Decision Making Made Easy

Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom, Walt D...

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Have you ever had to make a difficult decision?   Not necessarily a decision that’s difficult because it’s life-changing, but a decision that’s difficult because there are two phenomenally wonderful, yet mutually exclusive options?

For example:

  • Should you put caramel or strawberry sauce on your ice cream?
  • Should you go to Disney Land or Disney World?
  • Should you subscribe to Live Real, Now by email or RSS?
  • Should you take the job with the stellar benefits package or the higher salary?

These are all real decisions that you may be called on to make.

For most decisions, there are some alternatives that are easy to discard.

MadDog 20/20 isn’t a good alternative to caramel sauce on your ice cream.   The local BDSM museum probably isn’t a great choice for a family vacation.  Sending me hate mail is obviously worse than subscribing.

Then you’ve got some choices that are both okay, but one is clearly better.    You’ve got free airfare and hotel.  Do you go to Topeka, or Paris?  Neither is horribly, but I think the choice is obvious. You’re going out to dinner.  McDonald’s or…nevermind, this fits the first category.

After you’ve discarded the obvious bad choices and the okay-but-not-great choices, how can you decide between what’s left?

This is the point that starts to cause stress.  What if you make the wrong choice?  What if you regret it forever?   What if you’re still not happy?  Gridlock.

The reason your stuck is because it’s not apparent which is the better choice.  All of your experiences and knowledge are telling you–on some level–that the options are identical in terms of your life, happiness, and goals.    It truly does not matter which one you choose.  You will probably be equally happy, either way.

Given that it doesn’t matter, you have two choices for making the final decision:

  1. Pick the one you want.   The rational decision is a tie, so make it an emotional one.   Does one job match your dreams, but with a bit more risk?   Has one vacation destination been a goal since you were little?  Do it!
  2. Flip a coin.  If the decision doesn’t matter, leave it to fate.  That way, if it doesn’t work out, you can always blame the quarter.

The one thing you don’t want to do is wait.  Failing to decide is still a decision and one that is guaranteed to keep you from being satisfied with your choice.   Don’t wait until you have all of the possible information, because that kind of perfect world doesn’t exist.   Get to about 85% of fully informed and run with it.  You’ll usually be happier making a decision–even the wrong one–than sitting back wondering “What if I had done that?

How do you make hard decisions?

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4 Ways to Change Your Life for the Better

Everybody has bad days.   Everybody has horrible days.   That doesn’t matter.   The important thing is how you feel about your life as a whole.   What can you do to make your life more worth living?

1.  Get out of debt.   When you’ve got no debt to pay, you have more options and less risk.   If you’re paying $1500 just to service your debt, it will be $1500 harder if you lose your job.   If you’ve got no debt payments to make, the impact of losing an income stream is far less.    On top of that, you’ll have that much more money to do the things you love every month.

2.  Find something you love to do…and do it.    Everybody has to do things they hate.  For some, it’s cleaning up the cat’s litter box, for others, they die inside a little each time they punch a time clock.   Life isn’t all puppy dogs and ice cream, but it’s important to have a little ice cream in your life.  What do you love doing?   Is there anything you love that you can start doing?  Start a business, write a book, volunteer for a charity that matches your values, or grow the world’s largest pumpkin.  Whatever it is, it’s time to get started.

3.  Eliminate the things you hate.    Life’s too short to live with the things you hate.   If something is destroying the value of your life, get rid of it.   Now, I’m not suggesting you off your mother-in-law, but it may be worth ignoring the phone when her number shows up on the caller ID and skipping Sunday dinner with her.   If you hate your job, find another.   If you can’t find a way to eliminate what you hate, embrace it and learn to love it, or you will eventually hate more of your life than just the bit driving you crazy.

4.  Let the ones you love know you do.   Do your children know you love them?  Does your spouse?  Are you sure?   If a meteor fell on your head today, would your kids spend the rest of their lives wondering how you felt?   If your wife were in a car accident today, would there be anything you wish you would have said?   Now, today, this morning, this second is the right time to let your loved ones know you care.  Don’t wait.   If you haven’t made it a habit, it may feel awkward.   Get over it.  Your wife and kids will love you more knowing beyond doubt that you love them.    A tight bond with your family can’t be bought, it can’t be bribed, and it can’t be faked.  It is worth everything.

What’s one thing you could do today to make your life better?

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Saturday Roundup

Tron (film)
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I wrote this yesterday.  According the forecast, when this post goes live, I’ll be moving 5-8 inches of snow off of my driveway.

That, or watching TV and thinking about moving snow.

Maybe I’ll just sleep in and wait for spring to melt the snow.

Don’t forget to enter my drawing for a $100 Amazon gift card!   Go here for details.  It ends on the 15th, so don’t wait too long.

Best Posts

Crazy-easy ice cream bread.  How could this possibly be bad?

Tron comes out in 2 weeks.  I’d love to show up on a custom street-legal Troncycle.

Arsenic-based lifeforms are shaking up the way we understand life to work.   I’m of the opinion that life will probably exist almost everywhere that isn’t a completely dead dry rock.  I say that as an expert in…well, nothing related to astrobiology.

Following Erica’s advice is currently making me a few hundred dollars per month, with every sign of growing as time goes on.  I hate to sound like a fanboy, but if she pimps a product, I’m at least going to give it some serious consideration.

Carnivals I’ve Rocked

10 Dumb Money Moves was featured in the Carnival of Debt Reduction.

Book Review: The Art of Non-Conformity was included in the Carnival of Personal Finance.

Things You Should Buy Online to Save Money was included in the Festival of Frugality.

Thank you! If I missed anyone, please let me know.

LRN Timewarp

This is a new feature to share the gift that is me with anyone new to LRN.   This week, I’m going to share some posts from my first week blogging here.

The $10 College Fund.  In the last year, not only have I not changed my mind about the $10 college fund, but I haven’t raised the amount.   The point is to just get started.   I’ve done that.  I’ll raise the amount when my debt is paid off.   We are now up to $166.09.  The numbers are off because I stuck a little bit extra in one month.

In the last year, our dreams haven’t changed.   We haven’t made any direct progress, but indirectly we are doing well.   First things first.  We need to pay the debt off before we look at a hobby farm.

My second day blogging, I wrote about why we handled money so poorly.

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5 Ways to Change the World for the Better

a cat and a Litter box
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We are all stuck on the same planet with each other.   There is nothing any of us are going to do to get the option of leaving for long.  Do you want to live in a miserable, run-down world, or one that’s happy and filled with kittens and ice cream?

The kind of world you live in is more a function of your state of mind than the place you live, the job you have, or the person you married.   Here are a few ways to improve that state of mind.

1.  Be kind. Smile at a teller.  Let someone merge in front of you in traffic.  Drop a dollar in a homeless man’s jar.    Have you ever had a lousy day make a total turnaround because of some inconsequential bit of yay?  Doing some small act of kindness can make a world of difference in someone’s day.  Next time you’re in the drive-through at Caribou, buy coffee for the person behind you.  That random bit of love will put a smile on both your faces.

2.  Be positive. Don’t complain.   So many of us live in a negative world, watching the world go buy through coffin-colored glasses.  Have you ever considered going an entire day without making a negative comment?  A week?  A month?   Some of you are shaking your heads right now, thinking it’s impossible.  Have you thought about how much happier you would be if you banned the negative crap in your life?

3.  Be a good neighbor. We’ve all had the same problems: a neighbor that plays music too loud, too late; the jerk across the street who yells at you for park on the street in front of his house; the guy who’s too busy to mow his lawn; or the crazy cat lady who makes the entire neighborhood smell like a litter box.  Don’t be that guy.    I’ve had 90% of my neighbors for more than 5 years.   If we don’t make accommodations for the people we have to deal with every day, we’re going to be miserable.

4.  Learn something new. If you feel good about yourself, you feel better about the world.  If you feel better about the world, you’re more likely to do things to improve it.   One of the best ways to feel good about yourself is to improve yourself.   Take a class, read a book, or find a mentor to teach you.  The method doesn’t matter, just do something to learn something you’re interested in.

What are you doing to make your world better?

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