My wife Dawn and I have started scheduling our dental cleanings at the same time. It’s a cute couple quirk I have enjoyed. Yesterday was our big day for getting scraped, polished and flossed as a couple.
When we pulled into the dentist’s office there was one open parking spot. So I took it. It was the easiest decision I made all week. Because it was the only option available. It seems we have a very popular dentist. Or they have a very small parking lot.
But this morning I drove to the airport to catch a very early flight, and the parking structure was practically empty. Which reminded me of something Dawn said to me early in our relationship.
The hardest place to park is in an empty parking lot.-Dawn Albrecht
The statement sounds moronic. But it’s highly insightful.
If every parking spot is open you have to think more than you do when there is only one spot. And you probably have not predetermined your empty parking lot decision-making process. Which means that when you arrive at an empty lot you have to make a decision on the spot.
That decision could involve simply taking the closest space to the entrance. But there are often 2 or more highly coveted close spaces. Plus, many times when you park you are not going to one specific entrance. Like when you park at a park. Which is totally meta.
There are a host of other factors to consider.
- Is there shade I should consider on a hot and sunny day?
- Will I be going in one door and out another?
- Do I have multiple places to visit while in this parking lot?
- Should I consider staying away from shopping carts?
- What space makes it easiest to drive away?
- Where do I want to be when the parking lot fills up?
- Does it look like Joni Mitchell or Counting Crows were here before they paved paradise?
These are the branches on the decision tree that suddenly sprout when you arrive at the naked parking lot.
But who cares? It’s just a parking lot. There is no real way to get this decision wrong, Long Duk Dong.
The parking lot is an analogy for your life.
When you only have one option in life you take what you are given. The decision is simple. Because it is a nondecision.
But when all of the options are available, how do you choose?
- How do you decide where you will live when you could live anywhere?
- How do you decide which career path to take when you could do anything?
- How do you decide where to go to school when you could study anywhere?
- How do you decide where to invest your money?
- How do you decide what to eat?
- How do you decide what clothes to wear?
- How do you decide if you should add a silly final bullet to a list of serious bullets?
How Do You Decide?
You need to develop your own decision-making criteria. Your criteria should be based on your values, philosophies and beliefs. Developing your personal criteria for decisions large and small helps you make better decisions faster in every area of your life.
It is highly valuable to consider what influences your decisions. What are your core beliefs? What are your priorities? And which factors are simply non-factors to you?
Consider the following exercise related to the empty parking lot.
Rank the following factors when deciding where to park:
- Speed to my destination
- Exercise opportunity
- Ease of exit
- Isolation from dings
- Access to my car
- Most privacy for making out
Once you know which of these are most important you can make better choices faster, pussycat.
Your decision-making criteria apply to the parking lot and your bigger life decisions. Establishing and prioritizing your values before you encounter challenging choices related to drugs, sex and stealing help you make better decisions. Knowing your priorities related to your career, investing, family, relationships, health and religion will enable you to make big decisions faster too.
- What is the most important factor that will drive your decisions?
- What is the second most important?
- What is third?
When you take the time to consider these questions and answer them before you pull into the empty parking lot, or make a more important life decision, the answers become easy and obvious.
Know what is most important to you. Consider your decision-making hierarchy before you need it. It enables you to make great choices when you have all of the options. And remember, you always have options.
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