Ep. #83 How I Make Big Decisions

Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Words That Move Me with Dana Wilson
Ep. #83 How I Make Big Decisions

 I know how easy it is to get caught up in confusion and indecision when it comes time to make those “big career moves”, and sometimes the small ones too!  So, I am finally sharing decision making formula!  In this episode, first we’ll identify how your values factor into your decision making.  Then, we’ll talk about false dichotomies and Zero Sum Thinking. THEN, I’ll give you the outline, a tool that I use to help me MAKE BIG DECISIONS!  I’m also giving you a look at one of my recent a BIG DECISIONS that might surprise you. 😉


Intro: This is words that move me, the podcast where movers and shakers, like you get the information and inspiration. You need to navigate your creative career with clarity and confidence. I am your host master mover, Dana Wilson. And if you’re someone that loves to learn, laugh and is looking to rewrite the starving artist story, then sit tight, but don’t stop moving because you’re in the right place. 

Dana: Hello my friend and welcome. I’m Dana. This is Words That Move Me. I’m stoked that you are here because today I will be talking about a subject that is near and very dear and probably a struggle to all of our hearts. Um, today we are talking about making decisions specifically big, important looming decisions. Um, and it is safe to say that if you are listening to this podcast, you are focusing on making moves in your career. You’re focusing on making the ‘right moves’ and probably making really, really big moves. So this one is dedicated to you. I’m so excited about it. Uh, but first let’s talk wins shall we? Today, I am celebrating a very important win. If you are an avid listener, you know that I am avidly frustrated with the carwash across the street for me, um, since the reopening, the great reopening, it seems a lot of people are wanting their car washed. And although it used to be a hand wash the car wash across the street from me now has these really awesome squealing vacuums, which has been a struggle for a person with a podcast. Um, seriously, it like I am pulling my eyelashes and my hair out on the daily being in my house, listening to this squealing squealing sound. Uh, so today I’m celebrating that I have made a formal complaint with the city after doing some extensive decibel recording and research found that the carwash across the street is almost four decibels over the acceptable limited for residential area. And I know that doesn’t sound like much, but, um, every three decibels is a doubling of the acceptable limit. So the fact that we’re almost four decibels over is like, oh my goodness, no wonder I’m pulling my hair out. This is like two times as loud as the acceptable limit for a residential area. So I’m stoked that it’s not just me and I’m not just crazy. And I’m stoked to be taking steps in a direction that hopefully gets me and my neighbors, a little bit of auditory relief. Uh, so that is what I am celebrating today. 

Now you go, what is going well in your world? 

All right. Awesome. Congratulations. I’m so proud of you keep doing what you’re doing. Okay. Now my goal for this session is to identify what makes big decisions and sometimes small ones too, so hard. Uh, then I’m going to give you a game plan that will hopefully make it a lot less hard because I know how easy it is to get caught up in confusion and indecision. So, uh, first we’ll identify how your values factor into your decision making. Then we’ll talk about false dichotomies and the zero sum thinking, and then I’ll give you an outline, um, a tool that I use to help me make my big decisions. Uh, and I’ll even give you a real example from my very own, very recent life of how I applied this tool. Okay. Let us jump in and let us talk about why it is so hard to make decisions, big decisions. Um, actually, let’s pause right here. What do you think the answer to that question is seriously, like hit pause and try to answer this question. Why is it so hard to make big decisions go?  

Okay. Uh, I, I, I hope that you’ve paused that answered that question. And if you’re back now, I’ll go ahead and weigh in. I think that it’s hard to make big decisions only, partly because we really want to make the right one and not make the wrong one only, partly because of that. We’ve got thoughts about how good it is to be right, and how bad it is to be wrong. And without a crystal ball, we don’t think we know which one is which so we go back and forth trying to predict the future and doubting ourselves in the moment. That’s only part of it. 

Well, that confusion, that back and forth that self-doubt in that trying to predict the future thing. Those are all optional. And I’m about to clear all of those up for you with one word, values. Yes. Your values. I’ll explain in addition to wanting to be right and not wanting to be wrong. Making decisions can be hard and uncomfortable and confusing because we subconsciously tie bundles of our own values to each choice. So I like to think of, of each choice each option, each decision as a bucket and in each of those buckets, I place certain values. For example, uh, let’s say I’m deciding whether to go to college for dance or to head straight to a big city and jump into the workforce. In the school for dance bucket I might place the following values, having a detailed and predetermined schedule, having some structure, pleasing my parents. Um, this one’s obvious, but a top tier education. Those might be some of the values that I, that I put in the go to school bucket. Well, over in the other bucket, the jump straight into the workforce bucket, I’ve placed values like first-hand experience, independence, change, and of course no student debt. Okay. So we tie certain values to certain decisions. So what, so what makes making decisions a struggle is thinking that by honoring one decision and one set of values, we must completely abandon the other values. You see what I’m saying here? In the case of our example, you might be thinking that moving straight into the workforce means you forfeit your parents’ love and support or a detailed and predetermined schedule or a top tier education. Yeah. Making that decision could feel awful. If you think that you had to give up all those values to have it. On the other hand, you might be thinking that going to school means that you can’t honor independence, hands-on experience and change. Is this is this tracking? When I explain it in this way, of course, big decisions feel nasty. When you think that making them means you have to give up your values. What I am starting to illustrate here is sometimes called zero sum thinking. Zero sum thinking refers to the perception that a situation or a decision is like a game and there will be a winner and there will be a loser. And if someone is up and someone is down, the net is zero, right? Winner, loser net equals zero. That’s why we call it zero sum thinking. It’s occasionally called a zero sum game. Now as zero sum bias means that people think there is competition for a resource or an idea that they feel is limited. Even when the resource in question is totally unlimited, freely available to put this really simply we care about decision-making because we think we will either win or lose our values. But in most cases, our values are unlimited. There is not a, there’s not one choice that we could make where we have to forfeit all our other values, except for the ones that we allocate with that choice.  

Okay. Are you still with me? I’m hoping that this idea of values and decisions has really blown your mind. Um, and if it hasn’t great, we’re going one step deeper so that I can like just firmly split your brain. No not split it, just, nevermind. We’re moving on. You have probably heard, maybe even on this podcast actually of false dichotomies, there’s sometimes known as false dilemmas or when two alternatives are presented as being the only options, but others are actually available. That is a false dichotomy when you are presented with A or B, but in truth, there is actually like C D E F G H I J K. Anyways. My husband has helped me to really understand that. Almost always, when A or B are presented as the only two options you have at least four options option one is to choose A option. Two is to choose B option three is to choose AB or, you know, some combination of the two and option four is to choose neither. Mind blown in half. You don’t have to choose either of those. You can choose nothing. We’re going to call that option C. So when presented with A or B, you know, you have at least four options, A, B AB, or we’ll call it C. This way of thinking can really lift the false pressure of a false dilemma. So if you are thinking, I’m going to either go to school or move to a big city to dance, I can understand how you would feel tremendous pressure. When actually you have so many more options, which some might create even more pressure in your mind, but we’re going to alleviate that in a second, too. 

To add some alleviation. I’d like to introduce the subject of time. Most decisions are presented as a limited time offer. You have to choose by the state. You have to decide by this date, our deadline is this, and that pressure is intended to be manipulative. And usually it’s not binding. Usually you can change your mind at some point out in the future. Most of the time you can straight up, just wait to make the decision. So the next time you were being faced with a big decision, ask yourself how many options do I really have and how much time do I really have to make this decision? Can I make my decision and then change my mind later? Excellent. Breath of relief. Okay. 

Now I’m going to talk you through one of my favorite tools for making big decisions. Eight steps go with me here. Step one is to simply reflect, identify how many options you actually have. Is this a case where it is truly A or B, or is there an AB, is there a C explain what each option would look like? And the example that we’ve laid out already, the, the, the scenario of going to school or moving into the workforce option a might look like going to college, packing up your bags, getting on a plane, moving to a school option B might look like packing up your car and moving to LA to pursue the industry. For example, AB might look like packing up your car, moving to LA and going to college online, option C might look like going on a cruise ship or Europe or staying home, something like that. Actually, I guess those would be CD and E all of those options. So explain to yourself what each of those options looks like. 

Step two for each option that you’ve outlined in step one, tell yourself why you should choose each option. In other words, list the pros. What’s good about each of those decisions. 

Step three, as you might have imagined, outline the cons. What’s the bad part about making each one of those decisions? What could go wrong in making each of those decisions list for each option? 

Step four. Here’s where we get to the buckets and the values. What values does each choice aligned with? In other words, what are the values that you’re putting in each bucket? For example, in going to school, you’re honoring the value of higher education or pleasing the folks or maintaining stability. Um, in, in bucket B moved to LA, you might be honoring real hands-on experience being close to the ocean. Um, maybe you already have a community out in Los Angeles. Maybe you’re putting the value of accomplishing your dreams into that bucket. Um, maybe, maybe the AB bucket is the value or the, the desire to please everyone. Maybe that’s giving you more flexibility in the future. Um, you, you get to decide what values go in the AB bucket, and then in the C bucket as well. What values are you associating with the decision to do none of those with the decision to maybe stay home or go on a cruise ship? Is it the value of saving money? Is it the value of less risk? Is it the value of, um, you know, sticking to what is known? What is comfortable? What are the values you’re putting in each of those buckets? 

That is step four, step five is where we get to identify embrace. Even that the struggle you are having to make this decision is coming from thinking that in order to honor one value or one bucket of values, you must abandon all the others. So get very real with yourself right now and explain how in this case, that is true or untrue. Is it true that by moving to LA you abandoned the love and support of your, of your folks? Is it true that in moving to LA you are forfeiting great education. Is it true that by going to school, you are forfeiting experience. Is it true that by staying home, you are forfeiting experience. Get to really answering those questions for yourself. Explain how is that the case, or how is that? Not the case likely you’ll find that it is very much possible for you to honor most, if not all of your values by simply making one choice. 

In step six, I like to consider if there is someone else whose opinion about this decision matters more to me than my own. I asked myself, who are they? And why in the heck do I care about their opinion? More than mine at this point, I like to remind myself that I cannot control what other people think about me. It’s very possible that I could make the choice that would please this other person. And they could still think poorly of me. So are you willing to make this decision for you? Are you willing for other people to have the wrong idea about you? Answer those questions in step six and get ready for ownership over your life. 

Let’s go instead of seven. Once you understand that your values are not mutually tied to these choices, once you understand that you could possibly honor all of those values with any one decision, what choice do you want to make? What decision will you make, knowing that you can honor most, if not all of your values with one choice, make the choice. You don’t need to act on the choice. You don’t need to actually go pack the car right now, but with yourself to yourself, make a decision and decide what you will think about yourself for making this decision.  

Okay. We’ve made it to step eight and this one is important. Most people do not do it. I can tell because I’ve seen people go for years and years holding onto guilt or curiosity about the path not chosen. So step eight is to decide how you will feel about letting go of the other options. How will you feel about the paths not taken? How will you grieve them? How will you celebrate them? How will you release them? How will you honor them? That is the final step of making big decisions for me. 

All right. Now, I’m going to walk you through this outline, um, with a recent experience of mine during the same week of the, In the Heights movie premiere and surrounding parties that were happening in New York City, I was put on avail for a national commercial in LA. The dates were exactly the same, the dates, exactly conflicted and New York and LA are quite far away. Oh God, that was a cute ride. Um, so in this case, when I identified my options about, you know, do I, do I say that I am available for this commercial? Or do I say that I am not available for this commercial and go to New York A and B, or it was not possible that I both do the commercial and go to the premier and parties and such, um, yeah, the, the AB version of that world couldn’t exist. Of course there is still a C option I could have done. Neither. It could have said, you know, it is just too hard for me to choose. I’m not going to do either of those things, but option C was that’s, that’s not very attractive to me. So as I identified my options, I honed in on A or B, say that I’m available for this commercial, or say that I am not available for this commercial and go to New York. Actually, now that I say this out loud, there was a third option. I could say that I’m available for this commercial and still not book it, and then go to New York to the party. So those are my three options. A say that I’m available B say that I’m not available and go to New York or C say that I am available, not get it and still go to New York. Okay. 

Step two. Let’s take a look at the pros. The pros for doing a commercial are making money. I’m working with people that I admire and haven’t gotten to work with before, getting my after health care back. Um, not having to travel at all during weird COVID times. Yeah. The pros of going to New York are being in a city that I love seeing people that I haven’t seen in a long time, um, getting to party. Yeah, duh. And the pros of saying that I’m available, but also not getting it and going to New York anyways, are that I demonstrate to myself that I’m open to new work. I’m open to new ideas and I’m capable. I’m flexible. 

Okay. Now let’s take a look at the values that each of these choices aligns with. Why should I be available for this commercial? Well, number one, it would mean my husband and I get back on our SAG-AFTRA healthcare. That is massive. I lost healthcare coverage during, uh, the pandemic year. And so we’ve been paying month to month, which is way more expensive. I am very, very motivated to meet my minimums and be covered fully again by SAG- AFTRA healthcare. Um, that’s number one, number two, this was a big, big music video and commercial director that I would love to work with. Also big, big choreographer that I would love to work with haven’t had the opportunity to yet. Let’s see, make money. Obviously, in addition to, uh, meeting, meeting healthcare requirements, make like actual cash and let’s see what else, right? Allocate, uh, what other value did I tie with this? Oh, the next that extra spending of money, which is required in trips to New York City, not the cheapest. Okay. So why should I choose B? Why should I choose going to New York for the premiere of this film and the parties surrounding it? Oh, this one was easy. A sense of closure and accomplishment, a celebration. Um, the other values I associated with going are, um, connecting with the community, uh, celebrating the people involved and yes, having a party like actually celebrating, playing, having fun. That is definitely a value of mine. Now, option C in my case, I didn’t have much control over. I can say that I’m available for this project and they can say, oh, we’re so glad that you’re available.  We don’t need you. Which spoiler alert is what happened. But first I had to actually make the decision where I said, I am willing to be available. That is the decision that I’m talking about. It is poor form to say, yes, I am fully available. And then a psych, just kidding. I’m going to not be to nevermind. Poor poor form. 

Okay. Step three. Why shouldn’t I choose each option? Why should I not choose to do the commercial? Because other people might think that I am putting money above a very emotional and personal project. Why shouldn’t I do the commercial? Because In the Heights is one of the most meaningful projects to me that I have ever done and selling stuff for a big corporation is way less important to me to start. Why shouldn’t I go to New York because it’s going to be expensive. Um, for the Associate Choreographers, that trip was not paid for,  that was on us. Now. I know. Um, why shouldn’t I go to New York? That’s all I can think of. Only 2 reasons. Great. 

Now in step five, I get to identify that the struggle that I’m having is coming from thinking that making one choice means I abandoned all my other values deciding to take the commercial means that I abandoned celebrating my team. It means that I abandoned connecting with the people. It means that I abandoned a sense of closure. Is that really the case? Absolutely not. Is it possible for me to achieve a sense of closure without going to New York city and standing on a red carpet? You better believe it. Is it possible for me to celebrate my team without flying to New York and going to a party? Yes, it absolutely. Is. Is it possible for me to connect with my team without actually being there 100%? In fact, as I was going through this, this outline, I realized that one of my favorite things about one of my favorite people, Mr. Andy Blankenbuehler is that he writes personal emails. I mean, I know it sounds kind of small, but this is one of the busiest guys I have ever met. And yet out of the blue, I might receive an email. Hey, Dana, thinking about you because saw this thing thought of you, blabbity-blue. Appreciate you. Hope you’re good. I love that this person who I think is so busy is not too busy to connect with his people. I want to be more like that. Could I write an email to all of our cast and crew? Yes. I mean, it would take me some time, but probably not longer than a five and a half hour flight to New York, probably not longer than the four days that I would have spent there. And in fact, I might even find myself feeling more connected with them and writing personalized messages than shouting at the top of my lungs over loud music at a party or a passing wave in a fleeting hug in a movie theater. It might be possible that I get to connect deeper by not going than by going, okay. 

Let’s look at the other side of the spectrum. Could I meet my SAG-AFTRA health requirements by going to a party? No. Could I work with these two, uh, this choreographer director by going to New York to the premiers? No. Could I work with them eventually? 100%. Yes. Am I excited to now know that that is important to me 100%? Yes. Are there things that I could be doing that would get me closer to that desired result? 100%. Yes. But none of those are achieved by going into New York City for a party. Okay. Pretty well. Fleshed that out. 

So let’s look at step six. Is there someone else whose opinion about this decision? I’m considering more than my own? Yes. I was considering about 300 people’s opinion more than my own. I was considering what people would think. If I wasn’t there. I was considering what people would think. If they thought that I had chosen a commercial over them, I was considering what the casting agency might think. If I said I was available and then changed my mind later that they might think I was unprofessional. I was considering a lot of other people’s thoughts about me. When I started thinking about missing the premiere to do this commercial. I thought that people might think the movie didn’t mean as much to me as it did to them. And I placed myself in my imagination there at the premiere. Is it possible that people could still think that even after having spent a lot of money on a ticket and lodging and food and fancy outfits, is it possible that people could still think that, yes. Am I willing for people to be wrong about me? Yes. In fact, it is inevitable in my life that will happen. 

So let’s take a look at step seven, understanding that my values are not mutually tied to these choices. For me, understanding that I could still achieve closure, celebrate my team, connect with my team and celebrate myself without going to New York. In some ways I might even be able to do those on a, in a deep, deep way, in a very personal way, in a very effective way. Impactful way. Once I realized that my decision was clear, I would decide to be available for this commercial. I would decide that my way of releasing the premiere would be to review every single photo and dance, every single combo and light a candle for Abuela Claudia and email, personally, all of the dancers. This was how I would honor and release the path not taken. So I got on the phone and I called my agent and I said, I will be available for this commercial. And they said, that’s great, noted. And then for four days, the four days before the week of the premiere, I was on hold. And then I was released. The commercial said, no, thank you. I hit up Airbnb. I bought myself a plane tickets so fast and my feet landed firmly in celebration, connection, closure, and New York City. But all the while I felt open to more work, I felt like my past work is not the only work. I felt even more able to celebrate the people I was with because I was thinking that I could do so much lifting from afar. Imagine how much I can do near. I felt that I was exactly where I should be. And I felt open to being anywhere. 

That is what I have for you today. A little template for making your big decisions and a peek into one of the biggest decisions I’ve had to make in the last couple months. All right. That’s it wrapping it up? Hope this was useful. And if you happen to have other tips and tricks and techniques for making big decisions, I would be so curious to hear where they are. Hit me up, DanaDaners on Instagram or Words That Move Me podcast on Instagram. Get out there into the world, make your decisions and keep it super duper funky. I’ll talk to you soon.  

Me again. Wondering if you ever noticed that one more time. Almost never means one more time. Well, here on the podcast, one more thing actually means two more things. Number one thing. If you’re digging the pod, if these words are moving you, please don’t forget to download, subscribe and leave a rating or review because your words move me too. Number two thing. I make more than weekly podcasts. So please visit thedanawilson.com for links to free workshops. And so, so much more. All right, that’s it now for real talk to you soon. Bye. 

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