This past weekend brought many opportunities to use on-the-spot, decision-making strategies. First, it was my son’s 10th birthday, and nearly every plan I made for him had to be reorganized at the last minute. My allergies flared up so much that despite taking allergy medicine, I went through four boxes of tissues in less than 24 hours. To top off the weekend, our car had an electrical meltdown and stopped working on the side of the President George Bush Turnpike, just feet from the North Dallas Tollway exit. Oh, and we had four kids in tow.
(Thanks to family nearby who came to pick us up and a nice tow truck driver, we were able to get safety to our destination, the National Videogame Museum. So fun!).
As my weekend illustrates, life gives us lots of opportunities to make decisions. Some decisions have to made immediately, while some take deep thought. As moms, we are most often the ones everyone looks to figure out the plan of action.
Over the years, I have found a few tools and methods to help me make decisions. Here are three that regularly give me assistance:
A brain dump can be just the ticket to solve a head-spinning spiral. It gives action items to move forward on. It offers clarity.
- Pull out a piece of paper or a blank document and write/type the decision needing to be made at the top. Begin filling the page with every thought whether emotional or informational. Anything goes. If repetition in thoughts or feelings are all that is coming up, move to the next step.
- Analyze what is on the page. Underline or highlight repeated or clearly important portions.
- Spend a minute turning the highlighted portions into a summary sentence of what the page says. Or create a task list of things still needed to do or learn to make the best decision.
The Big Life Decisions Chart
A few years ago, a therapist taught my husband and me how to use a decisions chart for making big life decisions. I have since used this useful tool when I am faced with choosing between two highly consequential choices, such as where to live, which school should my children attend, which job I should take, etc.
Of all the decision-making strategies, this method takes each decision factor and gives it a number based on how important it is to you. After completing the chart, there is one number for each option showing which overall choice most aligns with what is truly really valued.
Couples can also use this Big Life Decisions Chart to make joint decisions. Each person completes their own chart and then compare answers.
- Using the chart below as an example, start with a lined piece of paper or use a spreadsheet. You need seven columns and at least 10 rows.
- Complete the center column with your decision factors, a.k.a. the things you want! The more specific the better.
- Then decide each factor’s “importance” score (one to 10, with 10 being the most important). Put that number on either side of the center column.
- Moving outward to the next columns, go down each option’s column and give a score for each factor.
- Once you have your columns filled in, it’s time for some math! Multiply “Importance to Me” column with the “Option 1 Score” column and put answers in the “Option 1 Total” columns on the wing of the chart. Do the same for Option 2. Add up your answers from “Option 1 Total” and you will get a total at the bottom. Do the same for Option 2.
- Now you should have two big numbers at the bottom of the chart, one likely higher than the other showing which option is the winner!
Most of us have experienced enough “inner voice” moments to know when to listen to a warning in our heart or heads. While this may not be a clear matrix, it is a tried-and-true method in making decisions.
- Say my child has been reading a book series and every time she or he reads it, she or he is more sad and detached from relationships. I can say, “Enough is enough, let’s look for other book choices that will encourage you and not tear you down.”
- Because it is my responsibility and job as their mother to bravely make the right moves for my family. Because if I don’t, who will?
- When I am making the best choice for my kids’ benefit, I know I am making the right decision overall.
It’s Going to Be Okay
Because we make so many choices for our kids, we will not make all the right ones. And that is okay. Thankfully, every day is a new opportunity to use decision-making strategies on behalf of our families, to let go of past failures and if needed, to ask for forgiveness.
And a chance to remind ourselves that a gift of motherhood is that we get to love our kids, and what a gift that is!