Making Decisions You'll Feel Good About

>> Friday

YOU HAVE PROBABLY heard of the technique of drawing a line down the center of a piece of paper and listing the pros on one side and the cons on the other to make a decision. Apparently this technique has been around a long time. In a letter Benjamin Franklin wrote to Joseph Priestley in 1772, Franklin advises Priestley to use the technique, but adds two extra tips I had never heard before — tips that make the technique much more effective.

The first tip is to take three or four days to think about it, and during that time to add to the list of pros and cons as you think of them. That's a great idea. If you try to make a good list all in one sitting, you will necessarily neglect to consider some things. Take your time and allow things to percolate up into your awareness as you try to think of what's against the decision and what's in favor of it. Write them all down.

Then when you have them listed all together on one piece of paper, try to eliminate as many as you can. This will help simplify your decision. This is Franklin's second tip, and it's worth its weight in gold.

But how should you eliminate items from your list? How can you do it in a way that will help you make a good decision? In Franklin's words, here's how: "I endeavour to estimate their respective weights; and where I find two (one on each side) that seem equal, I strike them both out. If I find a reason pro equal to some two reasons con, I strike out the three. If I judge some two reasons con equal to some three reasons pro, I strike out the five; and thus proceeding I find at length where the balance lies; and if after a day or two of further consideration, nothing new that is of importance occurs on either side I come to a determination accordingly."

This is a much more sophisticated and effective way to use the two-column decision-making method. Try to judge the merit or importance of each item on your list and find one or two on the other side that has equal weight and cross them off your list. They balance each other out so you don't have to consider them.

As you pare your list down, your decision will probably become clearer and easier to make.

Benjamin Franklin added, "And though the weight of reasons cannot be taken with the precision of algebraic quantities, yet when each is thus considered separately and comparatively, and the whole lies before me, I think I can judge better, and am less likely to make a rash step; and in fact I have found great advantage from this kind of equation in what may be called moral or prudential algebra."

When you have an important and difficult decision to make, try Franklin's technique. Take three or four days to think of the pros and cons of your decision and list them. Then try to find items on either side of the line that are of equal weight and eliminate them. Then give yourself another day or so to see if you think of anything new to add to the list. Then make your decision. In all likelihood, using this method, you will make decisions that will help you enjoy the best moods in the long run.

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Enthusiasm is a Great Good Mood

>> Sunday

THE ENGLISH POET and clergyman Charles Kingsley wrote, “We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.” He was right. When you have something to be enthusiastic about, you can be in a good mood almost all the time.

If your job doesn’t make you enthusiastic, you’re probably stressed or tired when you come home and just want to watch a little TV and relax. But relaxing will never make you feel happy and fully alive. Naturally, you could make plans to do something this weekend, and you might be thoroughly enthusiastic about it all week. But then Monday comes and back in the grind you go.

What you really need is something ongoing to be enthusiastic about. What you need is a challenging and compelling purpose.

Up until a century ago, simple survival provided just such a purpose for most people, and that’s still the case in much of the world. But for most of us in this country, it’s no longer a challenge to merely survive. We have tamed our world. More than likely, the only way you will ever be challenged by a compelling purpose is if you create one deliberately. And if this purpose is going to make you truly enthusiastic, it needs to be something that personally compels you — some subject or task you think is fascinating or feel is vitally important.

Pursue your purpose with vigor and you will be in a good mood most of the time. Things that bother most people won’t bother you as much. You’ll still have your ups and downs, but they will occur in a higher range. You’ll still have to deal with problems, but you will handle them better. And your improved attitude will make your relationships happier and more harmonious. When you have something ongoing in your life that you are enthusiastic about, the quality of your life is better.

Pursuing a purpose is not comfortable, restful or easy. But it’s great fun! It makes life deeply enjoyable. Watching TV is enticing, sure. It calls. It beckons. But it won’t fulfill you or make you happy. A purpose will.

This is a chapter from the book, Self-Help Stuff That Works.

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Feel good more often and become more effective with your actions. Check it out on Amazon: Self-Help Stuff That Works.

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