A good life is the fruit of a succession of
good decisions, especially around love and work. However, we seldom accord the business
of decision-making the kind of careful attention it requires. When faced with a large decision,
we lack rituals and procedures. We typically procrastinate, lean on the nearest person
or rush headlong into an unexamined solution. Fortunately, decision-making is a skill and
– like any other – it can be taught. The chief enemy of good decisions is a lack of
sufficient perspectives on a problem. We should systematically think through any issue from
five distinct angles: through the eyes of – variously – our Enemy, our Gut, Death, Caution and Courage. As we try out, juggle with and then synthesise these oblique perspectives,
we will feel our sense of possibility expand – and a tolerable way forward gradually
emerge from the present confusion. Enemy Our enemies have deep insights into us: they know
our frailties, they actively want the worst for us and they’re bringing a desperate,
mean intelligence to bear on our case. Thinking of them helps beautifully to clarify our thoughts.
It can be unfeasibly hard to be a true friend to ourselves, in the way we should be; our
minds may well go blank if asked to imagine what a sweet and well-meaning person might
advise us to do next. We’re so much better at getting into the heads of our bitterest
foes. They appreciate our weaknesses and temptations like no other. We can at last put these characters
to constructive use: by doing the very opposite of what we suspect (probably very correctly)
they might propose and say. We will be energised and focused by the haunting voices of those
dispiriting but very telling and mesmerising judges: those who refuse to believe in us. In a sense, we know the answer already
– or at least one version of it. We call it gut-instinct and it is there from the moment
a dilemma first appears. The Gut is the accumulation of all the decision-making lessons we’ve
ever derived across our lives, revealed unconsciously at speed. Most of us have become rather good
at not listening to the Gut. Probably it got us into trouble a number of times, maybe pushing
us into some crazy moments for which we paid dear. Now we pride ourselves on being thinking
people, who take their time, gather evidence and make full use of their higher mental powers,
as well we should. Nevertheless, we thereby lose a source of important insight. We should
be brave enough to invite our Gut to the decision-making table, not necessarily in order to follow
it but in order to know what it wants, and then submit its stubborn and impatient certainties
to gentle rational cross-examination. Death The largest, but always easily-forgotten certainty,
is that all our decisions are unfolding in the backdrop of a giant ticking death clock.
We should listen to its beat and take its daunting messages to heart. The thought of
Death has a habit of highlighting our responsibilities to ourselves and of weakening our concern
for living according to what is expected of us by society. It is a terrifying agent of
authenticity. Death may lend us a perverse new sort of confidence to tackle challenges.
By frightening us about one enormous thing, it may make us less scared of the many smaller
obstacles in our way. Our lives won’t be what they could be unless we submit pretty
much every choice we face to the arbiter of eternity and oblivion. Somewhere around the table at every decision must be the voice of caution. It
wears dowdy clothes and speaks quietly. It certainly lacks glamour in an age of bravado
and bombast. It’s easy to feel that we must always and invariably jump – because life
has to be about giving the new a go. It may not be. Let’s remember, Caution clears its
throat to tell us, that most new businesses fail, most schemes end in disaster and most
relationships merely rehash the themes of the current unsatisfactory one. Furthermore,
there is a huge amount to be lost and there are many people around us who may get very
hurt by our ambitions. The devil one knows may just have the edge over the many demons
one doesn’t quite. Caution does not look down on the idea of compromise, it recognises
that there are, at points, simply no ideal options for the imperfect beings we ultimately
are. Caution has the bravery not always to rebel against reality. From an early
age, we’ve learnt how to follow the rules, wait in line and do the dutiful, expected
things. We can be good boys and girls; it got us to where we are today. There would
have been no other way to learn how to spell, drive a car or take up a position in the working
world. But there can now be a subtle risk from an opposite direction; the risk of being
overly faithful for too long to conventions that were dreamt up without our particular
interests and hopes in mind. At points, we need vigorously to relearn the art of Courage,
to remember that the happiest lives have invariably had inflection points where people did the
slightly unexpected and weird thing, took a gamble and won. Sometimes, Caution is just
weakness and cowardice wrapped up in the cloak of self-deception. Courage and Caution need
to fight this one out, without any presumption of victory on either side. Any hard descision we have to make will always by deffinition not be perfect. But with such tinking behind us we have a slightly better chance than usual of opting for the good enough choice. Our videos are just the start of our content. We believe in making the world a more emotionally intelligent place and to that end we have now also published some extraordinary books, as well as other merchandise that re-enforces some of the themes illustraited in our videos. Please click on the link below to see more.