DECISIONS: HOW TO MAKE THEM CONSCIOUSLY

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How We Think Determines Our Choices & Decisions

We constantly make choices and decisions in our lives every day.  Some are big and some are small.  Sometimes we worry and stress about making them and find ourselves not knowing what to do, we go around in circles in doubt and confusion.  At times like this, we don’t trust ourselves to make them.  We become stuck and trapped and want to avoid or run away.  We do not want to be responsible.  We also may feel overwhelmed with too many choices or options and are stymied as a result.  We cannot move forward.  

Quite often we also don’t consider or think about the consequences, the impacts of our choices and decisions, what they will have on ourselves, our lives, others, the environment, business or even in politics.  Our decisions will be rash and not given much thought.  Only when the consequences are in our faces do we stop and think, “I should have thought about that more”, “I didn’t think that would happen” or “that choice and decision did not work, I should have thought about it more deeply.” 

How we think in the context of choices and decisions is not trivial, as they can impact not only ourselves and our lives in so many ways, but also those of others, businesses, nations, the environment and even the planet as a whole.   Awareness then of problematic thinking that limits and blinds us, does not allow us to be responsible, think outside the box or see the big picture or even become aware of impacts and ramifications, becomes a necessary part of our lives.  Not only is this awareness essential, another kind of thinking that enables us to see, to reflect, to be conscious, aware, wise, intelligent is also necessary.

This post will examine problematic thinking (what kind of thinking that is, what shows up when we do it in the context of choices and decisions in order to be aware) and what kind of thinking enables us to be conscious, aware, so that wise, informed, intelligent, practical, productive and responsible choices and decisions can be made. 

What is Problematic Thinking?

Problematic thinking is unconscious thinking and it occurs when we hold onto our thoughts and generate fear-based emotions and thought patterns.  It is what I call ‘Attachment Thinking’. 

If we reflect on our experiences, we can see that Attachment Thinking reduces or limits our ability to think clearly, rationally and productively as our thoughts are driven by the emotions that we generate (fear, anxiety, stress, anger, frustration for example) in this kind of thinking.  It is therefore difficult to make wise, conscious, intelligent, informed, practical, realistic, responsible choices and decisions. 

This kind of thinking limits our ability to see as we only see what we are holding onto.  This could be an outcome (what we want to happen), a destination (where we want to get to).  Our thinking will only be one way (linear), tunnel visioned if you will, and we will not be able to think freely, expansively or creatively.  In this kind of thinking, we are blind and unconscious and we do not consider the impacts and consequences of our choices, decisions and actions.

Below is a brief outline of what shows up in Attachment Thinking in the context of making choices and decisions.

  • Our choices and decisions will be driven by fear-based emotions (fear, anxiety, stress, anger, frustration and resentment) and thought patterns (“I don’t know what to do”, “I can’t do it” or “I don’t want to do it”. We will worry and stress about making them. We want to run away or avoid making them. We do not want to be responsible, we avoid responsibility.

  • We go around in circles in doubt and confusion. There is no way out.

  • Choices and decisions will be rash and made in a hurry and will not be thought through.

  • Options and possibilities will be overwhelming. We are stuck and trapped in our thinking and will not be able to move on.

  • Our focus will be on what we are attached or holding onto and as a result we do not consider impacts or consequences.

What is Wise, Conscious Thinking?

We can only be wise, conscious and responsible when we reflect.  Reflective Thinking is expansive thinking.  It is trust-based.  Trust refers to our natural biological state and as this state is stable, we are able to think clearly, calmly, rationally, practically and realistically.  We are able to reflect on our thoughts and thus our actions wisely and act with responsibility.  I will come back to responsibility a little further on. 

As Reflective Thinking is expansive, we can think in very broad and detailed ways and consider all sorts of impacts and consequences that are not possible in Attachment Thinking.  This kind of thinking is what I call Systems Thinking and it is very beneficial in all areas of our lives.

Systems Thinking enables us to think outside the box or square, to consider impacts and consequences of our thoughts, choices, decisions and even solutions.  We can consider what the impacts and consequences will be from a detailed and big picture view.  The big picture can be in the context of our lives (which paths our choices and decisions will take us down), an organisation or business (change in direction, cost cutting, new and existing products and services) or even in politics (policy reform and decision making, trade agreements, provision of services and even budgets).  We can also gain clarity and insight, see things that were not even considered to possible, from when we do Attachment Thinking.

Systems thinking enables us to see the ramifications, and so we act with hindsight, foresight, wisdom, intelligence and responsibility.  We are aware that impacts are not just one way.  They are interconnected and interdependent.  They are systemic.  One impact will have a ripple effect not just on ourselves, our lives and those of others, but also the environment, staff, customers, shareholders, the people that governments supposedly serve and even whether governments and countries choose to go to war or not (the number of people that will be killed, displaced (creation of refugees) and ultimately the destruction of an economy).

Responsibility

In Reflective and Systems Thinking, we can now act with responsibility.  We can ask ourselves “Do I want the consequences of these thoughts/actions?”. The answer based on what is considered (impacts and consequences) is either yes or no.  We choose according to our preferences, what we want or don’t want.  We are not only conscious and responsible for the choices, decisions and solutions that we make, we also willingly accept the consequences whatever they may be.

To know more about Attachment Thinking and what shows up (emotions and thought patterns) in more detail, how to break the cycle, return to yourself and do Reflective Thinking (what shows up when we do this kind of thinking), you can purchase a copy of my book, WTF?!...How am I thinking? here.  Alternatively, you can read the blog posts on both Attachment and Reflective thinking for a quick Introduction and also the importance of how we think, the awareness of that and how this influences and drives everything that we do in our daily lives.

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