Making Decisions


Apparently, we make 35,000 decisions today. And every decision calls upon our unique decision-making matrix.

On July 1, Erin and I arrived in Bologna, Italy after an overnight flight on the East Coast. I decided to be in Italy for one month, divided into three sections. First a yoga retreat in Urbino, then a hiking adventure on the Road to Rome. Then a bike trip through the Dolomites with Mark as our 22-year anniversary gift to ourselves.

18 years ago, I was fresh out of grad school, had a newborn, and was married to a teacher. We got hand-me-down baby clothes from friends, a free car seat and from the county and received supplemental food benefits for low-income families (SNAP) to make ends meet. We were living in alignment with our values, but we had very little money. Now, deciding to spend money on a luxurious vacation is not lost on me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we make decisions.

  • Sometimes it’s about the path of least resistance and doing what seems easiest.
  • Or short -term pain, long term gain connected to goals.
  • Or influence, like marketing or what’s trendy or a friend’s input.
  • Or our decisions are habit or pattern based.
  • Or we decide based on anxiety or impulse or excitement or consequence or expectation or caretaking or keeping up with the Jones’s or intuition or guilt or values.

In my life or day, many of my unconscious decisions have been based on utilizing the God-given energy that I have, which comes with much drive and action. With our clients, we have a module about leading and living with productivity and joy. It’s for people who lean towards accomplishment addiction, of which I can have a tendency if I’m not intentional. So on this trip, I have been thinking about using a different lens for decision making.

Here, in these hills covered in grapevines and quaint farmhouses, many decisions are already made for us. Like the itinerary of yoga, kayaking, attending a cooking class, when our down time will be and the introduction to 10 different kinds of pasta. I love having all the planning done for me.  I once heard someone say that the only thing they wanted for their birthday was to not need to make any decision for the day.  I understand that, as decision fatigue is real.

I also have a strong need for free-will in my life. When I was younger, I wasn’t as assertive, went with the flow mostly, and didn’t know myself as well. Now, for better or worse, I have a strong dose of “don’t-tell-me-what-to-do.” If someone starts a sentence with “You should” or “Don’t,” my inner rebel awakens, regardless of the content and whether the message comes from society or a loved one. I’ve seen this genetic trait expressed in my son. Knowing this about myself and knowing that most people don’t like unsolicited advice, I try to be careful not to tell others what to do. But I am a clear decision-maker for myself about things I care about. On this trip, I intentionally influence things like:

  • How much sleep I get (I really love sleep)
  • Connection vs alone time (I really love both but sometimes forget to prioritize alone time)
  • Doing the group plan vs my own plan (I tend to experience JOMO more than FOMO, and I am drawn to adventure. Joy of Missing Out/Fear of Missing Out).

I also realize I don’t ruminate about “the small things.” I make quick decisions about them, typically without input from others, and don’t second-guess the decisions later. With packing, for example, I easily decide which clothes to pack, which size suitcase to bring, and how many shoes are necessary. But what I’ve learned is that the size of things is different for everyone. What’s small to me is big for them, and vice versa. 

When Rose Toehe and I co-facilitate, she brings in the indigenous perspective, specifically Navajo. She talks about how our decisions impact seven generations to come. This reminds me that every decision we make has an impact, and this perspective encourages me to operate with care.

In contrast, as a participant in another training, I have been challenged with, “Describe your great, great grandparents, starting with just their names.” Most of us didn’t even know. This is a reminder to not sweat the small stuff, as within 150 years, our decisions and even lives, may be forgotten.

          Taking these varying viewpoints into account, I think about what I want to guide my decision-making matrix on this trip.  Maybe my decisions matter a lot, and maybe not really at all in the scheme of things. The hosts of this retreat have a 24-hour rule for us to abide by.  To just focus on the next 24-hours and not worry or plan beyond that. It’s brilliant. Now I think, “What do I really want today?  In this moment? I am attempting to be present and make decisions based on desire.  At first blush, desire can seem gluttonous.  But it’s not.  It’s deeper than that. Danielle LaPorte, author of The Desire Map, says all goals are based on a desire to feel a certain way. I desire challenge at times, comfort at others. I desire different types of connection based on the moment: deep, humorous, long, short, excited, calm. My desires are usually quiet, but I am trying to notice them better.

          As I quiet the noise and tune-in to myself, I am overcoming my tendency to forget to do this and just ride the current. I just skipped an hour of yoga to finish writing this, and that felt good. A simple decision without overthinking. I’m going to keep playing it hour by hor.

How do you want to make decisions within the next 24-hours, and how do you want to feel?

Want to learn more about how you handle Making Hard Decisions? Take our assessment here.


Michael Buchheit, Leadership Philosophy, Grand Canyon Association

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