The 80% Solution
By Jim Kuiken
Everyone is faced with choices. Personal choices. Professional choices. Political choices. Quality of life choices. There is no end to choices…marketers, media, and others make sure of that.
Everything from which brand of toothpaste, to who to elect, to family issues, etc. There is literally (and I mean that literally – not, like, literally…gum pop eye roll) no end to choices. You can get completely overwhelmed. I know I do. Frequently.
Lots of choices are important personally, and a few have very serious consequences. Like those that face military personnel in combat, first responders (law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical personnel), etc. Luckily (more likely, by design), there are procedures, laws, ethics and an organizational ethos in place to guide those life and death decisions, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.
And I’m not talking about good/bad, right/wrong decisions. Those should be guided by a person’s ethics and morality (and/or religious beliefs). Legal and illegal are guided by the (current) law…and they change with the laws as they are overturned, added or changed.
I’m talking about all the life choices we face every day, some easy, some not. I’ll tell you about some of mine in a minute…but how do we make all those choices without going nuts?
Something an old Marine Gunny told me one time sure helped me…and it is the method a large majority of those who need to make important decisions use every day.
You can get stuck in the endless loop of what-if’s, indecision, and what is frequently called “analysis paralysis”. Over-thinking. Continuously searching for “ALL” the information, rather than the 80% of the best available information. Assuming hidden meanings or motives in everything, etc.
Sometimes things are just what they look like they are, and sometimes they’re not. I’m not saying take everything at face value, but a lot of the time you just have to make decisions on what you can see, or the best information you have.
It’s called the 80% solution. Do the best you can to make a decision, but don’t keep second-guessing. Sometimes you just have to come up with a solution, and move on. It isn’t always perfect (actually, it very rarely is), but you have to decide, and then act on that decision, letting go of all the what-if’s.
If it turns out to be a bad decision, then recognize it, own it (and if necessary, apologize for it), correct it, learn from it, and move on! Don’t sit there beating yourself up over a bad decision, as long as it was made with the best information you had, and with good intent.
Ok, enough pontificating…as I promised, here are some choices I face or have faced.
Health choices…do I get up every morning at 5am, stick to my 6 times a day eating schedule (5:30am pre-workout, 8:30am post-workout, 11:30am lunch, 3:00pm mid-day, 6:00pm dinner, and 9:00pm pre-bedtime), my workout schedule (Mon-Sat from 6:15 – 8:00am), and start work (writing) at 9:00am every week day?
Trust me, that’s a day by day, and oftentimes hour by hour decision…and it doesn’t always work out well… But I face that decision every single day (and often, several times a day).
Quality of life decisions, like;
Do I do something for myself, something I enjoy on a weekly or daily basis? Do I go out in the morning and sit in my tree stand with a thermos of coffee just before sunrise (usually on a Sunday), and relax into the peace and quiet, as the cool breeze gently rustles the leaves, the sun just starts to rise behind the horizon, and the birds slowly start to wake up and tentatively start to chirp?
Well, no. I haven’t done things for myself in a couple of years at least. But I made a big decision – to start doing those things again. Like every other Friday, take the day off and go hit some golf balls, or head out to the range for some trigger time, or take Freedom and my kayak and head over to the local lake for some peaceful gliding through the water looking at the geese, etc.
Family decisions. Do I push to reestablish closer ties with my family that I had let lapse in the push of all-important business, geographical distance, “schedules and obligations”, etc…? (not to mention, the pervasive effects of PTSd from my years of service as a combat Marine, a law enforcement officer, and a firefighter/EMT). Well, yes! And I have to keep that in the forefront, and focus on actually doing that, not backsliding into the pressing of the immediate over the important…
And my friends too…!
Do I start saying “No” more? Absolutely. See my post “Back on Track” from a couple of weeks ago. And I mean it!
Professional choices. Do I stick to my writing schedule, and actually complete this current book, stick with my articles and other writings, continue to advocate for military, veterans and first responders, etc.? That (the writing) takes a lot of discipline. And a decision to actually sit down every day and write – good or bad, something to keep or to tear up – it doesn’t matter. It’s the act of sitting down and writing that is important. Good will come, and cr@ppy will come, but it will be worth it.
What are some of your choices? Easy or hard, it doesn’t matter. It is the act of sitting down, thinking them through, and making decisions that will matter. You won’t stick to them all the time, and sometimes you will, but it will be worth it!
And please – as I am struggling to do – make some decisions to do something good for yourself, and hopefully for others! The ones for yourself will help you, and the ones for others will help the world.
Now, for some tree stand time…