Friday, August 22, 2008

How to Make Decisions

I remember BODO telling me more than once that he liked this thought process I developed, so now that I've finally thought of posting in the Blogblister again, I'm going to explain it. The purpose of this thought process is explained in the title of this entry. The process itself is almost as simple a notion, yet a powerful one, oh indeed, so powerful... for silly as it sounds, I feel that ever since I happened upon this idea (and even before then, actually), really everything I've done has been shaped by this system. In fact, it's probably true for everyone, but most people don't carry it to the level of actually mapping it out like this, so here we go.

Whenever I'm in a dilemma about whether or not to do something, or what choice to make out of many (when it actually matters--that's an important part), I ask myself three questions:

1. Am I obligated, for better or for worse, to do this as a result of an outside force I have no control over?
2. Is it Good? (I.e. will it be truly beneficial, for me or for others, on a level higher than that of immediate visceral pleasure?)
3. Do my appetites desire it?

The problem here is that a ton of interpretation can go into the definitions, e.g. what really constitutes obligation or "the Good." And of course #3 is totally up for grabs and is far too easy to get carried away with and put far too much weight on (the three should either be weighted equally, or #3 should get a little less than a third). That's why we have people with different opinions and people who do stuff that's just plain evil. Therefore, I can't claim to have solved every problem of human existence with these three simple questions. BUT, I've found that always keeping this in mind really helps the process of making healthy choices. I envision it as a sort of triangle, with circles at the corners, each representing one of the three questions.

To put it into a realistic context, let's say I have a tedious math assignment on Taylor's formula due tomorrow. Triangle #1 would have a huge green spike going upwards because I am very much obligated to do it, regardless of how Good it is or how much I "want" to do it. Triangle #2 would still be in the positive zone, because I feel that doing tedious exercises for school is good for you most of the time, but since it's on Taylor's formula, it wouldn't be that high. Finally, #3 would be unquestionably negative, with a red spike going downwards, because my deepest appetites do not especially relish writing out "0!" just because Ms. Oakes has insisted that on this assignment we write out the whole formula and take no shortcuts. But even still, the amount of red in #3 does not beat out the green in #s 1 and 2, so I do the assignment and I make the appetites tough it out.

Now obviously, someone who cared less about academics would have a very different picture. #1 would still be in the green, but nowhere near as highly. #3 would be much farther into the red, and there's a good chance that for many people, #2 would also be in the red. That's why you have to be careful in using this system--you have to be able to judge your own judgements, which no one can do perfectly, and why I, despite being, in a sense, the creator of this system, still make more than my share of vital mistakes. No matter how refined your definitions, you still will slip up at some point--but trying to minimise such happenings never hurts.

Lil Mugi

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