Modern life is complicated. Every day involves a careful balancing act between duty and pleasure, responsibilities to our family, friends, employer, and community must be balanced between our need and right to spend some time enjoying life. Many of us are fortunate that at least a portion of our responsibilities also coincide with pleasure, but no matter how much we love our family or our job part of being a grown up is accepting that along with the joys of family and profession comes some drudgery. I love my family but no one can make me like scrubbing the bathroom or enjoy grocery shopping. I love my job but along with teaching the subject I love comes a mountain of grading that is sometimes frightening to contemplate. Even when life is progressing smoothly there are unpleasant tasks and choices to make. But what happens when life gets complicated and unpleasant decisions need to be made?
Like many people in the past I was often paralyzed by difficult decisions. When it seemed that there was no good choice I would often duck responsibility altogether until a decision was forced upon me. Then of course I would usually be unhappy with the results. Most people are more decisive than I was but are frustrated by their decision-making.
Some make all their decisions based on what they need or want right now. While this strategy can make life simpler, and sometimes happier, in the short term over time it often leads to problems with money, relationships, and their career.
Some make all their decisions based on their needs and wants for the coming year. While this strategy can also make life easier in the now it could still result in future problems.
Some make all their decisions based on their future needs and wants. This can often lead to an unhappy present as most pleasures are deferred to the future achievement of long term goals, but avoids the long-term problems the other choices created.
I have learned the hard way that good decision-making means achieving a balance of these three methods. When facing a tough choice look at the results in the now, in a year, and in a decade. Visualizing how the effects of a decision will impact your life should empower you to make better decisions and to make living with those decisions easier.
For example, my son just started kindergarten which meant my husband and I faced the choice of continuing with the Montessori program where he had attended preschool, enrolling in another private program, or moving into public school.
Staying with Montessori meant the short-term benefit of allowing my son to stay in a comfortable, familiar environment and supporting a worthy program balanced by the short-term disadvantages of continuing tuition payments and a lengthy commute. Looking ahead, we knew we did not plan to continue with Montessori past kindergarten so in essence we were only postponing the inevitable.
Enrolling in one of the local private kindergarten programs offered the benefits of good programs, smaller classes, and desirable peers balanced by tuition payments and scheduling issues in the short term. Looking ahead, we knew that eventually our child would have to go to public school so why not make the transition now?
Moving into public school offered some short-term advantages including the issue of timing. Our son was ready to go and it seemed natural to move into public school at the same time as most of his peers. Other short-term advantages included convenience and the quality of the program and the financial benefits of not paying tuition. Short-term disadvantages included our son’s emotional attachment to his previous school and a general upheaval in the elementary program due to population growth. Looking ahead, we were confident our son could and would make the adjustment to a new school, he would have to make the transition to public school at some point anyway, and that the program’s strengths outweighed its weaknesses.
By now you have probably guessed what decision we made. Once we broke down our decision and looked at the advantages and disadvantages in the now, in a year, and in a decade it was easy to see what was really important to consider. Only a week into school and our son has fully adjusted to his new school and has already made friends. Next year will mean some more changes but by then he will be comfortable and happy with his school. And in a decade he will be in high school. However, the care and thought we put into choosing a preschool program and school district will play a major part in his success at that level.
If you have trouble making decisions, or living with the consequences of the decisions you make, then using this simple strategy will make your life easier and better. Compare the expected outcome of each choice in your life now, in one year, and in one decade.