Sound Decision-Making – Your Power Is in The Approach

May 13, 2024 | Aging Successfully

..Would you rather listen instead? Click here for the 17-minute audio recording.


Older woman making a decisionToday I am talking about a sort of overlay at hand, an overlay to be used in lots of Decision-making. It is a way, a process, an approach to make the best decisions with the most information.

As someone who specializes in aging and solo aging, I can tell you that there are plenty of topics and plenty of Decisions coming our way. There is much to learn, and a lot will happen to us before all is said and done. So, we’d be well-served if we got good at making Decisions.

I love to live inside the Decisions. Inside Decision-making live two things, two things I think most people want: Discovery and Power.

First, Discovery. Finding out about and then considering all the options available to you in any given situation.  Second, and every bit as important, is Power. It is smart to make Decisions when you know all there is to know, it makes for a better outcome, right? It’s sort of like that Eyes Wide Open idea, and we don’t pull the trigger on the Decision until we are ready.

Discovery is first, before Decision-making

As we age, we will be exploring or revisiting a lot of topics. There are Decisions ahead of most of us. There will be several topics, like healthcare, faith, friendships, financial stuff, and housing.

Topics are fine, but I like to operate inside the Decision-making. Be in the weave of information coming in, and sussing out what seems right for me or for you. 

There will always be Decisions, some pressing and some longer-term or planning. My jam, my joy, is focusing on how to think: how to begin to see and sort that which swirls around in our heads. We learn what our options may be and weigh them. We arrive at a comfortable Decision or the best Decision or best fit. 

For example, let’s try this overlay, this approach, on the subject of housing. I will not teach about the kinds of housing options available to us in the segment. Rather, we can use housing as one example and walk through the approach to thinking and deciding: through discovery and into Power.

My hunch is that at some point, we’ll all be noodling about where we live. Are we in our forever place now? Might there be changes ahead? I am here to tell you that the ol ’“Should I Stay Or Should I Go” question can be a lot more fun than daunting because inside the pondering are the learning and the choices.

The Discovery and consideration of the “trying on” of options can make us feel more in command. After all, this is us, and we can have choices. In fact, we likely have more choices if we do this pondering right now as opposed to when a crisis or fast-change limits our options. Not only can we enjoy the Power of “Now,” but we can relish in more choices and the contentment that will come simply by being more knowledgeable.       

If you like to learn, if you value strategy or becoming savvy then Discovery is a major part of the fun. I am betting you have already been engaged in this kind of activity in the past.

In our lives, there are times when we have found ourselves evaluating what we want or need. I wish to zero in on those times for a bit, those times that preceded Decisions, those times that gave us pause, during which we took stock, evaluated, and considered our options.

Sorting, Old and New

As a kid, one of my evaluations was as simple as “How am I gonna spend my hard-earned allowance?” Or maybe I had a $5 windfall, a gift from a distant aunt. Those were big Decisions back in the day.

As adults, I am sure we’ve all evaluated Big-Ticket items: a car, tuition, or a vacation—something that would take a substantial chunk of our budget. One such Big-Ticket item has likely been where we were to live.

Questions like “Can I afford it? Is it right for my lifestyle? Is it close to my job, house of worship, best friends, or relatives?” were some of our normal considerations.

At this stage in our lives (I am talking to you, 55+, or thereabouts– some of us have more “plus”), when we are wiser because of having “lived and learned,” my guess is we are likely better at all this evaluating relative to our housing. 

We’ve evolved. Just as we may have gone from a child wondering what bed or room we’d get, maybe what side of a camp tent or dorm room we would be assigned or choose, to which apartment was “so cool,” we moved on in adulthood. We learned from and carried with us those housing Decisions and outcomes as lessons. Each of those Decisions was simply made differently, and as our lives progressed, we had different factors to consider.

As we age, we likely will revisit our own housing. We do and we must “sort” differently now, but one thing remains the same- a housing Decision should include all our unique factors. We are still dealing with our wants and needs, but with more experience to help us.

Some of us may find ourselves in medical situations where we must quickly revisit both change and our circumstances but whatever the motivation, we are quite likely better at doing it. I think the questions may change along with the answers, too, and the good news is that now we can better entertain them and get closer to a good answer, a good fit.

Many of us have not moved in quite some time. We are settled. For me, my intentions had originally been to move into this one place “for a short time,” and 16.5 years went by! Plenty of the clients I work with have been in their places for 30+ years and are reminiscing the fact that “we raised 3 our three kids here”. Their first consideration to even warm up to the idea of moving may be an admission like “Well, it IS a lot to clean or heat” and “Hoo-wee, I gotta lotta STUFF!”

Some will comment that the future is so uncertain that they don’t know how things will go. Those “things” are the same things that anyone might deal with, some with a murky view, but don’t let the unknowns spook you. We simply adjust the factors, maybe widen the scope.

Those unknowns. Could it be that nowadays, we are just more wary of the unknowns? Let me point out that any wariness comes from wisdom, too. We are protecting ourselves, and isn’t THAT good? I submit to you this idea: Wariness comes from Wisdom. It’s an advantage, not a reason to shrink back. Wisdom can well serve.

We can look at ourselves and figure out if we’re the right fit where we are, in our current place. I am often one to open that conversation with this query: “Is your home serving you, or are you serving it?”

It’s a Yes or No question.

What I am doing here is indicating that your home is a tool intended to serve you. You are in charge. If your home, your tool, is getting the best of you, if that has flipped, then it may be time to consider your options. 

Here we are at the topic for Decision, the “Stay or Go” topic – for Discovery first, then Decision.

Perhaps we’ve begun to acknowledge that where we are is simply not sustainable or the right place for us in the future, and we need to look elsewhere. It’s a clean slate, but it can seem like such a big slate.

Let us then remember that we have been here before, with these moving Decisions, right? And I might offer that here we have the benefit of wisdom and life. We have advantages.

Perhaps when we were in our twenties, we didn’t know or even care quite so much about our housing. Maybe we were foolhardy, or at least more carefree. I moved 12 times while in undergrad; to “bug out” at the semester’s end was the norm. We didn’t know, didn’t care, but we certainly didn’t know how to make Decisions like we do now!

My mother told the story of our father renting their first apartment on their behalf. She didn’t find out until she got there that there was no kitchen sink! They washed dishes in the bathtub in their humble abode while Dad finished up as an undergrad after WWII. Somebody here was a little short in his Discovery.

It’s likely that when in our 30s, 40s, and 50’s, we became more aware of how our housing needs, what served, and what suited us. Was there a family or a budget weighing in heavily? Had we in our past moved for work or to work, and now that is not such a large factor in Decision-making? Could we afford more now or less? Do we need more or less space now?

Enter Into Discovery

Let us enter the weave, use the opportunity, just think, research, and revisit. The deciding comes later, so put that aside for right now. This is not a one-shot deal; it is not a one-and-done conversation (with yourself or those involved). There should be several. This housing stuff begins with a bit of research, and then we factor our wants and needs into that to find our fit. This is Discovery!

We can focus on ourselves and how we are physically, cognitively, and financially. We can look at our mobility, our budgets, and our timelines, all on our terms, and better now while we have this Power, while the Decisions are ours. Better now than if we find ourselves caught in a less-than-positive situation and our options are fewer.

Discovery is likely best performed if we talk it over with someone we trust and have conversations (with an “s”!) with to gain insights among other people who may be in similar situations. The options and considerations are often what I and my clients talk about. I can offer education about the housing lay of the land and what the fit might look like, factoring in your unique considerations.

Discovery – Decisions come later

And Discovery (while exciting) is just that. No Decisions; just learn for now. Your preferences will come forward in your own mind and from your own gut; that and solid information will guide your Decisions.

Personally, I get excited about the idea of making my choices with my factors. I feel that Power creeping in, and the opportunity to impart another of my favorite sayings:

          “We can all have a say about how things will go and where we will end up.”

Case in point. Enjoy lots of conversations because, through them, the surety is gained.

The whole Discovery-to-Decisions thing can be much like a small child at the shore who is learning to wade, navigating the waves as they come. Some you hop over, and that becomes fun. Hop, and hop again. You work on your timing and your ability to size up the coming waves. Some seem harmless, so little that you decide to just let them come to you and enjoy watching and feeling them circle around you.

There will be a few waves we may run from (and we’ve become wise enough to know to!), but we remain in there, wading. Wading and deciding, hopping and smiling, based upon our wisdom gained. It not only got easier, it became fun. After a while, you literally “have your sea legs.” Wading and deciding, based upon the wisdom gained.

Let’s stick a toe in the water with Discovery. The best Decisions will then follow.

Nancy Ruffner is now offering Single Consultations, a “Power Hour” for help with your questions about aging, prioritizing or direction.  No matter if you are starting, stuck or stymied, put Nancy’s expertise and experience in patient advocacy and aging services to work for you.