Blog 18: Decision Making

Written by Jim Sheehy

Hi.  My name is Jim Sheehy.  This is and this blog is about decision-making.  One of the most important parts of being healthy is the capacity to make good decisions.   It involves using every part of our brain.  We ask our memory if we ever made a decision like this before.  Our imagination is asked to ‘think outside the box’ for creative solutions.  Our reasoning part of the brain works on the costs and benefits in making the decision and how to execute it.

I want to focus on what space you need to be in when making an important decision.  It’s called the ‘locus of control’ or, more simply, the platform within that determines how healthy or unhealthy my decisions will be. 

Imagine the North Sea near the Arctic.  It can be stormy and unpredictable, just like life.  Now imagine you want to build a platform that is steady, balanced and reliable in the North Sea.  This is the platform in life on which you will base your decision-making.  With me so far? 

So how to make the platform steady?  You drill into the seabed and you create a 3-legged structure that the platform is built on.  These 3 legs that are essential for balance and right judgement are: self-care, autonomy and planning.  If any of these legs are weak and faulty, the whole platform tilts into the North Sea of life. 

Self-care involves asking if your personal space is in good shape.  Am I generally thinking clearly and feeling good?  Am I solid in being me, not other people’s impression of me, or who they would prefer me to be.  The hardest challenge in life is to be authentic, to accept and like myself as I am, that my ‘normal’ is different and that’s okay.   Self-care is balancing who and what energises me, and who and what sucks energy out of me.  The more responsibilities you have with demands, deadlines etc the more essential it is to carve out those few hours each week being with someone who makes me feel cared for and loved, with whom I belong and am really connected and attuned, that I actually feel a difference in being me.  A few hours of ‘me time’ doing activities that are fun, relaxing, physically active and social.  Burnout happens, along with very poor decision-making, if self-care stops being a daily and weekly part of my life.

Autonomy is an awareness that, in the process of making a good decision, I have choices.  The opposite of autonomy is when a voice in your head repeats ‘I am trapped; I am stuck’.  Decisions that are based on fear, guilt or shame are never good.  So, the process demands that you seek help from another to help you with that fear / guilt / shame before commiting to a final decision.   Only when the voice in your head is saying ‘I am calm, responsible and caring’ can you commit. With a clearer head, you see possibilities, a range of choices, people willing to support you once you make your decision.

The third leg of the platform is Planning.  A crucial part of decision-making is seeing how it will work out in very ordinary but essential planning.  Whether in the line of work, relationships, leisure time we need a plan that is SMART.  Each letter represents an aspect of planning which ensures your decision has a beginning, middle and end.  Let me explain:

S: Specific

Can your goal be broken into smaller parts?

M: Motivational

Is your goal emotionally charged?

Do you have the energy to carry out the goal?

A: Accountable

Can your goal be tracked and accounted for?  By a certain date, this will have changed. 

R: Responsible

Will it cost you friends? Easy to respond to changes if required?

T: Touchable

What will you have to hold as a completed result?

Going back to our steady platform in the stormy North Sea.  This platform, your ‘locus of control, sees helicopters landing and departing safely and on time.  The helicopters represent the many decisions you make, big and small, are safe and timely. 

Of course, you just eventually have to trust yourself when arriving at a major decision: Can I split with my partner, Can I leave my job / home / country; Can I admit that alcohol has become my master; Can I not be strong and ask for help.  Many of our decisions affect others we care about.  But remember the 3 legs of the platform are your own work and responsibility and you absolutely need to ensure these are well constructed before standing over a decision that has consequences, better or worse. 



Presentations on the 4 zones are also available on video and blog through the website – see

If you enjoy the material, please get the word out there among those you care for.  You can contact me with comment or suggestion via Facebook at Jim Sheehy Therapy and on Twitter @jimsheehy2017

Take care,

Clarifying Disclaimer:  While the material I am presenting is well-researched and suitable for the general population, I believe each person’s issues and needs are unique.  I encourage you to seek medical and/or therapeutic support if you struggle with an issue or condition that negatively and seriously impacts your life.


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Jim Sheehy M.Ed. MIACP
Co Donegal 
F94 WV99

087 2137922


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