How To Tune Up Your Decision-Making Abilities

Posted on September 20, 2013


As the strength coach for my clients, I play a lot of roles beyond just the “programmer of exercises”. Teacher, friend, supporter, listener…and sometimes I fill the role of ‘person who brings up uncomfortable topics for the sake of the persons’ long-term progress.’ If there’s something standing in the way of progress, or that is posing a risk to the clients’ well-being, I require myself to bring it up. Always, these talks are done from a place of love & are done in order to help that person get better while dealing with things that need to be dealt with.

For instance, I’ve had to have convos with clients that go like this…. “If you want to compete, and I know you do, then you need to be prepared for all outcomes -what would competing in this event, despite not feeling 100%, do for you?…what would NOT competing do for you? Would you feel any different if you competed but did worse than you expected because your injury reared its ugly head?”

Nobody wants to think such yucky thoughts. But the reality is that sometimes, when we WANT one thing badly enough, we ignore some major signs telling us we should at least *consider* alternate courses of action.

In order to step your goal setting, action-planning, & achievement up from ‘beginner’ level, you’ve got to flesh the whole thing out – in full detail. How does it feel, what are the outcomes after the outcome of your goal, what other things came about as a result of you working for and getting your intended goal? And- you’ve got to be completely honest.

It’s hard to be thoughtfully honest if you haven’t practiced what I consider sort of a ‘reverse Hansel & Gretel’ methodology to your thoughts. Rather than you leaving the crumbs to find your way home, consider that they’ve been left out for you by someone/something who can see the way home that you can’t yet see.

“Home” meaning ‘the place you’re trying to get to’, and really, where are you trying to get to if you aren’t heading home? (but that’s another existential convo for another existential time) 😉

From my own experiences, it seems like if we do not practice the reverse H&G methodology, then we tend to plow forward with our plans and probably/maybe they work out. Plowing forward can be great, I’m a fan of plowing ahead at the right time! All I’m saying is that creating the ABILITY to flesh out thoughts and see them all the way down the path BEFORE you decide to start acting down that path, is beneficial.

Picture this: you’re walking on a trail toward your goal. You’re walking along, headed towards your goal. And you’re walking slow enough that you are able to take in the things around you, and can actually flesh out what has to happen to make it down the path to reach the intended goal. Also along the path, are little items for you to notice and pick up, things you hadn’t considered but that are a real part of the end-result if you get that goal. There are also off-shoot paths that you wouldn’t have noticed before if you’d done the ‘plow ahead’ way of reaching for a goal. Should you examine those off-shoot paths? You won’t know unless you consider all the options.

The main point? When you let your mind follow the path without taking any action yet, without judging what comes up, you get a more complete picture of everything, and thus, become more skillful in whatever action you end up taking.

Put another way; this is a cluster map. this is a cluster map (this is an actual one I did during my senior HS writing class…god that class shaped me so significantly…the teacher would give us a word, we’d have to cluster map for 60 seconds then start writing an essay – here it looks like she had us start with 1 word, cluster map, then cluster map again based on which things came up on that 1st map).

If you’re not familiar with cluster mapping, it’s a simple concept for mental-processing that you could try to help you make better, stronger, clearer decisions (and thus, take clearer actions). One reason cluster-mapping works so well is that it allows the brain to spit out thoughts without requiring them to fit in a linear, boxed-type setup like a traditional outline of ideas. The idea is that you allow all the thoughts to come out, without judgement or even any critical focus, and then you start following the thoughts, no matter where they go; what you end up with on your paper is, most likely, a lot of stuff you wouldn’t have considered if you’d done a traditional outline or tried to think about your idea with a singular focus.

Cluster-mapping allows for the free ‘wandering’ thinking that lets you fluff out your idea, enhance your focus, and consider the very same idea from a totally different perspective, as well as giving you the ability to see that same idea a little farther down the path, thus showing you more of the whole picture.

I’m a major mental-imagery type person, so in my mind, I have crystal clear pictures of things I’m thinking about. Things that are totally nebulous & shape-less in real life (an idea, for instance) become a tangible thing in my mind. And when I do the ‘reverse Hansel & Gretel methodology’ way of thinking, I literally can see the image from the other side of it-looking back at where I was sitting before, and see things from that new perspective. For someone who used to plow forward on every path, with focus mainly on “how things are supposed to turn out”, this is huge and awesome. Mental-flexibility for the win!

I think this way of fleshed-out thinking has implications in a variety of arenas. Having a strong mind in order to visualize an outcome before you head too far down that path…thinking of the end-goal you have in mind and being able to delineate the best action steps to get there…and gaining some ability to set a plan in motion but be capable and mentally-flexible enough to adapt as things change – because things ALWAYS change.

Posted in: Evolve Thyself