Psychology -
Cognitive and Behaviorist Studies

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Life Choices & Decisions

Life Choices and Decisions
      All children require nurturing and are exposed to opinions and standards established by their parents (care givers), coaches, teachers, society, and religious organizations. As the child becomes a teenage, they usually attempt to establish their independence and identity that allows them to control their life.  Sometimes this can produce a cultural and values clash with their parents, school, job, etc.

     Some individuals seem to have a talent for seeming to make bad choices. Sometimes it is their choice of peer friends, romantic friendships, partners in a school project, business associates, etc. which seems to be repeated time after time that never end well.  This can happen even when the individual has received every possible advantage a family can provide by parents who dedicated to provide a stable home life, food. clothing, medical care, reasonable restrictions, chores, and unconditional love.

     The sixty-four dollar question is how parents can teach their children to take responsibility for their actions in all respects - ethically, morally, and financially. Some children tend to not be able to resist peer pressure to drink, smoke, take drugs, and participate in unprotected sex.

     There are some family counselors who highly recommend require even small children should have age appropriate family chores that they must perform to the satisfaction of the parents before they can earn money and secure permission as they grow older, to play in sports, go to the movies, date, and privileges such a cell phone, TV,  computer, drivers license with insurance. 

      Some parents want to be friends with their children as they are growing up. However, the primary responsibility of parents is to provide them with the tools to become responsible adults who can provide for themselves, and eventually a spouse and future grand children, pets, and possibly home ownership.

Who is responsible for making choices/decisions
      Parents, care givers, or legal guardians are legally responsible for making choices/decisions for children under eighteen; however, they also have a duty to provide training, assistance, and guidance throughout their preparation of becoming an adult. Sometimes these two responsibilities will be on a collision course.

     Acquiring the skills necessary to become a responsible adult requires allowing a child to gradually make their own decisions and accept their role in both good, neutral, and negative consequences. This is often very difficult when as a parent you feel they are not making good choices. The problem is that what is offered as help is often viewed as interference and increases their determination to proceed. In fact it may hasten their decision.

     As an adult and a loving parent, we should be prepared to provide unconditional love and appropriate support providing the support stops short of enabling the child's making poor decisions.  It is also important not to express verbally or with body language thoughts of "I told you so, but you would not listen." Of course this is true, and the child knows it, but reminding them of what is obvious usually initiates negative communications that frustrates the adult and the child, regardless of their age.

Identifying alternative choices
Making any decision requires identifying and reviewing all alternative choices for considered prior to making any decision. This process should not involve procrastion as a means of not making a choice. In fact the delay actual is a choice that is an attempt to avoid the responsibility of acknowledging support of the decision.

     Of the possible alternatives, it is necessary to apply the same evaluation standards in order choose the one that:

  • Has the highest probability of success or effectiveness,
  • Best fits with our goals, desires, lifestyle, values, etc.
     An ideal decision making process should sufficiently reduce uncertainty and doubt to allow a reasonable choice to be made. It is unlikely to be completely able to eliminate uncertainty in the process.. Rarely are decisions are made with absolute certainty since this requires complete knowledge about all the alternatives and this is seldom possible. Therefore every decision involves a certain amount of risk.

     There are several basic types of decisions which employ different approaches to achieving the choice best suited given the circumstances and available background information:

1. Yes or No Decisions - are made by weighing reasons pro and con. The Plus Minus Interesting
 technique is ideal for this kind of decision making.

2. Conditional Decisions - involves a set of predefined criteria and applying the criteria equally to one or more alternatives from a list of possibilities.

3. Contingent decisions - a hold is in place until a specific conditions are met. For example, available time, energy, price, availability, opportunity, encouragement, authorization.

Decision making is a nonlinear, recursive process.
       Decisions are generally made by considering how to prioritize the desirability of a set of characteristics are, assigning a value for these criteria, and applying them to the alternatives being considered.

      Decisions require gathering information, exploring alternatives, and making an informed choice. Decisions are rarely made in isolation without regard to anything that has gone before. The fact is, decisions are made in a context of other decisions.

      A linear approach to decision making involves weighing the benefits and drawbacks for each criteria and then proceeding to the next part of the process until all are completed. There may be some deficiencies in all alternatives. Sometimes there are "deal breakers" that must be satisfied in order to be considered in the final process. However, the final step is to compare the individual evaluations in order to select the one that best meets the criteria.

      A contingent decision stream is influenced by the identification of a characteristic that is added to our criteria after the evaluation process has begun. This may occur late in the process. Please note: That a published request for a business proposal usually can't be amended without putting out a new request. This is especially true of government and military requests.  For internal reviews, prior to publishing a formal published request, the decision making process continues to move back and forth, around and around as it progresses into what eventually becomes a linear direction but which in its actual workings is highly recursive.

Spontaneous Decisions 
       Studies indicate that people who make decisions quickly, tend to be more satisfied with their decisions, even when they lack information, than people who research and carefully weight their options. It is possible that this difference can be explained by the lack of stress that would otherwise have occurred in the process of spending weeks researching various choices leading up to making a decision.

      Research indicates that a conscious mind generally can only hold between 5 and 9 distinct thoughts at any given time. Therefore any complex problem, with more than (on average) 7 factors, is going to overload the conscious mind's ability to function effectively. This results to poor decision making because the conscious minds limited ability to deal with complex situations.

     However, our unconscious mind is much better suited to processing complex problems. People who “act on their gut feeling” actually are responding with a decision their unconscious mind has already made.

Analyzing outcomes
       Really big, important decisions seems to make the decision process even more difficult if get so focused on the immediate consequences of the decision, that we don't consider the effect of the possible  outcomes we would like to accomplish.

      The decision may become easier by spending some time to consider the possibility of outcomes other than what you desire. Consider each option and ask the following questions:
  • What is the probable outcome of this choice?
  • What outcome(s) is highly unlikely?
  • What are the likely outcomes occurring if this alternative choice isn't acceptable?
  • What would be the outcome of doing the exact opposite?
  • What would be the outcome of doing nothing?
In and ideal world, what would you want to accomplish?
      Start by listing what your hopes and ambitions. Prioritize the things that are most important to you by using a scale of not very important as 1 and 5 as extremely important. What would you be prepared to sacrifice to achieve each of your goals - financial security, stasis, a mate, children, etc.

      Choices and decisions should take into consideration possible outcomes - from very bad to very good.
While each individual has control their actions, there external factors, such a luck, natural disasters,  world/national economies, and political turmoil, which are beyond control except by people in leadership positions.

     Will placing second be a satisfying experience, or will you be devastated by the loss? Your answer should tell you a lot about yourself.

Recommended Reading:
  • DOC PMI  stands for 'Plus/Minus/Implications'. It is a valuable improvement to the ' weighing pros and cons' technique used for centuries.
  • Decision Making Techniques and Skills from Improving Decision Making. The Ladder of Inference - Avoiding “jumping to conclusions”. Decision Making Under Uncertainty - Making the best choice with the given data available.
  • The Importance of Yoga for Sports Persons   Feb. 5, 2011 Yoga is a holistic system - teaching skills which many sports persons seek, such as control over the mind, control over the body, good breathing, etc.
  • Autonomic Nervous System - NDRF   The autonomic nervous system conveys sensory impulses from the blood vessels , the heart and all of the organs in the chest, abdomen and pelvis, etc.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder  All kids have worries and doubts. But some have obsessive- compulsive disorder (OCD) in which their worries compel them to behave in certain ways.

The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
 and combined
with information from public institutions, plus athletic organizations/
associations that have a
web presence with concerning team and individual sports programs:

Introduction - Modifying Skills and Habits

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