Making decisions - a process and a privilege

December 26, 2021

Does anyone recall the 1967 classic movie, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” starring Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn, and Spencer Tracy? For those who have replied, “Who the ___ are they?” there is no need to stop reading because I am not about to write about a pre-internet, pre-cellphone, pre-streaming piece of cinema. The movie, albeit with an interracial dating/marriage theme, was primarily about making a decision, and the process(es) of the mind which produce an ultimate result. We make decisions constantly about so many things, and each decision is undoubtedly an important one for each of us.

Each day begins with a routine ritual of hygienic chores, but prior thereto we have made the decision, with the possible assistance of an electrical device, with respect to the time our night slumber shall end. So, we are up and running as it were, and ready for the first decision of the day. For those who enjoy daily employment either through yet another electronic phenomenon or an actual trip to a workplace, the next decision is simple and routine. Just prior thereto, though, there is the morning cuisine choice, either at home or at Starbucks/Panera Bread. Oh my, the choices are so varied and tempting! The more challenging, though, for the non-takeout among us is where to sit. Allow me to fast forward to lunchtime, where we face our first major decision of the day, especially if we opt to eat with colleagues or friends. And, no, it is not the choice or location of the eatery!

The big lunchtime decision is where to sit in our restaurant of choice. I have no idea why the position of the table or the place at the counter is worthy of the extreme thought which seems to be part of the ritual. However, the discussion which precedes our actual self-seating is fascinating, and thankfully short. We have collectively made a decision regarding where to enjoy our brief time together in the partaking of a beef or chicken patty on a bun accompanied by a non-alcoholic liquid. Do you notice that the wrap is much more enjoyable to the palate once the seating decision has been made?

In the course of any given day, we make at least 10 decisions, most of which are of little consequence, but the brain engages in this activity regardless. Let us look at those decisions which do have meaning and consequence and economic overtones. No. 1, of course, is our investment in a house or even an apartment. The next on the list is more than likely an automobile, but wait, I believe I neglected to mention perhaps our most important decision, the choice of a human partner or spouse. Let us start with this third circumstance, then, the choice of a human partner, if that is our option. Books have been written about this topic, and all the steps which go into this decision, and as we began the column, even a major motion picture. We can easily speculate as to the number of facts, fictions, and factoids which are present as a person ponders the decision inherent in this situation, including, of course, the choice of digital jewelry which may accompany this type of event. Fast forward at least one thousand pages so that we can reach the next decision topic, an automobile purchase. There are multiple parts to this act. Allow yourself the absolute joy of at least one hundred points of interest in this decision. As a matter of fact, there is more of a decision by elimination in this process. “No thanks, I do not need the heated seats with the built-in massage.”

Moving backward in our triad, we have reached the decision about a home. It is somewhat interesting to note that here we find ourselves in the midst of a great dilemma with too many options. The new property owner, or almost owner, must jump through many hoops prior to receiving the key to her or his abode. During the hoop maneuvers, decisions are being made constantly, too many to even begin to list here.

What is fantastic is that we are blessed to be able to make decisions, to be forced to make decisions, to look forward to making decisions. The entire process each time we engage in making a decision is a bit like magic. We are hopeful for an exciting and positive outcome, and often get a surprising one. What is important is that we have thought, considered, weighed, and then actually made whatever the decision may have been.

  • Peter E. Carter is a former public school administrator who has served communities in three states as a principal, and district and county superintendent, for 35-plus years. He is a board member for Delaware Botanic Gardens and Cape Henlopen Educational Foundation, and the author of a dual autobiography, “A Black First…the Blackness Continues.”

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