Sunday,19 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1413, (11 - 17 October 2018)
Sunday,19 May, 2019
Issue 1413, (11 - 17 October 2018)

Ahram Weekly

How to make sound choices

Making the right decisions can be a tricky matter, but psychology is a source of guidance, writes Mai Samih


Right decisions
Right decisions

People make decisions on a daily basis, ranging from small ones like choosing what to eat to greater ones like changing a career. The question is how does someone know they have made the correct decision? Is making a sound decision a personal trait? Professor of educational psychology Rabab Al-Shishtawi thinks that psychology can help more people make sounder choices in their lives.

Values are what govern choices, she says, and the stronger the values are the better the choices that are made. “Whenever a person makes a choice, he does so according to his values. When a person chooses, he chooses values, seeing the choice as the path that leads to the value it expresses,” she adds.

Making the right choices can be an acquired skill, however. “We train our children about choosing. We teach our children to choose values, not people, and to stand by what they think is right,” she says. “We should do that in our own lives.”

Al-Shishtawi breaks down the hesitation that can frustrate sound choices. “When someone is hesitant, it may be for one or two reasons. He may not be up to the choice, or he may be too weak to choose. He may want to have both options,” she says. The answer is to develop habits of assertiveness.

“Nobody can have everything. People will have to witness loss at some point in their lives,” she says, but choices reflect the need to decide on a course and then to stick with it.

In all cases, choosing something is better than not choosing, or hoping that choice can be avoided. “It is always the case that if you do something with determination you are less likely to regret it. On the other hand, doing nothing is always a source of regret,” Al-Shishtawi argues.

A man in love with a young woman will not regret asking for her hand in marriage if she turns him down. But if he does not propose at all, he will always regret it, she adds.

She breaks down the process of teaching how to choose. “From a very young age, children learn by example, and parents should teach their children that there is a concept of what is theirs and what is not. In this way they teach their children what is right,” she says, giving the example of conflicts over toys. If a toy turns out to belong to another child, that child should take it, she adds.

Putting a child on the right path from a parent’s point of view is not always the correct choice.

Instead, a child should choose a path by himself, which will mean that he will be more independent if it turns out to be a good choice and will learn from his mistakes if it turns out to be a bad one.

“He needs to take responsibility for his choices,” Al-Shishtawi comments. If a parent thinks that a certain university or subject would be a good choice for his child, and his child wants to enrol in another one, the parent should let him choose since he is responsible for his choices, she argues. This will have the additional effect of not causing that child to later impose his views on others.

“If a parent knocks on the door before entering a room, he is teaching his child not to interfere in other people’s lives. The idea is that a concrete example can be used to teach abstract ideas – such as the need to respect others,” she adds.

Teaching children how to choose means first teaching them ethical awareness. “This is the most important thing, as it is the basis of all subsequent choices. For example, mobile phones should not be used at night since health is a value that children should learn to maintain, and in forbidding their use a parent is teaching his children the value of time,” she argues.

For Al-Shishtawi, astrology can also give insights into decision-making skills. “Leo and Scorpio tend to be courageous signs of the Zodiac, whereas someone who is Aquarius may be stubborn, taking the path he wants even if people say it is not the correct one. A Taurus can be extremely stubborn, taking the wrong path even if he knows it is the wrong one. A Sagittarius is the opposite, as he will be almost too quick in trying to escape it,” she says.

There are rules of thumb that can help all of us make better decisions, she concludes. Positive language can help, as can developing the habit of seeing the glass as half full rather than half empty. Determination is also important: once a person has decided on a course of action he should follow it through.

Options that give positive energy should be preferred, even when it comes to the choice between canned and fresh food. Al-Shishtawi recommends paying the bills during the day and not in the evening, as positive energy levels are higher during the day and livelihood expectations are higher.
Regular sleep patterns can also have a positive effect on sound decision-making.

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