books. So I went to the bookstore, found another book by the same author of the second book, and picked out the first book, which I’d read before and didn’t remember. Then about halfway through it, I realized, “Hey! This seems familiar, I think I read this before!” Of course I kept on reading, because I wanted to see if it turned out differently than before. Because I didn’t remember how it turned out from before, I wasn’t sure if it was the same ending. Which of course, made sense when I saw the movie, because then, everything fell into place, even though they changed some parts from the book.

So my friend walks in this coffee shop, and has this really confused look on his face. Like he was just finished reading this really confusing article on the Internet or something. I asked him what happened, and he told me that he just got back form a lecture. It turns out some really cute girl gave him a flyer for a lecture that some metaphysicist was giving. He doesn’t normally go into metaphysical lectures, but because this girl was really cute he decided to go. I asked him what the lecture was about, and he tried his best to describe it to me. There were several different lectures, and they kept finishing up where each other started. There was one guy that had this really long beard, and another guy that had some really strange sandals.

He said that most people are walking around in a cloud of ambiguity. Because we are so conditioned to get other people to think for us, when there is nobody there to make a decision, you just kind of walk around with a vague sense of waiting to be told what to do. Which normally isn’t a problem. It makes sense to be this way at work for example. It wouldn’t really be very productive to have a bunch of people at work just doing their own thing, or arguing with the boss whenever she gave you an instruction. I don’t know if this is a leftover from evolution, or if it is something that is just hardwired into us, but the brain will always look for shortcuts in thinking. Kind of like when you are driving on the freeway, and you get a traffic report of an accident up ahead, you can imagine ways to go around the problem, so you don’t be late for your appointment. The brain will always find the easiest path to get to a decision. Which worked pretty good when we were cavemen running around chasing our food, or running away from dinosaurs that thought we were food. But in today’s society, when there are about a billion things coming at you at once, it’s hard sometimes for our monkey brains to make a good decision. So modern man has learned to kind of have this vague cloud of ambiguity floating around, waiting for clear instructions. He said that the two biggest forms of guidance come in the form of social proof, and authority. Social proof, of course, is when you go along with the crowd. Everybody has experienced this. You do something, because everybody else is doing it. Of course, this isn’t what you tell yourself, we always have some other reason why we think we are doing something.

The other shortcut is authority. When a police officer, or a doctor tells you to do something, you rarely question them. Unless you are a criminal of course. So in the absence of these two elements, he explained, it can be hard to figure out what to do.

I asked him if he explained how to get around this, and he said he did. I asked him what it was, and he told me.

The best way to get around this is to have clear, strong, powerful goals. That way you will start to see everything in relation to your goals, and your automatic monkey response will decrease, and your evolved human response will become stronger and stronger, and you turn your mind/body system into a goal-seeking missile, instead of an automatic monkey responder.

And he concluded his speech by saying that the choice is up to you. You can let other people choose your goals for you, and walk around in an ambiguous monkey daze, bouncing from one mental shortcut to the other, or you can choose your own goals, and let your goal seeking mechanism do all work to create the life that you want. Then you can eat bagels, AND drink coffee at the same time.

Make A Choice – The World is Yours

So there I was hiking with my friend. We had been doing switchbacks for several hours, and were both very tired. We got to a point in the trail where we had two options. One was to veer up the left, where we would have to traverse over several large boulders. If we went up to the left, we would get to our destination in about an hour. If we followed the regular trail, we would get to our destination in about three or four. Normally, something like this would be a no brainer, as one hour, especially after hiking switchbacks all day, is much better than hiking three hours. The only problem is that the “shortcut” up to the left was over several large boulders. We decided to give it a go. After about half an hour, I realized I might be in way over my head. My friend was already about half a kilometer up ahead of me, almost out of earshot. I was getting really nervous and anxious, as every third or fourth boulder was wobbling when I stepped on it. I was afraid if I slipped, I might bust an ankle. I didn’t know what to do.

I had a friend once that was an electrical engineer at a very large company. They hired him for his engineering skills. He was well regarded as an electrical genius, as he was responsible for ironing out the bugs in the machines that they were developing. They were in a meeting, getting ready for the big boss to come from the east coast. They had to decide, as one of their major projects was behind schedule. There was one of two ways they could go. They were fairly divided on what to do, and nobody really wanted to make a choice for fear of repercussions from the big cheese.

Its’ interesting what happens when you make a decision. When you make a strong choice, and you are congruent about it, people will almost always follow your decision without question. It almost seems as if people would rather follow somebody who makes a decision that they disagree with rather than choose on their own. Great leaders throughout history have always said the secret of their leadership is the realization that people want a strong and congruent leader who will stick to his decision regardless of what it is.

So my friend was able to see the clear solution. He raised his hand, and offered it to the management at the meeting. They were impressed, and accepted his idea. When the boss came, and approved of the idea, naturally my friend got all the credit. His ability to make a decision and take responsibility for it launched his career up into management, with more responsibility, more exposure, and of course, more money.

And when I finally decided to go around, it was as if a giant weight was lifted off my shoulders. Even though I arrived at our campsite a full four hours after my friend, I had a great time hiking alone. It was something that I’ve never really done before. Hiking alone, out in the Sierra mountains, with only the beauty of nature around us. All because I was able to make a simple choice.


Social Proof – Good or Bad?

I was riding my bike through a park near my house this morning. I saw this old guy next to a small stream. The stream is actually a drainage trough that leads to the ocean. They have built so there are several steps going down as the stream flows out. That way the water can pool in each area between the steps. In a few steps, where the man was looking, there were several fish. He explained to me that these were poi fish. When I asked him why they were so big, he explained that there was an elementary school nearby, and the kids would feed them on the way home. Because they can eat anything, the poi eagerly gobbled up anything the kids threw at them, providing it was edible.

One of the friends I used to work with was a very picky eater. She would take forever to choose what she wanted from the menu. Whenever somebody suggested something, she’d come up with a reason why it wouldn’t be good. Not fresh. Too expensive. Vegetables out of season. And the funny thing was whenever she finally decided to order something, she would invariably see something that somebody else had ordered and decide to change her order. Many times it was something that somebody had suggested earlier, and she’d dismissed for some reason or another. I always felt sorry for the waiter or waitress that had to go back and explain to the chef that he or she would have to start over again.

It’s funny how social proof works. You see somebody standing on a street corner looking up at the sky, and you look at the person. But if you see ten people looking up at the sky, you will almost automatically look up at the sky. This phenomenon has been described by many scientists as a shortcut of thinking. Instead of walking up and asking each person what they are looking at, and then making a determination whether or not to take a gander, the brain automatically floods the body with a strong desire to follow the crowd. It’s as if the ability to think for yourself gets temporarily shut off. This can be helpful, and invariably was helpful during our period of evolution. If you saw a bunch of your cavemen neighbors running very fast one direction, you either had the instinct to immediately join them or get eaten by whatever was chasing them. It can have huge negative effects when you are following the crowd in a bad direction, like in Nazi Germany, for example. Certain traits of human nature can be used both for good and evil. It’s important to monitor your thoughts and actions, and make sure they are your thoughts and actions, and not because somebody or some group of people have hijacked your brain.

But my friend finally realized that it was ok to take the advice of friends. And she learned to take her time to make a decision, so that when she finally made it, she was able to stick with it. And the rest of us were happy because we were all secretly a little bit embarrassed for the waiter. All in all it was a good decision.

And since I’ve been feeding the fish, my favorite part is watching how all the fish that are nowhere near the place where I throw the bread into the water come rushing over as soon as they see one of their fish buddies eating. I guess they follow the rules of social proof as well.


Ants with a Choice for a Better Life

Once upon a time there were these two ants. They were busy bringing crumbs of food back to their nest, where the food would be broken up into it’s components, and given to the various elements. The workers would get the parts that had energy for immediate use, so they could continue to work and bring back even more food. The small aphids would get the food that would be transferred into short term storage, that could be later used for nourishment for other ants. The queen would get the best stuff. She would get the most long lasting and densely nutritious portion of the food. She needed to save as much energy as possible, because she was going to give birth to the next generation of ants, who would go on and build their own colony.

But this story is about the two worker ants. They didn’t’ have names, because worker ants generally are not given much thought other than what they can produce. They only know how to follow one another, pick up a piece of food from the same source as the person who picked up the food before them, and turn and follow the trail back to where everybody else was going. Had they had the capacity of reason and the time to contemplate it, they would realize that all this was predetermined by nature and genetics. They didn’t have much choice in the matter. Food, trail, deposit, return to source. Over and over and over. They never got breaks, they couldn’t go out drinking on Friday night with their friends, they couldn’t wear shoes that didn’t match the rest of their outfits only because they were in a particularly festive mood that day. Food, trail, deposit, return. Such was the life of ants.

Until one day. One ant decided that he would stop, just for a little bit. Something inside of him spoke. Perhaps it was a genetic mutation, perhaps it was a voice that you never listen to. Perhaps it is a voice that you have inside you that is telling you to stop, and look around. Because when you stop, and look around, you might be able to notice things that you weren’t able to notice before. You might be able to see things that you hadn’t been able to see before. And you might have an idea, you might even create a new idea. The great thing about new ideas is that you can try them out, and nobody will really know what you are doing. Because it’s a new idea, even if it doesn’t’ work, you can still learn from the experience.

And when this one ant stopped, and took a break, he was completely surprised to see that all the other ants did the same. One second before, he felt depressed and angry and lonely. It’s not much fun being an ant. But when he decided to take a risk, and stop for a break, something amazing happened.  When he saw all the other ants following his lead, looking to him for guidance instead of that automatic scent they had been following, he changed. He transformed from a mindless worker ant to somebody with a choice.

When the queen gave birth to the new colony, she had to choose a leader. Because everybody knows that when a new ant colony is born, they are sent off into new and unknown territories, and must depend on the experience and guidance of those who came before. So naturally, the old queen, who was now advanced in years and failing in health, chose this young upstart ant to lead the new kingdom, which would undoubtedly flourish and prosper for generations to come.