Stop to Consider: Claiming Decision Power
Ceding Power to Others
We can’t make a decision unless we recognize and seize the opportunity to do so. "Declaring" a decision is consciously creating the space for a choice--driving a wedge between stimulus and response.
Consider the case of Bernard, a 16-year-old youth in juvenile hall. When asked how he got there, he replied, “So, I’m driving along and this guy pulls up next to me and looks at me funny. So I pull over, he pulls over, and I beat him down. I drive off, he calls the cops, the cops arrest me, and now I’m here.” Asked what he thought about the decisions in his situation, Bernard paused and then replied, “Well, the guy decided to look at me funny. He decided to call the cops. The cops decided to arrest me. So, I don’t like decisions—they put me here!”
Who has the power in Bernard’s life?
Creating the Space for Choice
An obstacle limiting success in life is not fully recognizing the freedom we have. Like Bernard, we may find it easy to blame things on fate and fail to take control of our life. Yet decision power is ours to claim.
Most of the time, we don’t reflect much on our lives but just “go with the flow.” It’s only when something has broken down, or when we face a life-changing decision, that we consider making a conscious choice: How to deal with being arrested …What to do about a bad grade … Where to go to college … Whether to join a gang …How to pursue a job opportunity …
In such cases, we must recognize that we do have a choice, that it’s worthwhile to reflect on that choice with head and heart.
We must declare our decision.
How to Declare a Decisions
• You can shape your life by being alert for decision opportunities.
• You have a choice: Is this a decision worthy of reflection?
• “Going with the flow” is making a decision, too. If things you value are at stake, take control.
Ask Your Head
• Is this the right time and place to make this decision?
• How different will my decision be if I follow the crowd?
Ask Your Heart
• What am I worried about? What am I afraid of? Where do I feel out of control?
• Will I still be accepted by my social group (family, peers, classmates) if I question where the herd is heading, or will I be viewed as a leader?
Tools and Good Practice
• Set goals and identify decisions to achieve them.
• Role-play: Compare “going with the flow” with declaring a decision
• Picture yourself in 2 years. How could you change this picture?
• Look back. What decisions should you have declared?
Traps to Avoid
Lack of decision fitness—lack of the capacity to make a good decision (e.g., angry, drunk, tired, broken hearted)
• Fatalism—no matter what we think or do, the future will turn out the way it will
• Reacting to situations without thinking
• Avoiding conscious choice because of fear of failure, criticism, ambiguity, lack of resources, loss of face
• Reacting unconsciously out of guilt, hate, shame, revenge, or love
• Letting others decide for us