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The Battle of the Generation - Day 83

Our weekly excerpt from the book "The Battle of the Generation"

Chapter 30- Clarity When Making Decisions

When a person must make a decision and he strongly desires one of the options, it is difficult to choose rationally. Often, people go with what they want to do, and then use logic to defend their decision by thinking of reasons that support it.

This creates a tricky situation. For the same reason people support their decisions with logic — to avoid feeling they acted foolishly — we are uncomfortable questioning our rationalizations. We don’t want to even consider that we might be rationalizing rather than choosing intelligently, because it makes us feel foolish. But we can’t totally trick ourselves, and we do realize that our emotions are affecting us. This creates discomfort, as we notice that we care more about what we want than about what is best for us. This makes us feel confused. We are drawn both ways and have difficulty deciding. This is when the yetzer hara pounces. When we feel confused and ashamed, we are at our weakest.

Ironically, the antidote to this trap is to admit that we are affected by what we want, like all human beings. By accepting that it is normal to care more about what we want than about choosing logically, we calm down and see clearly.

We must realize that it’s normal to want things. Our desires might be self-serving and might even be damaging to us, but they are normal. Once we accept that Hashem created us with other drives besides for just wanting to do what is proper, we will be calm and able to make the best decision. But if we deny it, our desires will rage and overwhelm us, or at least remain hidden and affect our choices without us noticing.

We can only have clarity if we put everything on the table. We want to make decisions that are rooted in logic, while also accounting for what we want to do, what we really want out of life, and what is best for us. The way to do this is to consider both choices on paper. (You can shred the paper after if you are worried about others seeing it.) This eliminates confusion, giving us the clarity we need to make the best decision.

On a piece of paper, make a column for each option. Designate the top of each column for the positives of that choice and the bottom for the negatives. First, in the column of the option you wish you could choose, jot down in the positives section that you want it and why. Then for each choice, write all the positives and negatives. List any emotional factors that make you prefer that choice among the positives, and anything that causes discomfort with the negatives. This includes social pressure or that you will feel you missed out. Don’t hide your emotions. They are normal. Don’t be embarrassed. Get them out on paper. Your sole objective is to make the best decision, which you need clarity for. In fact, your desire for that choice will be factored into the decision — you will go with that choice if it’s appropriate and smart. Once you have acknowledged these feelings, they will no longer hide beneath the surface, swaying your decision and making you feel overwhelmed.

Next, ask yourself: What do I expect to happen as a result of each choice? Play it out in your mind, and write it down in the appropriate section. Note all the short and long-term benefits and issues each option yields, including pleasure, happiness, feeling good about yourself, regret, or achieving your dreams of attaining unique success. Get everything out in the open.

Clarifying all this calms your desires. You will still care about getting what you want, which is fine. But you won’t want to do anything foolish or damaging to get it. By having all our desires, agendas, and benefits clearly defined, and by accepting that we do desire and that indulging does provide some enjoyment, we will make a satisfying decision without feeling overwhelmed. And amazingly, we might find that what we want has changed now that our desires are no longer confusing us from beneath the surface.

Spelling out our wishes and the outcomes of each option will help us make the best choice without discomfort. We will make the best decisions even in the face of desire, and we will achieve unprecedented success in the battle of the generation.

Quick Recap:

  • Clearly defining our options and spelling out all our desires on paper gives us the clarity to make the best decision.