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How We Make Decisions and Changes Take 2

I have received such a large number of questions recently that answering each individually would keep me from publishing posts for a week or two. So, I though I would re-post the following article as I think it addresses many of the things these inquiring minds wish to know… Enjoy! (For those questions not answered here I shall attempt to respond ASAP.)


Early in my years of education, I had a Social Work Professor who taught a whole week of classes on how people make change and decisions in their lives. This teacher had sociology studies, psychological studies, historic studies, and abnormal behavioral science studies all included in her efforts. My classmates and I were to write a 5 page paper summarizing her work and adding our own research and thoughts about how people make decisions and changes in their lives.

I love to write and yet still found myself floundering in figuring out what I was going to say about this subject. I spent 2 pages summarizing all the things I learned in the lecture series and then another 2 pages summarizing my research and still had no thoughts about what to say about my own conclusions.

I started to draw a picture of all the words that were included in the summaries and I noticed that if I gave the words different sizes that a form was taking place. A triangle balanced on point was the first shape. I then took the shape and added another shape of words on top of the widest part of the triangle and a Diamond shape emerged. I had put 2 forms to indicate 2 kinds of processes that are used to make a decision or change… hmmm! Let’s look at those words and forms:

Decision Diagrams

Now I had created two forms which summarized all the information I had learned about change and decision making and put them into a simple step by step format for moving forward. Except that I was missing out on one kind of decision making change process that is either a joy or a problem. I wanted to pass this paper so I needed to figure out how to symbolize the process for little decisions and ideas. First I called it the $10 decision: If you did not need your $10 in your pocket to pay some other bill, then you could jump in and make a spontaneous decision on something you found to enjoy for $10. I decided I would call that the JUMP decision.

The hard part about the JUMP decision is that it is only good for those little choices that you can cover easily. If you don’t have $10 extra and spend the $10 in your pocket in a jump decision it throws all your bigger decision off balance – you lose the point of sharpness of your other decisions. It is the type of decision that ruins the best laid plans, the New Year’s resolution and family budgets in just a split second. It can cause a halt to a whole lifetime of future decisions too.

I have used these three models over the past 40 years of practice and work endeavors. I have used these models to set up budgets and help institutions make change. The only time they fail me is when I throw a JUMP decision into the Triangle or Diamond at the wrong place and throw the whole plan off balance.

The first week of May I went to a workshop on how Institutions make change and progress. Guess What! Though the language/words used were in the context of the institutions needs, after two hours, I came away with the Diamond, the Triangle and the JUMP decision/ change process.

Here is an example of a 17 year old boy working on the Diamond Decision Making Model

  1. Idea – what will I do with the rest of my life or life after High School?
  2. Creating Possibilities:
    I could: become a mechanic
    go to college
    be a Doctor
    become Peter Pan and never grow up
    join the military
    hang out with friends
    drink beer – as soon as I turn 21
    get married
    perform in a rock band
    be an actor
    take a career interest survey
    work at fishing
    become a millionaire
    become a parent
    invent video games
    just be a gamer
    (the possibilities might just be endless)
  3. Researching possibilities
    take a career planning survey
    take an interest survey
    lists your strengths and weaknesses
    ask your friends what you should do
    visualize you in 5 years in 10 years
    how will you pay your way? include health ins./ living expenses/ food/ shelter/ clothing
    I will take a class on how to make decisions
    I will look at trade school and colleges
    Go to the military recruiters but not until the last minute and if that is my choice
  4. Interviewing People
    an important step: will his parents be able to help with college expenses? or help write grants
    will he find his personality is not compatible with his interest – vocation choice vs hobby choice
    can he do a work experience or Internship in that area and see if that is what he likes
    do other people have good ideas about fund raising for this kind of training
    suggestions for training programs
    many business will pay for your education if you prove to be a good employee
    give other suggestions and encouragement for the process
    what have they found to be true in living out their life or career
    information interviews with people living life in the path you would like to take or on a specific job
  5. Sorting and Gleaning the Ideas
    very hard process and often takes some alone time or journal writing time
    very often some little magic will happen at this point in your life
    the answer will just come to you when it is right and many things will just fall into place.
  6. The Decision and the Changes will take place
    Then you start the process and go through the Triangle or Diamond model again to get launched.

This is just one example but just think what might happen if people made a jump decision at 17 and discovered they were now going to be a parent? or they just bought a car they can not make payments on? or they bought a house without figuring out that the promises were not real? (A lot of folks just did this – the current mortgage crisis) Got to watch out for those Jump Decisions!

8 Responses to “How We Make Decisions and Changes Take 2”

  1. Jannie Funster Says:

    Wow, so you invented that system?

    Me — to make decisions I mostly assess what I’m feeling. I really trust my feelings and take it from there. Then act on it.

    Jannie Funsters last blog post..Seriously Weird!

  2. Patricia Says:

    Thank you for leaving a comment.

    I think as we get older we fill in the spaces of the form just with our experiences, so on many decisions we can move quickly through the sequences…

    I think with the housing problems/mortgage problems, and the credit card debit…tons of folks do not know how to think it through for themselves.

    I just saw that a fellow bought a $50,000 Truck so he could get his girl friend a little car for $1

    He said it would take him 11 years to pay off the truck on his salary…how about the gas and the insurance? repairs? Wonder if he will still be with that girl friend in 11 years?

    Patricias last blog post..How We Make Decisions and Changes Take 2

  3. Tony Single Says:

    I have decided not to accept change, and I’ve changed things so that I no longer have to make decisions. So there! :p

    Naw… just kidding. It’s an interesting system you’ve shared with us there. It actually makes a lot of sense, and I think I probably already do some of that. I do, however, tend to have a problem going with the flow when everything doesn’t go according to plan. That’s the tricky bit.

    Tony Singles last blog post..An Affair to Forget [Trottersville #115]

  4. Jannie Funster Says:

    Yes, that is no doubt true that my age and experience make it easier.

    This is very good for kids!

    Gosh, don’t get me started on car savings. A friend paid $30,000 for a new hybrid to save on gas when he could’ve gotten a nice used Corolla for $10,000. The “savings” will take 20 years to go into effect. And he’s all growed up! Love him to death but he’s got his own way of thinking on things. :)

    Jannie Funsters last blog post..Seriously Weird!

  5. Cath Lawson Says:

    Hi Patricia – What a great system for making decision. Looking at that it seems I’ve made way too many jump decisions. And they do have a knock-on effect on many aspects of your life.

    I wish I’d been smarter when it came to decision making but I guess I’ve learned from my screw ups.

  6. Patricia Says:

    I always hope when everything doesn’t go with the flow that something better is on the way!…Patience seems to be coming better with age!

    Your friend may have had other criteria in mind with the Hybrid decision. My partner chose a Hybrid new car not only for the gas credits, but also for the carbon/green credits. His vehicle makes a statement about his business – Green, sustainable Architecture and that he was willing to commit to a new environmental friendly system for bigger bucks up front and cleaner air over the long run….That is how people will need to view building renovations and building new now…It will cost more now for solar panels but pay off for a greater future for our children’s future.

    Jump decisions by my youngest child cost us a whole year of her college money….there is a whole article in our TIME magazine this week about jump decisions teens make using their cell phones which can land them in jail and ruin their futures – that 16 year olds used to do and now 11-12 year olds are doing
    Kids being arrested as sex offenders and bullies and have to wear that label the rest of their lives…It is very big time harmful

  7. J.D. Meier Says:

    Good stuff.

    I like mental models and you did a good job sharing a useful decision process. I like how you’ve integrated key concepts into an approach.

    J.D. Meiers last blog post..Why Your Talents are Enduring and Unique

  8. patricia Says:

    Thank you for your comments, they are greatly appreciated. I sometimes let my linear concepts out of the bag! especially when they work for me so well .