How to Reduce Stress Part 9: Making Good Decisions Keeps You In Control

When you are younger most of your decisions are made for you by others.  As you get older, you are making more of your own decisions, and along with that privilege come the responsibility for the consequences for each of those decisions.  Life is all about choices, and we all learn that it is about every choice that we make. 

If we choose to eat poorly it will affect us both short term and long term.  Choosing who we will be our friends, what parties we will go to, what and how hard we study in school, and will we say yes or no when faced with smoking, drugs, and personal relationships.

One thing I have learned about decision making is that when we are faced with making a decision very quickly, without time to think about it, our thought process may not always be in line with what our goals are.  Other factors like peer pressure and our emotions may sway us to do things we may later wish we had not done. Thinking ahead and deciding what we will do if put in a certain situation will help us make better decisions when faced with other pressures.

Deciding if our choice or decision is good or bad can easily be summed up in this question, Is it the right thing to do?  We will know or have that feeling in our gut if others will be put in danger, disrespected or hurt physically or emotionally.  We know if we are breaking laws, lying, or making things worse for our friends or parents.  We can examine ourselves to see how we will feel when the decision is carried out and if we will be letting others down including our parents and ourselves.  All of this takes time and needs to be thought about ahead of time.

In business, the process for making quick decisions goes like this:

  1. What is the core issue
  2. What are the facts that will effect this decision
  3. Step back! Do I have to make this an immediate choice?
  4. Visualize the outcome.  What are the consequences?
  5. Follow through with the decision and carrying it out.


In our personal life in those moments when a quick decision needs to be made, these are good questions too.  Making good choices will certainly reduce the stress in our life, and the bad consequences that we will have to deal with, if our choice is not the best for us.  Finally, if you make a bad choice, deal with the consequences and learn from it.  It is not the end of the world, and if we continue to beat ourselves up over a bad decision, our stress levels will continue to rise.

Self control: asking permission

Today we are going to talk about asking permission.  What does asking permission have to do with self control?  It starts at a very young age.  When a child wants a toy or crayons that someone else is using or has in their possession, the first thing that pops in their head is to grab it and take it for themselves.  Then as they get older they may use things that belong to their siblings or friends without asking.  As teens this may evolve into going out or to places without clearing it first with their parents.  As adults we may do things because we feel we have the right to do so (because we are adults).

What would happen if as a 5 year old we just grabbed the markers out of the hand of another child?  Is it safe or fair?  Will that solution work?  Of course not, we expect that we would learn to ask nicely without grabbing or yelling.  So we say “Excuse me, may I use that marker when you are done?”  As we get older We can begin to learn about respecting the rights of others and their property.  Even as pre-teens we learn that it is the respectful thing to ask for permission from our siblings and friends if we want to use their video game, or other possession.  Then we return it when we say we will.  This begins to build trust and respect for each other.

As we get older and have more freedom though we want to remember that just because we have the right to do something does not mean that it is the respectful thing to do.  Asking for permission for things that we want and need, instead of just taking them, helps to build trust and respect.  If as a teen you are spending the evening at a friends house and they decide to go visit another persons house, it builds trust and respect if we call and ask permission from our parents.  Why should we do this?  Using our empathy imagine how mom and dad would feel if they called for you and you were not where you said you would be.  They would first be very frightened and then upset and then they would begin to not trust you for your word.  A simple phone call would resolve all of that and create a better relationship with your parents.

Having said that about our kids it is time for us as parents to examine how we treat them.  If we are going out do we let others know where we are going and what time we expect to return.  If this is not a practice we have, we cannot expect our children to do any different.  In fact they are going to believe that being a grown up means you can do what you want, when you want, without telling anyone.  Taking this simple step of – self control – has far reaching impact on our relationships with our family and friends.