~ Article written by L. Michael Hall PhD ~


There are decisions and then there are things which pass for “decisions” yet which are not real decisions. They are pseudo-decisions. They often and usually seem like a decision in some respects, but actually they are not. These include wishes, false impositions of choices, non-choices, intuitive decisions, habits, etc.


When you make a real decision you cut off alternatives (de-cision) as you say no to some things and as you make a commitment to a goal, an understanding, a direction, a way of life, etc. That is, as you say yes to what you are deciding for. Wishes are different. When you make a wish, you long for something, so you are operating from a state of desire … and yet the wish is a weak little emotion. It lacks the energy and passion of a real decisions which makes things happen.
In wishing, you say you want something, you are wishing for it. There is an inner urge. Yet what you do not have is the conviction to stand up and be counted for that thing or the plan of what you are definitely going to do. And with a longing rather than a conviction, there is not the moral courage to act on it to make it happen. You are just wishing … expressing a desire, sighing about a possibility, but not cutting one thing off in order to say yes to another thing. In wishful thinking there is an inner urge, but it is too fragile to make anything happen.

False Impositions Of Choice

Sometimes a decision is coded as an either/or choice. Decide now: Do you want X or Y? Are you doing anything fun this weekend or are you just catching up on some work? Decisions of this sort are most often polarized choices wherein you have dichotomized some set of choices. As a result, it seems as if you can only have one choice or the other.
“Either you succeed or you are a failure.” “Which are you, strong or weak?” “Are you smart or stupid?”
Yet these are actually false choices. They are treating a range of possible choices as an either/or choice having polarized the extreme polar ends of a continuum. The same is true for “whether or not” choices.
“I need to decide whether or not I will marry him.” “The only choice before me is whether or not I will invest in that course.”
To answer these kinds of questions is to recognize that what has been put before you (or what you created) is actually a bi-polar choice. Then, when you recognize that, it enables you to widen your choices. You can ask, ?Why not view myself as strong in some qualities and weak in others? “Yes, I engage in activities that sometimes succeed and sometimes fail. I am neither, they are just descriptions or categories of behaviors.” By recognizing the kind of choice, you can then frame it as “both/and’ instead of “either/or.”

Non-Choice Decision

Sometimes when we are attempting to make a decision, the way we frame actually positions things so that we are have no real choice. A common way we do this is to tell ourselves that we have no choice! Another way to set this up is to use various manipulative questions.
“I suppose I’ll sign up for X, there’s really no other choice.” “Don?t you want to have a reputation as a strong, decisive person? That’s why this is just right for you. Great. Then which would you prefer, that I deliver this on Wednesday or Thursday?”

Intuitive Decisions

Then there are all of the choices that you actually experience outside-of-your conscious awareness. These unconscious decisions, based on old programs that you created long ago, are still operational because you have not updated them. Once upon a time you made a choice, then you repeated it over and over. Then, over time, you became so regular and consistent with acting on that decision, that the sense of choice dropped out of your conscious awareness. Now it is your “program” for operating. Perhaps you once “choose” to do things in a certain way, or drive to a certain destination, or respond in a particular way … yet today that choice is not current and fresh. It is an old decision that has put you on automatic.
Perhaps this is how you get up in the morning, or brush your teeth, or eat, or watch TV, or a thousand other things you do. Today you do it by habit and the habit now operates within you in what we call an “intuitive” way. Consequently, many of your everyday decisions which you make today are no longer based on mindful awareness of today?s context, environment, or possibilities. Because you are on automatic, you are not actually “thinking.” Yes, you are making decisions but not consciously. An old program is now your default mode and today you may not even be aware of the choices you are making. When and if you are asked, you say, “It’s my intuition.”

Mindfulness in Deciding

To make great decisions today, aim to do so mindfully. Instead of relying on old decisions and living in the comfort of being mindless, get off of automatic pilot, and come into the moment. Yes, it will probably be less comfortable than operating from an old decision that’s now habitual. When you do that, then you can use your best executive thinking to make decisions that will serve you for the long-term.

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