Everyone has to make decisions. People pick and choose hundreds of times each day, which means we make thousands of decisions and choices each year. Even if someone says he did not decide to do or not do something, not making the choice was a decision. So we have no choice except to make a choice.
We have two ways to make a choice; we can make a logical reasonable choice based on facts and experience. The classic example is getting burned on a hot stove and then avoiding touching a hot stove again. We use our past experience about getting burned to make a good decision.
The other is to make a decision based on our gut feelings.
I look at decisions I have made in the past. Some have proved to be successful.
If I want to be successful again I should do what I have done in those previous situations. I have been successful in keeping rabbits and deer from eating things like shrubs, young trees, vegetables and flowers by deciding to spray them with a mixture of rotten eggs and hot pepper solutions. So long as I keep making the decision to keep that solution fresh by repeating it every couple of weeks, the critters will stay away.
If I decide (or forget which is just another way to make a decision) to renew the foul smelling stuff, the rabbits, deer and other hungry varmints move in and eat what I have planted.
I could decide to build a fence around the young trees and garden but in the past I have found that animals like deer and rabbits seem to find ways over or under it. I have a cage built around our blueberry bushes but birds and chipmunks still seem to get in and feast on the berries.
So long as I have experience to draw on, and so long as I trust that experience to make better decisions tomorrow than I did yesterday, I should be able to make some progress.
Of course we all face situations we have never seen before. In that case the wise thing to do is to rely on the advise of either research or experts before we make a decision. I am the first to admit that the things I don’t know are legion. In spite of living seventy-three years, I find there is more that I don’t know every day. Along that line I am the first to ask for advise, to do research, the first to rely on others who know more than I.
There are, of course, people we all know who seem to think they know everything.
They know more than the experts and they know more than research shows. Despite the fact that everyone makes mistakes, these folks never admit to having made a mistake and make decisions based on what they “feel” is right.
Chances are pretty good they will make some bad decisions, but since they never admit to a mistake and refuse to listen to the criticism of others who know more, they will just blunder on while others suffer the effects of their mistakes.
There is saying, so old that I have no idea where it came from, but it goes something like, “My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts.” That is a great way to describe the people who won’t admit they don’t know everything, and make decisions based on what they don’t know.
And some people make decisions based on what could be or what they wish would be.
Both of those approaches will most likely lead to disasters either large or small.
Americans have become so inundated with advertising like this that we have a lot of trouble making informed decisions. Advertisers try to create doubt, to cloud an issue and to feed us half-truth or out-and-out lies just to promote their “product.”
Insurance companies show us people who apparently don’t know what the word “deductible” means. These seemingly intelligent people are outraged that they have to pay something to repair or replace a car they wrecked. Or the don’t understand that as soon as they buy a “new” car it becomes a “used” car that is worth less.
That is where a lack of experience, understanding or knowledge leads us.
For example, for years tobacco companies fed us mountains of doubt about the results of smoking, even though they knew full well that smoking contributed to lung cancer. They added words like “may” or “could” to articles they published about their products. There is, after all, a world of difference between saying
“Smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer in some people” and “Smoking cigarettes MAY cause lung cancer in some people.”
The same thing is happening today and the companies who would suffer if people came to believe certain facts are doing the same thing. They say climate change “may” be a result of human activity, or climate change “may” be leading to global warming.
That one word “may” is enough to create doubt and when doubt exists people tend to believe what they want, regardless of the evidence.
In short, making decisions is an important activity, maybe the most important thing humans do. Making decisions on anything short of evidence, research, experience, logic and reason not only leads to faulty decisions, but more dangerously, to disaster.