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Decision Making 101: To Change or Not to Change

Author: Anna Frinzi

How many decisions do you make in a day? The research is spotty, but reports have stated that individuals make up to 35,000 choices daily. By the time you have started reading this, you may have already made a few! For example:

Should I get out of bed now? In a few minutes.

What should I have for breakfast? Hmm. I’m not sure, I’ll check the fridge. I am feeling hangry.

Should I let the dog out now or later? Spot should be good for another hour.

Should I clink on this link? Yes, it looks interesting! I could make some changes…

Should I continue reading this article? You betcha!

After these examples, can you understand why your brain gets fatigued from making constant decisions throughout the day? The choices can be monotonous and trivial, but they can also be significant and life-altering in certain moments.  Decision fatigue is a real thing, as simply around the topic of food, research shows that you make anywhere between a few dozen and a few hundred decisions every day!

Decisional balance — or considering the positives and negatives when making a decision — is a concept that was originally developed by Janis and Mann (1977) and has been integrated into the Transtheoretical Model developed by Prochaska (1994). This decision can be as simple as deciding what you want for dinner tonight, or as significant as choosing to run a marathon.

Cool, right? So, let’s try it out. Get your pen and paper ready, and write this decision down in a journal or notebook if you would like. You can also simply note it mentally.  

After noting your potential change, let’s create some lists. With each of these questions, try to list as many ideas as you can.

List #1: Pros of Changing

Ask yourself: What are the potential benefits of making this change?

Think about what you have to gain and how your life will be different after making this change. How would changing make your life better?

These are considered “motivation.”

List #2: Cons of Changing

Ask yourself: What are your concerns about making a change?

Think about what you might need to sacrifice and what obstacles might come up with making this change. What are the costs of changing? What is preventing you from making this change?

This is “resistance.”

List #3: Pros of Not Changing

Ask yourself: What are your concerns about staying the same? (Motivation)

Think about what drawbacks there are with staying how you are now. How is what you are doing right now not working for you? Are you satisfied with the way things are now?

These are also points of “resistance.”

List #4: Cons of Not Changing

Ask yourself: What are the benefits of staying the same? (Resistance)

Think about what positives there are to staying the way you are now. What do you believe will happen if you continue as you are now?

These are considered “motivation.”

Done! Now what?

After going through this exercise, what emotions and feelings did you have when weighing about this decision? The goal is to start this conversation with yourself and reflect on the positives and negatives of changing versus not changing.

The more ideas you have in lists 1 and 4, the more “reasons” you have to make the change, and the more motivated you are to do it. The more ideas in lists 2 and 3 indicate you might be more resistant to making the change — there is a lot of pay off to stay where you’re at. With this in mind, take some time to review your thoughts and consider where your obstacles lie.

While you might want to give certain points a weight and make a decision based on concrete data, the goal of this exercise is to ultimately help you slow down, tune in, reflect, and see the big picture. Typically, you’ll “know” what to do after making your lists.

Changes do not occur overnight, and it takes time to make a long-lasting adjustment. Making that commitment to change is a big step in itself and shows that you are in the contemplation stage of change. As you think about where you want to be in the future, consider the words of Carl Rogers, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then, I can change.”