Monday, April 9, 2018

On Deciding


LUCY BURDETTE: Remember Hank’s post on to do lists a couple months back? I saw an article online about decision-making recently (though sorry to say, I've lost the link...) The author’s main premise was if you don’t get good at making decisions, you are wasting a huge amount of time that could be spent better in your life. And that decision making takes a lot of effort, so maybe you’re better off making early choices rather than trying to choose the best choice. (The author gave the example of going to the grocery store. This man planned all his menus way in advance so he had no choice is to make while wandering the aisles.)

Here’s a fairly accurate transcript of conversation between me and my hub, John. In my defense, it was a complicated day and we had to fit a lot of things in. I was singing in the church choir, then off to the artisans market to sell books in the Key West Writers Guild booth. And we needed to purchase ribs at that same market, and they sometimes sell out early. And we have one car. I think that’s enough background!
by Conal Gallagher

Lucy: What if I ride my bike to church since I have to get there early. And you take the car and drop off the books at the booth so they’ll be there when I arrive after choir practice. But wait, how do I get the books back home after the sale?

John: I’ll come and pick them up. Fine.

An hour later, Lucy: or do you think it would be better if I take the car and you ride the bike. Except by the time I get to the market there won’t be any place to park.

John: Either way is fine.

Half an hour later, Lucy: Or would it be better…

John: do we have to decide this again today?

How are you at making decisions, Reds? Do you make them and then tend to change your mind? or you are once and done?

HALLIE EPHRON: Ha ha ha! I've had that conversation, too.

I tend to be pretty decisive. But in my writing, I can't leave a decision unchanged. I'm forever going back and second guessing myself, and it's almost always better after I change it. 
by Denise Krebs

When it comes to large household purchases, I'm terrible at actually making the purchase. The Internet opening up a vast array of MORE CHOICES only makes it worse. It's been literally years that I've been trying to decide on a new light for the dining room. And then every time I find something I like, my husband derails it. It's why I don't let him into the kitchen. We'd never eat because we'd be endlessly deciding WHAT to eat.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Don't even get me started on the dinner thing.  I keep saying--Just TELL me what you'd like and I will make it. Just don't make me have to figure it out. But that's different than deciding.  I have to say, in most realms, I'm pretty decisive, too. I think, I ponder, I decide. Even though I can see all the possibilities, the best (to me) answer still emerges. Maybe it comes from all these years in journalism. You've gotta be ready (and right!)  by 6 pm, when the news is on! So usually, I'm fast and fine with it.

My downfall is what to wear to a thing. (Until I decide, and then I am incredibly inflexible. You mean it's gonna be 90 degrees? Nooooo. I already decided! )  And sometimes I'm indecisive in a restaurant until the waiter actually asks me to choose. There's that moment when it's now or never. 

One thing I do, if I can't decide, is I make an appointment with myself to decide. I'll think--I don't need to figure that out until Tuesday. So I'll worry about it then.  

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Hank, I love that idea.
by Max Naylor

JENN McKINLAY: I'm pretty decisive. I always assume that if I end up not liking like the kitchen counter I picked out, I'll get a better one next time. "Done is better than perfect" as Sheryl Sandberg says. On the extremely rare occasions where I can't make up my mind, I flip a coin. For example: Heads we go to Iceland in June. Tails we don't. If it comes up tails and my insides start screaming "But I want to go to Iceland" then we go. Conversely, if my insides sigh with relief then we don't go. Sometimes I just need an absolute to push my inner feelings to the surface.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I completely agree with that method, Jenn! And I do it all the time. Your gut and brain know the right answer. Sometimes you just have to fool them into telling you.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I'm generally pretty good at deciding. And I do plan meals a week in advance because it makes grocery shopping a snap and then no last minute worrying about what to fix. On big items, I do my research, make a decision, and then am seldom unhappy with my choice. 

However, I learned as a child that I have a stimulus threshold--I call it "cafeteria syndrome" because whenever we went to Luby's I would burst into tears, overwhelmed by all the options and the pressure of having to decide RIGHT THEN. So, I don't eat in cafeterias, and I don't shop in department stores. Same principle--too much stuff! And I have to sequence errands ahead of time so that I know where I'm going in what order. Coping mechanisms for the easily distracted, I guess, but they work for me.

INGRID THOFT: I’m a big fan of the coin flip method, but it usually doesn’t come to that.  I’m decisive in most matters, and if I’m not, it usually means there’s some more significant issue niggling under the surface, like am I making a choice to make someone else happy?  My husband and I are excellent when it comes to big purchases.  We recently leased a new car, and after doing some research, we did a test drive and signed the paperwork on the spot.  We were in out of the dealership in about three hours.  Hallie, I’ll help you choose your new light fixture!

RHYS BOWEN: What to wear--that is always my moment of indecision. I've learned from bitter experience that I don't wear pastels to New York. But every time I have to appear in public I agonize: is this too boring, too flashy, too warm, too cool. 
John and I are really good about travel decisions. I say "Look at this cruise. It would fit would our time schedule." and John says, "Fine." and I say Deck seven and he says okay and an hour later I've paid the deposit. But other than that, he doesn't like change. When I wanted to repaint the interior of the house I had to approach it cautiously, make suggestions, let them sink in. Then let him think it was his idea!

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I'm good but messy at making decisions, by which I mean I have to talk the possible permutations out. It sounds like Lucy's discussion with herself above, and it tends to drive my family batty. I'm trying to at least tamp it down at restaurants. No one wants to hear me debating the stuffed pork versus the chicken marsala with myself. 

I used to be bad at large-ticket items, like Hallie. I was afraid to buy because what if I found it cheaper elsewhere? Or a better quality? Nowadays, I research stoves, cars, fridges, etc. in Consumer Reports. Once I know exactly what I want, I comparison shop online and then go for the best deal available at that time. I bought my late-model used Honda Accord the day after first seeing it listed in Craigslist - and that included getting a pre-buy inspection by my car guy. 

How about you Red readers? Are you good at making decisions? Any tips for not wasting time?

65 comments:

  1. John and I tend to agree on most everything, so it works out pretty well. Once we decide, I’m reasonably comfortable with not second-guessing myself.
    I tend not to research big ticket things on the Internet; I’d rather go to the store and speak to someone to get my questions answered. Now, the only thing I need is someone to point me in the direction of the perfect coffee pot . . . .

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  2. I wouldn't have guessed some of these traits in you all! Fun. I'm pretty good at making decisions and sticking to them - except ordering food in restaurants. I'm always saying, "Ask me last." But I live with someone who will research something to buy online endlessly, and ask for my help, and then not buy it. And then it all starts up again a week later! I feel like channeling Lucy's husband - do we have to decide again today? ;^)

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    1. Edith, on the food thing, I've had a bit of a revelation about that. See if this resonates with you all, too:

      People who cook a lot have no problem visualizing what things will taste like, just from a description. We can imagine different combinations more vividly than some, and so are more easily swayed by temptation.

      Or am I just fantasizing here?

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    2. Interesting theory Karen--I'm going to pay attention next time I order out. Though I think for me, some of the appeal is in the side dishes. There might be a piece of meat or fish that sounds just ok, but the red cabbage and spatzel get me every time!

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    3. I think you're onto something there, Karen!

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    4. That makes sense to me, Karen. My hub, who does NOT cook, orders the same thing basic thing in most restaurants. Italian? Lasagna. Etc. But since I cook and am a much more adventurous eater, the choices are huge, therefore decision harder.

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  3. It's so interesting to see how differently we each approach these situations.

    I tend to make decisions very quickly, and pretty much stick with them forever; I rarely second-guess myself. My husband, though, agonizes for years, sometimes, and he drives me crazy. I knew at the end of our first date that he was the one for me, but it took him another three years to figure it out. All that wasted time, right?

    But I will say this, once he finally sifts through all the data and jumps, he's in for life. So there's that.

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    1. So curious about what struck you on the first date?

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    2. Ah, so many things. He took me to a fireworks display at the river. We were on a boat, and directly beneath the fireworks, which kept falling all around us. He attempted to shield me, which was very sweet, and such a kind gesture. We were never at a loss for conversation, especially once we realized we both loved to read (!), and that we had a lot of friends in common.

      But the kicker was when he walked me to my apartment door, and unlike every other man I'd dated up until then, he kissed me soundly, and then politely left, without trying to wrestle me into a clinch. He was such a good kisser! I remember thinking, I could kiss that guy the rest of my life. And I have, almost forty years now.

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    3. Karen, love that story! Sweet, kind, a reader--and a good kisser! Congratulations!

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  4. Wonderful timing, Lucy. Decisions neatly put off in December (“I’ll do that when I’m back from Florida”) : new wireless provider, new laptop computer, new security program for computer, repair or replace a broken blind...need more coins to flip! As a falling mirror has added new sink and new mirror to the decision list.
    Happy Monday, all.

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    1. That list makes me want to take a nap:). good luck!

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    2. Great idea, Lucy. Thanks. zzzz

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  5. I do preliminary CR research, then visit a venue I trust to purchase: cars, kitchen appliances, faucets, sinks, toilets. Hallie, someone recommended a lighting fixture store where builders of new homes send their clients. I made an appointment, measured the room and ceiling height to table, and picked out a new chandelier to hang over the kitchen table. I asked for simple lines, and glass bulb covers facing up, brushed nickel like the faucet and cabinet hardware. The size of the room dictated the size of the light fixture. In the end, I had a choice of two and picked the one with more simple lines, an updated classic configuration.

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  6. I love Hank's "appointment to decide" and Jenn's coin toss gut check. Both great ideas to use in the future if I have to. I'm fairly decisive, but every now and then, when I catch myself dithering, I'll ask myself, "What do you have to lose?" Decisions for me usually involve stepping outside my comfort zone, so I try to look at the worst-case scenario. If the worst case is that I lose all my retirement money and end up homeless, then I don't do it. If it's that I don't like the new thing I want to try for lunch, then it's just lunch, and I have a few stored up calories to tide me over so I'll try the new thing. I always laugh, though, when some survey or pollster asks if I am the decision-maker of the household because, duh--if I left it all up to the dogs, we'd spend our days chasing squirrels and nothing would ever be decided!

    About that light fixture, Hallie, I'd just buy what I wanted, hire an electrician to install it, and surprise my husband when he got home at the end of the day. Or not even mention, and see how many weeks it takes him to notice. My guess is that he just doesn't like change.

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    1. Gigi, for most things that would work with my husband (it's true he never notices when I get my hair cut) but he'd notice a new light fixture hangin' over the dining room table. And he'd be pissed.

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    2. Oh, but it would be fun to experiment...

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  7. And I'd be grateful if someone would pick me out a kitchen floor, too. Have been working on this for so long that the dings and dents in the vinyl are looking like part of a pattern.

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    1. Hallie, I saw a link--not sure where I saw it now--to a British design firm with fabulous linoleum patterns: https://www.atrafloor.com/

      Of course, they have a bunch of really cool patterns, so might be hard to decide!

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    2. Kitchen flooring has so many options. Be careful about laying a new floor over the old one because you probably won't be able to replace your dishwasher without pulling up the countertop. Good luck!

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    3. Oh, but it's SO easy to choose for someone else!

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  8. In terms of big decisions, I have gone with my gut often--and been happiest then. When I choose what I think I 'ought' to do--then I live to regret it. In terms of smaller decisions--buying a car, a stove, purchasing a light fixture--I'll do my research, find a good price, and get it. Like Jenn, some decisions you figure if it doesn't work, you can easily change it--the color of paint for a room, for example. Other times, I know what I want and don't dither--just wait until I find it or it finds me.

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  9. My partner and I chose the paint colours for the entire house (bungalow) over the phone - I was in the city, she was at the cottage. She researched the company's options on her iPhone (!) while I negotiated with the painters who were in the house, hot to trot and raring to go. She had her phone, I had the physical colour wheel in my hands. She suggested, we decided. And we did it -- and it all worked out great...although it's true that the bedroom colour is brighter than expected, but we're living with it just fine. The one colour choice I made on site turned out to be a disaster! Fortunately, it was only the kitchen window frame and, once painted and truly hideous (the painters agreed), we quickly decided to switch colours and have it repainted. The additional tiny cost was well worth it.

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    1. Did you ever see the movie Mr. Blandings Builds HIs Dream house? Just google the title and picking paint colors. Or Myrna Loy chooses paint colors. HILARIOUS!

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    2. It is hilarious, indeed. A favorite.

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    3. Amanda, that's how my kitchen got repainted. I was at hospital with Ross, and my sister was at the local hardware store. She texted me pictures of three possible colors, I picked two, and by the time I got home the next day, she and my brother were already halfway through the job. If I had been there in person, it would have taken a week to select those colors, and i wouldn't have liked them any more than the ones my sister picked out. Now I understand why people hire decorators!

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    4. Julia - way to go! I think choices are easier when the general context is constrained. The more options and time, the harder to make the decision.

      Hank - I don't know that film, but am off to Google it. Thanks.

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  10. My ex insisted I make all the decisions for us. "No can do I said "making all the decisions means also accepting all the blame." Too many choices! she exclaimed. Break it down to 3, I replied. But what if I'm wrong?? "will it kill us?" then go with it, I can live with surrendering control.

    In my own mind I believe in alt realities where every decision I make here creates a world where the opposite decision was made. -multiuniverse theory. So, some where some Coralee always gets it right --or wrong.

    When bored and ordering in a restaurant where I know the cost of atotal bill will can be met, I tell the server "Surprise me". I love to watch the reaction, especially when I get wonderful meals.

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    1. Coralee, my best friend from middle school visited last year, and every place we went out to eat she did the same thing, she told the server to choose for her. She ended up with some amazing food, too.

      Ellen has done this for a couple of years, and she says she's only gotten burned twice. Once, when the server kept bringing her dishes, and once when the server chose the most expensive entree in the joint. Now she gives them a top dollar amount, which keeps things more equitable.

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    2. I would never do that--not only because of the salt restriction, but how in the world would they know what I'm craving??

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    3. Coralee--did you see you won Tina Whittle's book? Send me your address at . h ryan at whdh dot com Yay!

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    4. Yes I did but used the wrong email address for you. Yay indeed.

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  11. I'm not so bad at making decisions. I get my information and figure it out. But I do like a decision to stay made! I get grumpy when other people (including nearest and dearest) say things like, "But that's not the kind of vacation hotel I wanted!" "What did you want?" "I'll know it when I see it." At that point of course I say, "Then you do it." (Yay. Someone else's job!) Or, we make a plan and someone- a different dearest - then says, "Let's add a few more events to same day. And invite more people. And...and..." (This is generosity and enthusiasm at work. But.) And then the person who responds to an invitation for large event with, "I can't make it that day. Can you change it for me?" (Am I a little rigid?)

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    1. I don't blame you for that grumpiness Triss! Then you have to go with your gut and decide how important your way is to you, right?

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    2. Yes, we have travel pals who'll collaborate with us and agree on a decision, and then..change it. Ahhhhh.

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    3. That would be very frustrating, Triss. Why make the decision in the first place if it's going to continually morph into something else?

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  12. Hello, Reds and Readers! I spent a gloriously grueling weekend plotting out my next few books with some writer friends! It was phenomenal and exhausting but I did not have to deploy the coin flip method on my plots so — Yay!!! Brilliant post, Lucy. I love reading about everyone’s cures for dithering!

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    1. I'm envious of that weekend Jenn! I love getting help with plots:)

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  13. I make decisions. Quickly. I don't dither and I don't regret. (Usually)

    (Hallie, when I get home, let's go buy a new light fixture together and you can tell Jerry that I made you do it.)

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  14. And remember when it was your turn to pick the song on the juke box? Ahhhhhhh. The PRESSURE!

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  15. And you know what kind of drives me crazy? When I have a choice to make, or some kind of decision, and I mention it, but I am NOT asking for advice. I am just mentioning it. But then people TELL me what to do. There's a difference between weighing in, and telling me what to do.
    PURELY imaginary conversation:
    Which dress do you like better, the red or the blue?
    The red.
    Okay, thanks.
    ::comes out in the blue::
    Oh, I thought I said wear red.
    ::Grrr: I wasn't asking for you to tell me what to do, I was asking for your opinion, which I added to mine, and it came out this way.

    Maybe I am oversensitive. xooo

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  16. Roberta, this piece was so timely! I had to make a snap decision on Friday on a big ticket item. We need to replace our eleven-year-old range. It's a Jenn Air gas downdraft and the ceramic glass top under the cast iron grates (what designer ever thought this was a good idea?)is shattered. We talked about replacing the top, but it would be expensive, and it would only be a matter of time before a second one broke, too. We have to have a downdraft, and I have to have gas, which only left two choices, Kitchen Aid or Jenn Air (both owned by Whirlpool now, and made in the same factory.) I read the specs and different reviews, but availability of the Jenn Air was limited and I couldn't get a price on it, even online. So I called Giant Furniture Store, got the price from the nice salesman, discussed the pros and cons of the two ranges, then he said, "There's a Kitchen Aid on the clearance floor. If you're interested you should come look at it right away."

    I dithered for half an hour, then went. The range had a dent in the back, which no one would ever see, and the touch panel had been replaced. It was less than half the regular price of the range, which was a good bit less than the Jenn Air.

    And I bought it. After months of worrying about the best option, decision made. Will I miss the brass burners on the Jenn Air? I seriously doubt it.

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    1. A snap decision that results in paying half what you might have otherwise sounds good to me, Debs.

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    2. When we replaced our stove top,, the guy came and said okay, you need to come to our showroom and pick a new one. I thought---ahhhhh. Thati s going to be SO horrible.
      I said-do you have a catalog with you? He did .
      I said--show me a few that are not the MOST expensive, and not the least, and that will fit here.
      He showed me one. It looked great to me. I said--we'll take it.
      Because I thought--and you will kill me--if we had moved into this house and that stovetop was already there, I would have thought it was fine. So--hey. How bad can it be?
      And turns out it's perfect.

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  17. I'm the world's most indecisive person. I think. Maybe. Can I get back to you on that?

    Seriously, I take forever to make decisions. In some ways, it can be a blessing that my reading schedule is so set for me because when I do have a slot I don't already have planned out, I'm a bit stuck on figuring out what I actually want to read next.

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    1. Sounds like Jenn’s coin toss could save you a lot of agony

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  18. I used to love working with Hallie on the Crime Bake Programming Committee because she wasn’t afraid to make decisions. I’d always go to her in those “let’s just make a decision,” situations.


    I always say fiction writing is about making smaller and smaller decisions. At first it’s like what is this book about? Who is in it? By the end it’s Ho, exactly did the poison get in the brandy?

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    1. That's an excellent point, Barb. Like branching decision-trees for plotting.

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  19. It's so interesting how many different ways there are to decide (or not). I'm very decisive. I always ask myself if it will matter a year from now. Usually not. The biggest decision I ever had to make, everyone said, "No, don't do it." I did it anyway, and my life would have been immeasurably blighted had I not. Hint: I spent the day with my son yesterday and he's simply the best son one could ask for.

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    1. Hugs, Terry! That's a wonderful outcome for a decision.

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    2. Yes, will i really matter in the long run. And you are so right, it usually won't. Usually....

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  20. I relate, Debs! I have deer in the headlights syndrome if presented with too many choices. I think I was briefly catatonic in the Blarney Woolen Mills store years ago looking at sweaters. We had to have extensive repairs done to our house a few months ago (don't ask; I'm still angry about it). I enlisted friends and neighbors for their opinions on a new house color outside. When we had to have a lot of rooms repainted inside I just about lost it. My husband wouldn't pick any colors by himself. Finally had everything repainted an off-white and to hell with it. I don't regret it. For "normal" things I like to check customer reviews on Amazon or consumer sites to see what people say after buying whatever. That has certainly tipped the scales if I was feeling iffy about something.

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  21. Years ago, a therapist I was seeing gave me some excellent advice that has been applicable in SO many areas of my life: If you don't know or aren't sure what you DO want, at least eliminate what you know you DON'T want from consideration -- it makes it easier to make choices and decisions.

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    1. Very very good advice. Then you’ve narrowed the field to something that’s hopefully manageable!

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    2. Great advice! Sometimes you work your way into a decision as opposed to seeing the answer clearly from the outset.

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  22. I am fairly decisive, as is The Hubby. We know what we want, we research, make a list or two, then find what we want at the price we want to pay.

    Don't talk to me about meal planning. Ugh.

    Right now, The Girl is going round and round with a college decision. She's only got two and I know she's got a preference. She just needs to pull the trigger.

    Mary/Liz

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    1. That's hard! sounds like you are doing the right thing--standing back and letting her sort things out...

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  23. I do find it hard to make decisions. Many years ago, I deliberated so long on which daylilies to order from a catalog that the sale had expired. The Color Code test that I took when I was working said that we Whites (Peace) do have that problem. I've gotten better over the years but I like advice when I don't know about something. However I hate being TOLD what to do.

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  24. Sorry,I'm very late.
    When I was younger I was more hesitant but I discovered that postponing decision made me more anxious than facing the consequences of my decisions. So now I don't tarry.

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  25. Making decisions comes with the perks of being an adult.

    Diana

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