The Better Choices Chair
My friend, who owns a preschool, told me about the tool they used to help the students learn how to make good choices. Her method was called the Better Choices Chair. I loved this idea and tool so much that I adopted it when I had kids.
Thus, when my son was small we had a “better choices chair” rather than time out. When he misbehaved instead of yelling or punishing him, he spent 30 seconds in the chair. Sometimes, I was the one who needed the chair.
At the end of the 30 seconds i sat on the floor next to him and we discussed two things. The first was the event that caused him to be in the chair. We discussed what outside circumstances he make a choice to react to that put him there. It was made very clear that regardless of the external event, his reaction to that event was a choice and that choice got him in the chair.
The second thing we discussed was the “better” choice he could have made.
Example - his cousin, who was five months younger and lived very close, was a “biter”. And they shared a babysitter. Thus, they spent a lot of time together. When his cousin was overwhelmed with toddler emotion he would bite my son. This was an external event.
My son’s response was generally, at least as a toddler himself, to push or hit his cousin. This often resulted in him causing some injury (falling, bumps, etc.) to his cousin. This was not acceptable behavior- it was classic retaliation.
When we first began talking about his decision to push or hit, he blamed his cousin. After all, if he hadn’t bitten him, my son would not have been “forced” to do something back - classic “he made me do it” excuse.
I would calmly (most of the time) give him a couple of other “choices” he could make in that situation. Granted, when you are two you just want to make him cry, and that he did. But, I could not let him grow up thinking that retaliation was the answer to every bad thing that perceived happened to him.
Over the next year, he began to make better choices about his reaction to the biting. And his cousin began to grow out of that phase. The result was a win - win for both boys.
I did this from the time he was 18 months old. Clearly he could not talk at that point, but he could understand what I was saying. As he got older and his verbal skills increased, we had some good discussions about his choices.
Sometimes, there was no better choice, Sometimes the better choice was not something he wanted to do and the ensuing result (usually some form of appropriate punishment) was worth it to him. But, sometimes, when you take just a moment to consider the options, a better choice could be made.
Now he is grown. The long term benefit of the “better choices chair” is that he has always taken full responsibility for his actions. No blaming outside events or other people. He learned from a very early age that his reaction to the world around him, and the worlds reaction to his behavior, was all based on the choices he made.
Let’s talk about your choices – what got you here, and what it will take to get you where you want to be.
Everyday we’re confronted with a barrage of choices. We make choices about the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the appointments we schedule, the people we meet, the time we turn up to work, which bus we catch, where we sit on the bus, what we do after work, and so on. Living a rich and satisfying life means making good choices on an ongoing basis.
Then there are the big decision that affect our future selves. Whether it's about where you'll be living next year or how you'll spend your money, making tough decisions is something that is bound to happen. Before you make a big decision, though, there are a few things you should consider.
What is a good choice? Good choices are decisions that keep you heading in the direction in which you want to go. Bad choices, on the other hand, end up being counterproductive and can quickly begin spiraling into stress, confusion, and despair.
Some of the trickiness of choice-making arises with options that may be pleasing in the short-term but may incrementally steer us off course over the longer term. Just taking that one extra serving of dessert or staying in bed for only ½ an hour more can be choices like this. Conversely, some decisions can be a bit dreary or difficult at the time but lead to better directions down the track. Staying home and studying or completing another grueling session at the gym are examples of short term discomfort for longer term benefits.
Perhaps the most fundamental consideration with choice-making is to ensure the choices you make are congruent with important goals you have. If you have a quiet, distant goal of being financially independent one day and building a successful career, then making decisions to party excessively with late nights involving lots of drugs and alcohol, will likely lead to later discontent and misery regardless of how good it all feels now. Perhaps the partying is related to an important goal of being accepted and liked by others but it is at odds with career and financial goals.
Understanding the dynamics of choices can help improve the decisions that you make. Essentially, any choice involves at least two options, both of which have pros and cons associated with them. It might seem, at first, that one of the options doesn’t have many things going for it at all but the very fact that you have paused before pursuing one course of action over another suggests that not everything is humming along synchronously in the machinery of your mind. Taking a moment to reflect on that aspect of your inclinations and wishes that made you hesitate can help you understand the situation more clearly. From this perspective you’ll be able to make a more informed decision.
Any choice is made, sooner or later, by considering goals that are more important than the two choices currently in view. At a workshop recently, one of the participants explained that she had made a choice in the morning between having breakfast and lying in bed for longer. She made the choice by deciding that self-care was a priority at the moment so she opted for the extra time in bed. Clearly, “self-care” is a more important aspiration than either a morning’s breakfast or an extra few minutes in bed. By becoming aware of this more important goal, which option to choose became obvious? Another participant described choosing between wearing slacks or shorts to the meetings of the day. As she did the pros and cons between both items of clothing she realized that she hadn’t seen anyone else wearing shorts so she decided to go with the slacks. So, for this participant, becoming aware of other people, and having her “fitting in” goal highlighted, quickly resolved the decision-making that had been occurring moments before.
Whenever you find yourself pausing over a choice you’re about to make, consider both options in some detail and find the important aspects of them. Pay attention to more highly-valued goals that you might become aware of as you’re considering your options. If you can find the higher-level goals that are in the background of your deliberations, the path to take will be evident.
Choice making is an integral part of our daily lives. Ordinarily we’re very good at making choices and we do so efficiently and seamlessly. Now and then, however, we come up against a decision that gives us a moment to pause.
When that occurs, look for the merits in both options and notice the higher- valued goals that appear as you’re considering the choice you’re pondering. Once the important goal is in view your decision will be clear and you’ll know that the path you’re about to take is consistent and congruent with all that it means to be you.
So pick out your “better choices chair” and use these tips to help make your own better decisions.
1. Be Aware Of What You Want
The best way to make a decision is by knowing what your goals are. When you're more aware of what you want out of your life, you may be able to make better choices. Generally, people who aren't self-reflective are going to end up making bad decisions because they don't really know what they want in the first place. When I try to make a decision, I always think about where I want to be in a year. Will this affect my life in a negative way? Is this the direction I want to go? If the answer is against what I'm working towards, then I'll try to change my decision, even if that means taking the harder route.
2. Ask For Advice, But Make Your Own Choice
Depending on the situation you're in, this one can be hard to follow through on. Whether you're making a decision about your relationship, your job, or your general well-being, every decision you'll make includes one thing in common: you. No one else is living your life. No one will understand what your day-to-day is like and what your gut instincts are telling you. Still, it's never a bad idea to ask for an outsider's perspective. Most successful people seek for outside counsel.
Their perspectives help you weigh your options more objectively and to spot your subjective or irrational tendencies. Remember though: Advice is just advice. While it's OK to get help from others, not listening to your own instincts might deter your life towards a less empowering direction.
3. Listen To Your Gut
Whether you believe it or not, you probably already know yourself better than you realize. But sometimes, you ignore what your gut is telling you because you may not want to face the reality of the decision you have to make. When you are confronted with some difficult decisions, it is important to be clearheaded and objective in your decision-making process. When you're making a tough decision, write down everything that you're thinking and why you think you're feeling the way you do. Once you have an internal dialogue with yourself, the pieces may start to unfold and everything may seem clear.
I do this thru my Ben Franklin Chart – all the pros on one side and all the cons on the other side. I just write with no analysis until I have exhausted all by options. I leave it for a bit then look at the list as objectively as possible. Clearly what I really want to do has the longer and better thought out list.
4. Learn To Trust Yourself
Don't be afraid to trust yourself. The person you need to trust first is yourself. No one can be as consistently supportive of you as you can learn to be. Being kind to yourself increases self-confidence and lessens your need for approval. Loving and caring for yourself not only increases self-trust, it also deepens your connection with others. Having the confidence to trust yourself is a task on its own, but once you have more confidence in yourself, you may feel better about making big decisions in the future.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
The only way you're going to get better, is by practicing making decisions every single day. If you start making this part of your daily routine, you may feel more confident in your actions and decision-making skills. Learning how to make good choices and wise decisions depends upon several factors: a person’s developmental stage/age, having a general idea of right and wrong... understanding what the decision-making process entails, and practice!" It might sound silly at first, but try making all decisions in your life for a week (without asking others for advice or help). Soon, you may feel more in control without the influence of others.
6. Make Sure You Are In The Right Frame Of Mind
It's easy to make poor decisions when you're in a bad mood, especially when you're hungry, sleepy, or stressed. I mean, if you're trying to figure out what you want to eat for lunch while you're hungry, well, that just makes sense. But when it comes to life-changing decisions, try to make sure you're feeling comfortable and at ease before you decide what your next move is going be. Before making the decision, ask yourself these seven questions. They will help you slow down and open your views before you make any rash decisions.
If I don’t do this now, will I regret it? It is sensible to consider the long- term implications of any decisions you make, because you don’t want to end up doing something you will regret in the future. But it is equally important to consider what might happen if you don’t do something.Don’t let important opportunities pass you by because they involve making some big decisions. Ask yourself what you may gain, or lose, in the long-term by making certain choices.
What am I afraid of? People often get stuck with decisions, because they are scared of what will happen if they make a choice. Some people are afraid of failure, but others are scared of success. Ask yourself whether fear is going to make this decision, or you are, when facing a tough decision in life.
What does my heart say? Your gut instincts are often the right ones, and you should never make a decision that doesn’t resonate with you deep inside. Put aside convention, unwanted advice and judgments from others, and ask yourself if this is something that you really want, something that speaks to you as only a heartfelt desire does.
What am I really doing this for? The wisest decisions you can make are those that keep the end in mind. If your end goal is stability and raising a family, then making the big decision to buy a house, for example, might be a step closer to that. However, if you have goals such as seeing as much of the world as possible, purchasing a home might not fit in with your aims. Have your goals clearly in mind when making big decisions.
Who am I really doing this for? Don’t let others’ agendas or advice sway you from making the right decision. It is always important to have others’ interests at heart when making a decision, but you shouldn’t always sacrifice your own needs and desires to please another person. Take abalanced look at how your choices will benefit you as well as others when facing a tough decision in life.
Will I like myself after this decision? Anyone can make a difficult decision that ticks all the boxes in terms of a solution, without taking into account how that decision may make them feel about themselves. If you make a decision that is callous or uncaring, you might not end up liking yourself very much. If you make one that is unassertive, your self-esteem is likely to drop. Consider how you will feel about yourself for making this choice, whenever you have to make a tough decision in life.
Can I cope with the fall-out? Choices are like a dynamo. When you make one decision, it paves the way for other situations to occur, which you will then have to deal with. Making a tough decision in life can have many ramifications. Taking certain paths can affect your finances, your relationships, your friendships and your career. Think things through, and decide whether you will be able to cope with the consequences of your decision, and how you will deal with the fall-out.
With these tips, you may able to make better decisions in your life. It'll take a lot of time and practice, but once you get the hang of it, you can #LiveRich in no time!
Until next week,
March 12, 2018
Join me every Wednesday on my podcast “Unlocking the Secret to Living Rich”.
If you have questions or comments you can contact me at my email firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @cindybbrown777
Who is Cindy B. Brown? Cindy is a CPA, MBA, CFO, and board member of public and private companies, business consultant, entrepreneur coach and a foremost expert in the field of business mastery. Cindy’s purpose is to motivate, educate and inspire people to live their richest life. She is the host of “Unlocking the Secret to Living Rich”.