• Nicholas Sheehy LC

Acting with Certainty

Does decision-making create a knot in your stomach? Decision paralysis is a thing because many people suffer inordinate amounts trying to make the right decision. What makes it so hard? Deciding for one thing always means leaving something else out, leaving room for a “fear of missing out.”

Deciding everything in our lives can seem overwhelming. Something that helps a lot is preparing a lot of decisions through our habits. This can be for our benefit or to our detriment. If I habitually eat dessert, no matter what is put in front of me, I may make a lot of bad decisions. Maybe I am trying to watch my waistline but end up eating a calorie-rich dessert. Even worse, maybe I didn’t even like the dessert that much. Then, they seem like wasted calories that go straight to the waist without satisfying the appetite.

To prepare good convictions, one of the most helpful tools to is to form good habits. Having conviction lends credibility. People want to follow people of strong convictions. Convictions are the human and supernatural certainties that guide our actions. Having strong convictions is a good head-start for making the right decisions.

1. Find your beliefs

Convictions are founded on beliefs. These are axioms that we believe. It is important to make sure that our beliefs are correct, or our convictions will lead us down the wrong path.

We can have beliefs about ourselves and beliefs about society. We can have beliefs about morals and beliefs about life situations.

Good beliefs about ourselves lead us to a healthy self-esteem. Many people struggle to have a healthy self-view. They focus on their defects and forget the qualities that they possess. If this belief pervades their self-view, they will not form convictions that lead to decisions for a flourishing life. Rather, they will spiral into self-destruction.

To make sure that our beliefs are correct, it is good to measure them up against a good moral system or seek advice from somebody we respect and emulate.

Beliefs about life situations can vary widely. Some people see disasters and impossibilities everywhere. Others think that there is a solution to every problem. This leads to a negative or a positive outlook on life that affects every aspect of daily living.

If you want to identify your beliefs correctly, look at your behaviors and see what type of beliefs they reflect. If your behavior does not accord with your beliefs, it is because these beliefs are not as important to you as you want to think.

2. Value your beliefs

Once you have determined your beliefs, it is important to make sure that you value them. In themselves, they are good things, but they do not move us to action until we decide to place a value on them. This is like when somebody shows no interest in grades and schoolwork, until a certain GPA becomes a requirement for a sport he or she wants to play. It was always a good thing to get good grades, but it did not become a value until it was a requirement for something else that was desired.

Take inventory of your beliefs and see which ones resonate deeply with you and can serve as motivation. If there are beliefs that do not resonate with you or do not motivate you to action; think about whether they should be important to you or not. Reflect on the value that they can have for you. Little by little, they will be gaining value and help you to want to do the right thing.

Value is an important element of motivation. It does not matter that something is good unless it is perceived as valuable. In this sense, the philosopher George Berkeley was correct when he stated, “to exist is to be perceived.” Until the good is perceived as a value, it has no power over the acting subject.

3. Act accordingly

Decision time has arrived. It is not enough to have a set of beliefs and to value them. The moment comes when action is necessary. This is where we see the power of these beliefs and values. A person who can act according to deep-set convictions is a person who is coherent. There is a reason behind the action and people will come to respect this with time.

Even the decision is not enough. Action is what brings the belief to life. It is one thing to know that good grades are a good thing. It is quite something else to put in the hard work necessary to get good grades.

It is a good feeling to act with certainty. This happens much more frequently for those people who have deeply held beliefs that are able to guide their action. Most of the weight of the decision-making process is worked out beforehand since the beliefs and values are already determined. Finding the concrete practical action is almost an afterthought.

Decision-making does not have to be an agonizing experience. Rather, it can be an exercise in freedom, when decisions follow logically from one’s personal philosophy. This is the power that beliefs can give to a coherent person.

Questions for reflection

1. Are you able to take an inventory of your beliefs?

2. How much do you value your beliefs?

3. Do you act consistently according to your beliefs?

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