THE BLOG

The Power of Choice

02/14/2015 03:17 pm ET | Updated Apr 16, 2015

The average working adult makes about 12 decisions before the 9:00 am hour. Obviously, this number varies on an individual basis, but a study by one of my Alma Maters, Cornell University, states that an adult makes about 70+- decisions a day. Once one opens his/her eyes, the 1st decisions made are; to snooze or not to snooze, what side of the bed to roll off of, what will I wear today, and maybe, will I go to work? It's part of our natural human behavior to make conscious and subconscious decisions on a daily basis. Some of which have short term effects and others with long term outcomes; should I stay in this job, this relationship, this geography? Well what if I told you there was a better way to make decisions in your daily life with a simple formula? Not necessarily preventing you from making mistakes but mostly, to not regret the mistakes you make. Interested?

Often times, we wish that someone would make life choices for us but they are just 'too hard' or 'too heavy' and we fear the future sentiment of regret. And so, we choose not to choose sometimes. When we have less choices, we are compelled to make a decision a bit quicker than having too many to handle. And when we have no choice at all, we either feel punished or relieved depending on the circumstance. This is real, it's everyday and everyone.

A nominal choice example: you walk into the grocery store to pick up some cheese and crackers. Aisle 7 on the left, 14 choices of gluten free, fat free, low sodium, wheat, whole grain etc. etc. of little carb filled bites they call crackers. How are you supposed to make your 1 decisions of what types to buy? With so many choices, your mind starts to wander and be a bit distracted by nutritional contents, quantity of serving, price, potential flavor, etc. Wouldn't the decision be much easier if there were only 3-4 choices? Or if mentally, you walked in already craving low sodium? This allows you to prepare your pre-set filters for yourself. Same with clothing shopping, you need a new top for an event but you have no idea what you want to wear. The choices are overwhelming but if you think a bit about fits, colors and dressing for the occasion, the decision becomes a bit easier.

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(photo by The Howard Brand, location GLAM356 Columbus, Ohio)

I know this seems simple and self-guiding, but you would be surprised how many people just wait until a choice must be made to actually think about it. Thus, first part of the formula is; Prepare.

1. Prepare yourself for a decision you must make. Filter your preferences beforehand so that a self-driven, educated choice can be made based on your pre-chosen subconscious desires.

I know that was a somewhat benign example but this logic is applied to all other choices as well. Such as, your family member is ill and they live alone and far away from the rest of the family. You have a bit of guilt because you are well and completely content in your life but you feel that you need to be there for the loved one in need and so, you start to think about small and extensive decisions you need to make to be there for this person in the last years of their life. Thought process: Can I afford to leave my job, my home, my family right now? How long would I go for? What is my financial situation and what will it be if I were to come home in about a year or two? Will my significant other be supportive and am I willing to put my personal life on hold? This leads to step two of the choice formula: Evaluate.

2. Evaluate the outcome, benefits and ramifications. What does it mean to make this decision in the time frame that I need to make it?

The power of choice is important to reflect upon because counting choices one is proud of and those one may learn from is the best way to grow, learn and take on tomorrow with educated choices for short term and long term decisions. So the last piece of the puzzle is to: Follow Through.

3. Follow Through with the decision. Sometimes the best way to choose, is to consult and hear feedback from those you trust, while other times it's best to hear the internal voice. Once that decision is made, don't be afraid of it. We can only make the most educated choices based on personal knowledge and experience so try not to renege on that decision once made.

Prepare, Evaluate and Follow Through. Have an idea of what you want beforehand and/or try to anticipate a future decision that must be made. Evaluate the cause and effect and see if it'll fit with your subjective plan and follow through with your choice as it may not be irreversible but it will effect you and most of the time, those around you. The power of choice is yours to keep and if you can prevent regret or make a more conscious decision, why wouldn't you? Choose wisely.