Mind Body Fitness  |  Thinking About It a BitRicardo

by Ricardo Gonzalez

Most of what I do kinda pops into my mind and then I do it. It can be quite exciting to “just do it”, yet this modus operandi can test your resources, as well as how well you deal with the consequences. Hence, the title piece: “thinking about it a bit”. However, when I’m in a prudent state of mind, I’ve learned to carefully think about my decision to do something before actually taking action. My Mom would be proud of me.


New Year’s resolutions, like many goals in life, don’t just pop into one’s mind. Those you have to think about, awhile…. right? In fact, just what is a resolution? It’s a firm decision to do or NOT to do something. By that definition it doesn’t sound so ominous, somehow less binding… it’s just a decision… not like a promise or an oath, so why all the hoopla about New Year’s resolutions?


The best part about New Year’s resolutions, I think, is that no one else is involved in making them. No meetings, mission plan, negotiation, consensus, approvals, deliverables, time frames, bla, bla, bla. That means we control the three main parts of making a decision: how much thought we’re going to put into it, the timing, and the expected time of performance. Additionally, interdependence between these three aspects makes the process as simple or as complicated as we want it to be.


We have plenty of time to think about resolutions. However, when I’m racing my MTB and I come around a blind corner and suddenly have to choose the path around an obstacle, I don’t have much time, I have to go with my
gut reaction. We don’t always control to what level we’re going to think about it before actually having to make a decision… because we might not have enough time to think so.


The most amount of thinking comes from rational thinking because it requires cognitive activity consisting of identifying and then selecting the best of the options available to us based on the list of pros and cons associated with each option. It is a logical and structured way of thinking. For example: http://www.decision-making-confidence.com/rational -decision-making-models.html. Don’t we wish we had used this method to choose our friends, work, or spouses?? Maybe.


On the other hand, the least amount of thinking is used when we choose to make a decision based upon our intuition. That is when we have a presentiment about a situation, a hunch, or an instinctual discernment that guides our choice. Those lucky enough to possess the gift of intuition have at their disposal the quickest method for decision making. We do this without “thinking about it a bit”.


Thankfully, life is complex enough that we get to use varying degrees of each type of decision making process. As in the above example of the MTB, the interactions of thought, timing, and performance steer our decisions. When racing, my risk tolerance goes up and the dire consequences of not being able to pull off a maneuver-based on a gut reaction – is not the principal criteria for my decisions. Racing is about timing, and if I can get to the finish line faster, that becomes the priority for making choices. I guess risk tolerance and the amount of time to make decisions are the main differences between various types of riding and racing.


Endurance events are all about pacing and managing energy expenditure. During a half ironman distance triathlon, when I have 56 miles to cover on the bike, I have plenty of time to plan, and adjust my pacing and how much energy I’ll exert on a given climb. This is opposed to an Xterra (off-road triathlon) course, during which the quick decisions I have to make on the MTB are mostly instinctual and based on what will get me to the finish line most quickly. While finishing time may be the sole indicator to others of how well I have performed during a race, I alone know the many ways in which I measure my success.


So if we don’t tell anyone about our New Year’s resolutions, we don’t care how well we perform? Not really. This brings us to that last element that often affects or inhibits our decisions: our performance. One thing that shouldn’t inhibit our decision to act is fear of judgment; either external or internal. It’s this fear of how we’ll stand up to the judgment of our performance that often gets in our way. I got to thinking of the process I go through when I’m thinking about it”. Most of our decisions, unlike New Year’s resolutions, have an audience. And when there’s an audience, there is usually some form of judgment built into our decision making. So can we handle the judgment?


When we seek to create/shape/find an environment with manageable judgment placed on our performance, we find balance. This balance reduces our stress to meet expectations placed upon us (by others as well as

ourselves). There is a balance of our abilities to meet expectations and the judgment passed on our performance… the lower expectations, the lower the required ability or performance required.


This relationship is not a linear process, it has ups and downs. When we choose to improve our abilities, it’s easier to meet expectations. This usually results in a feeling of accomplishment. Conversely, lowered ability or raised expectations increase our stress level – if only briefly.


My happiness level diminishes if I allow a level of unbalance to persist. Often, for quick results, the adjustment is made by the path of least resistance. We either seek to lower expectations or we increase our performance. Either adjustment that keeps us in line with our goals and values is a way toward achieving greater balance. If lowering our expectations is not feasible, there’s usually work involved in order to raise our performance.


It’s curious that when my performance meets or exceeds my own expectations, my happiness level is usually not affected by the judgment of others. Our opinion of how well we are meeting the expectations of others or our own is half of the equation for balance. Our self-esteem also guides the level of expectations we place on ourselves. That is why lowered self-esteem leads to lowered expectations and thus lowered performance. So take good care of your self-esteem.


To sum up, good decisions can be made by either turning in to your gut or by thoroughly weighing the pros and cons. Which approach works best for you or most often meets your needs?