A Golden Rule to Simplify Decision Making
Last week I announced that I would be sharing a little series on the topic of LIFE BALANCE…
You know, that elusive ideal that we all talk about but never seem to get a grip on. The metaphorical pot of gold at the end of the crazy rainbow.
But the concept of life balance is a worthwhile pursuit, and while we may never master it, I do think we can find some strategies to help us move closer to the center. (or let me believe anyways.)
To kick things off I thought I would share a little tool I’ve been using a lot lately as I navigate both the big and little decisions of life.
It’s a simple question I ask myself when I am faced with:
Questions about how to spend my time.
Questions about adding things to, or subtracting things from my schedule.
“Should I or shouldn’t I?” questions.
Times where I’m trying to please someone.
Convictions. confusion. false guilt.
and the list goes on…
Because life? Can get very overwhelming. And sometimes we need to boil it all down to a simple question, a GOLDEN RULE if you will, which can be a bit of a guiding light as we make decisions.
And that simple question I am learning to ask myself is:
IS THIS REASONABLE?
You can apply it to just about everything…
Is it reasonable in this season? Is it reasonable for my family? Is it reasonable for my health? Is it reasonable economically? Is it reasonable today? Like, right now?
Is it reasonable? I know it’s simple, and obvious. But sometimes the obvious is not so obvious.
I am convinced that answering that question alone can help us make good, wise, and healthy choices in just about all of our life-balance scenarios. Because crazy as we may be (and yes, I’m first in line,) I do believe that deep down, we can all recognize reasonable when we see it.
However, as simple as this whole thing is, I get that it’s not always just that easy when we’re right in the middle of it all. I don’t know about you, but I am personally much more capable of making these judgement calls for someone else than I am for myself.
When a friend shares some personal dilemma, and I present the “Is it reasonable?” question, the answer almost always jumps out to me as clear as the light of day: DON’T DO IT! (or) HECK YEAH! GO FOR IT! (or etc.)
But for my own life: not so simple. Because when we’re making a decision for ourselves, it seems to get all sticky. We have all of the emotions to go with the decisions. How this will make me feel, or how it will make him or her feel, or what if I feel guilty or what if I regret it and so on and on and on…
The best way I know to get around that problem is to step back and look at your situation from the outside: See yourself the way a friend would see you. Try your best to be objective, and imagine what you would tell someone else in your situation.
What would you tell your best friend is the reasonable decision, given your current situation?
I’m pretty sure you’ll find the answer easily.
If you don’t, then you might want to actually bring your dilemma to a trusted friend. Tell her you’re looking for reasonable.
A good friend will tell you.
Recently, a friend of mine went back to college after her last son graduated high school. She only needed to pass a few classes, but she took on a heavy load, and was shooting for straight A’s. Her classes began to consume her to the point that she was having trouble sleeping, she wasn’t exercising, and she wasn’t even making meals for she and her husband (who was working long days as well.) She called on a friend who knew her well, and her friend pointed out quite simply: This just isn’t reasonable. Something’s gotta give.
Maybe she could drop a class. Maybe shooting for Straight A’s wasn’t necessary. Of course her intentions were admirable, but her friend could see clearly that she was getting out of balance.
I received an email recently from a man considering going to medical school in his mid-thirties. He has a wife and two elementary aged kids, and wanted to get Dave and my opinion on living three hours away from his family each week to do medical training. His wife was already anxious thinking about this, and he hated the idea of being away from his kids during their prime growing-up years. He just wasn’t sure what to do.
My simple response was, “I don’t think you should do it. It just isn’t reasonable.” Don’t get me wrong, I think medical school might be a valid option, if the man had a solid plan place. If his wife was on board. If…
But when you look at the whole picture –the kids’ ages, the living apart, the wife’s anxiety…Nope. Just not reasonable. Shift something here or there, move the family to be with you, or wait ten years…but from the picture he painted, I saw unreasonable written all over it.
I’m applying this question to the most everyday dilemmas that I face: When I am stretched and tired and my schedule is completely full and then one of my kids asks me to drive him just one more place “because it’s only ten minutes away” (which we all know will turn into a thirty minute + round trip) and it’s honestly the last thing I feel like doing…My tendency has always been to say YES anyways. Yes, because I CAN. Yes, because I love my son. Yes, because (let’s just be honest), my son is a master manipulator.
But saying yes in a situation like that usually means I say yes with a resentful, grumpy heart. And saying yes to one thing means saying NO to something else. Like downtime with my little guy. Like ten minutes to sit on the deck and gather myself before I start dinner…
So, these days, I invite the reasonable question to enter the scene and act as referee: No son, that just isn’t reasonable today. Another day it might be. But in light of my day, and everything else going on, your request is just not reasonable. Case closed.
Big things. Small things. The reasonable question is super helpful.
Share in comments: Which decisions do you find most difficult? The big ones or the little ones? Life altering decisions, or little daily ones? If you have any secret methods to your decision-making, share with the rest of us!
More life balance posts, and some other really exciting news coming here soon….
I. LOVE. THIS.
I love the example that you shared about driving your son around! That is exactly where I am. My kids are 14 (girl), 13 (girl), and 11 (boy), and they could keep me quite busy (and crabby) if I let them! Last summer, I was the “yes” mom to all things fun and friends. This fall, I was completely burnt out. Now I’m being way more careful with my “yeses”. I love that question, “is it reasonable”? I should not feel guilty if I need to read on the couch for 10 minutes, as opposed to driving you and your friend to a coffee shop, if it’s what I really need at that moment to fill myself up. I just bought your book after hearing you on the The Happy Hour podcast. I’m doing the Whole30 right now, but I’m looking forward to seeing what you have to say about health and fitness!
Thank you Tiffany! Yes, it’s tough to juggle all of those feelings of wanting to be a great mom, knowing our limits, and so on. Sounds like you’re figuring it out though! 🙂
Definitely let me know what you think of the book after you read it. I’ve heard great things about the Whole30, great for focusing on nutrition and your body and nothing wrong with that! Aloha, XO
This is such an excellent question to ask. It clears the fog out of the way and will help you make a decision that is well informed. Love this! Thank you.
So good, Monica… will be keeping this in mind. Thanks.
I was nodding my head while reading this article. Can help a friend but when it comes to my decision I draw a blank. 😉 I have gone back and forth about moving jobs to a different school closer to home. This golden question helps. In ways it is reasonable….esp when I sat in traffic the last two mornings for 45 minutes. But I am also trying to decide if I should move levels. A hard call. Will definitely try your suggestions. Thank you!
Oh! I needed this! I have trouble saying no especially to volunteering…I am in a woman’s club, church functions, PTA … And it just gets to be too much sometimes. If I’m too tired for my kickboxing class (my major stress reliever!) that’s no good. I recently had to say no to becoming Sunday School director at church because I didn’t see how to fit in. Still feeling a little guilt over it though to be honest but my poor husband sat me down and told me kindly and firmly that it was NOT a reasonable thing to do and he was right!
good man you have! And I do love your heart…Those are all really good things to want to do! (and we all have plenty more time in other seasons to do more!) Aloha, and thank you for sharing that great example!
We recently were faced with some decisions about a business I had a lot of time and money invested in. It had gotten to a place that my current rate of involvement wasn’t reasonable anymore. But because I had given so much blood, sweat and tears it was really hard to admit that it wasn’t working anymore. Funny thing is that God knew I needed to let it go without the promise of something better replacing and yet – right after I let it go he brought something very reasonable to replace it. =)
yay!! What a great story, Krystal! Thank you so much for sharing that! 🙂
Much aloha, and congrats —
I needed this so much today, thank you!
Lora–Makes me so happy to hear that! 🙂 Hope you have an amazing day!
(Came from BlogHer website) I have a pretty big decision to make now. I just quit my job after 3 and half years, totally burnt out. My in-laws said to take some time off and refresh. I feel guilty that I’m at home while my husband works. On the other hand, it seems ‘reasonable’ to take some time off, but what is ‘some’?
Thank you for commenting Tomoko, and it sounds like you have some wise in-laws. 😉 What is a reasonable amount of time to take off? Financially? For your own mental health–consider what you would tell a friend makes sense, given your situation! 🙂 And also, of course, talk to your husband! (haha) Enjoy the time, and I’m glad you get this chance!! aloha-
Good point to look at the WHOLE picture realistically, rather than going off of our emotions. Even the ‘little’ decisions, because there are so many of them, that their results are what determine what our daily life is like.
Saying no to your kid is a great example that we can all relate to.
Gosh, that is so good. I’m going to really work on asking that “Golden” question when a decision arises. Like my daughter is trying to find an apartment for next year and she sends me all the specs and costs of each one. Now I know what to say instead of just “no” I’ll say “that’s just not reasonable”. My question is this, what happens when they ask why?
Thank you Kristen. And you’re right — kids and the “WHY” question! 🙂 If she really wants to know, you could always show her on paper. Or you could simplify say that with your current financial situation…or in light of other responsibilities you have…etc etc…it just isn’t reasonable. She will get it even if she doesn’t want to. 🙂 Aloha!!