Choices We Have — Decisions We Make

ChoicesEvery day–at work and at home–we are faced with choices.  Some of these choices are fairly big decisions and others are as simple as do I want fries with that or a salad.  Have you ever stopped to consider the options you have to respond to and how the choices are formulated?

Last year, around the end of June, we experienced a hot water heater leak in our house we had just bought in May.  The water heater, like many Texas homes, is in the attic above the second story part of our home.  I won’t go into the choices and decision that led up to this, but the choice and decisions afterward–those I have given a lot of thought to.

I will say, that we (my wife and I) made a choice to get a low deductible when we set up our insurance, which was good.  The damage amounted to about $15,000!

So, here I am with about $13,000 after the initial water repair work.  I have damaged, but dry walls, some holes in the walls and ceiling where things were cut out to allow drying, a couple of pieces of damaged furniture and electronics, and carpeting that insurance said they would replace, but really wasn’t bad off.

We were faced with some options–some choices:

  1. We could get the required repair done (pretty much beyond my fixer upper capability), have some touch-up paint done, and pocket the rest of the cash for the repair and call it done.
  2. We could use the insurance provider’s contractor who would have repaired everything, repainted everything, and replaced all the carpeting for exactly what the insurance was paying.
  3. Or we could get the initial repair work (stuff out of my capability) done and then do the rest of the work ourselves, using the remaining cash to do more than what the contractor would do.

This gives me pause now because I look at the results of the different choices and how pretty much everything we do looks like this.  Sometimes we simply jump at our decisions–we don’t look before we leap–and some times we think about it.  It really wasn’t until after making my decision that I really examined the choices and the results of our decision.  I think these results are true for all choices we make.  First I think we are always faced with three choices and a decision.  Sometimes the choice we make is followed up by three choices again.  But I think we have the Easy, Normal, and Hard choice and, of those, the results are pretty much the same.

  1. Easy Choice:  This would have required no effort on our part, we would have repaired the visible damage, and we would of probably walked away with about $10,000.  This means we would only have repaired that which was clearly damaged.  We would still have the same old carpet and old paint where we were actually being paid to recarpet and repaint everything. Also, this would have taken a couple of weeks at most, so very little impact to us and our lives.  In the near term, we would have had a lot of money to “play” with, but in the long term every time we went upstairs we wouldn’t have been happy.  Thus, we really wouldn’t use the media loft and even probably wouldn’t like going upstairs.  Over time, we probably would forget about the money we made and regret the decision.  For us, it wouldn’t have seemed right to not fix everything with the insurance money, so this choice really had no merit from us.  However, every day we’re faced with this easy choice.
  2. Normal Choice:  Our insurance (USAA) not only backed the promise 100%, but they also have a service to provide a contractor to repair everything based on what you’re being paid for.  If you go with the contractor, they do ALL the work–you can’t subcontract anything or do anything yourself.  They take all the insurance payout and return the entire area to perfect condition.  We would of had everything repaired, repainted and recarpeted.  Yes, everything would be the way it pretty much was, but the paint and carpet would be new.  The work probably would have taken a couple of months and our lives would have been a little disrupted.  I would have had to stay home a lot as contractors worked in the house, but it would have been done.  The thing is, we really wanted to change the décor (painting) with accent walls and specific colors per room.  Also, we wanted to get rid of all the carpet in the home and go to wood flooring.  So, although we would have had all the work done, all the money would have been spent and we really wouldn’t end up with exactly what we want.  Needless, this was a serious choice for us.
  3. Hard Choice:  We’re not contractors.  We’ve done some house work and renovation, but we’re talking a media loft, stairs, a bedroom, a bath area, and a closet–that’s a lot!  But, our hard choice was that we could plan out and do the work ourselves.  What this would mean is we could pick out all our own colors of paint and paint rooms however we wanted and we could get really nice wood flooring–distressed, caramelized, strand bamboo.  Also, we could do some special work on the stirs with tile and wood flooring.  We also would still have enough money to get paint to take care of some other rooms in need and enough paint and wood flooring to do my upstairs office (another bedroom), a bath area, and another closet.  I’ve painted several times, but never put down wood floor, but from my research, with the right tools, it really seemed easy.  The big drawback was doing the work ourselves (a bit of back breaking labor) and the time required would significantly increase on our part.

The choices weren’t simple and once we decided, then we were faced with other choices at the start and even further down the road.  However, we decided to do the remodel ourselves and get exactly what we wanted and a little more.  That decision was made in the middle of last year and we’re still working on the project.  The money (and a little more) has been spent, but as we finish each stage of the project, the sense of accomplishment is very strong.  The paint looks fantastic.  The wood flooring in the bedroom (first room done) turned out to be pretty easy after all and looks incredible.  Yes, we’ve made a couple of mistakes along the way, but we’re really the only ones who will notice them.  When this is all done, which I am planning to be by June (including all the extra work), we will thoroughly enjoy the results.  This will drive us to want to finish our effort of replacing all the carpet with wood floor–it will leave the game room, dining room, formal living room, downstairs office, and master living space with bath and closet (this is a big project).  Also, we’ve learned new things as we’ve gone along and we’re really making the house look like what we want–a place we plan to live in and enjoy for a long time.

So, all of this gave me pause as I look back that we are always faced with choices–easy, normal, and hard–every day.  The easy one results in immediate gratification, takes little effort or time, but pretty much will result in long-term disappointment.  The normal one can work and is usually the best of both worlds.  The time involved isn’t bad and the results are something you can live with.  You’ll not gain a great deal but you won’t lose a great deal in the decision.  It’s pretty much a compromise.  The hard way results in the most long-term gratification from a cost perspective and feeling of accomplishment.  Its difficult because it’s the hard choice.  Making this choice is never easy.

The bottom line is every decision leads to another round of three choices.  Our lives are made up of choices and decisions.  Simple things like do I eat fast food, which is cheap and easy, but tends to be bad for me; do I eat at a nice restaurant, which generally has better choices and food, but costs more; or do I take the time and effort to purchase food, which I can get more for my money and then prepare the food, which is time consuming?  With that last choice you generally get a better meal, a sense of accomplishment, and possibly earn new skills from the activity.  Once you make the decision, you’re faced with another three choices on where to eat and/or what to have.  Each decision results in another easy, normal, and hard choice.

I know that New Year’s is over, but it’s still January.  Still time to make new resolutions.  Look at your life today–really take a good look.  Are you an Easy Choice, Normal Choice, or Hard Choice kind of person?  Maybe this is the year you decide to make a change?  If you’re the Easy Choice person, how satisfied are you in the long run with the choices you make?  Do you even stop when making a decision to examine the choices before you?  Perhaps this is the year you slow down and start to look before you leap?  Or maybe you start taking the longer route a few more times to see if you can handle the work and how the effects feel?  Maybe you’re always the “hard choice” person and you just need to lighten up a little bit?

You know what?  If you got this far, you’re faced with three choices:

  1. Ignore this post altogether and go on with your life.  You’re next choice will be what do you want to do next?  Maybe a little television?
  2. Take a little time (maybe an hour) to consider this blog and examine your life up to now.  Consider your past choices in 2013 or maybe just this past week.  Determine if your are the easy, normal, or hard choice person and think about what you want to do about it.  Make a determination and see where it takes you.  Then maybe you’ll sit down with a good book and read–the news is on in two hours.
  3. Or, you can make the hard decision.  Print out this post and/or share it with family and friends.  Really think about the post and comment on it to share your insights and thoughts.  Sit down and write down a list of the major decisions you’ve made over the last several years–the really big choices and decisions you were faced with.  Also look at the day-to-day choices you’re faced with and group them.  Discuss with your family and friends the choices and decisions of your past and get their input.  Determine how you face life and what that has resulted in for you.  Then decide on if and how you will change and write it down.  Take specific actions and evaluate your progress as you go.  Yea, this sounds like a lot of work…no time for TV…but getting some reading done might be a good thing.  However, consider the benefits of the hard choice…

Here’s to the choices you make in 2014.


About johnrknotts
John Knotts is a results-oriented business professional leader, manager, and supervisor with experience from the military, small business, several nonprofits, and is currently a management consultant. Working out of the San Antonio, Texas, he retired from the Air Force in July 2008 and worked with Booz Allen Hamilton from the end of October 2008 to December 2011. Now he is a Strategic Business Adviser with USAA. John leads large and small strategic transformations and has extensive experience in the areas of change management, strategic planning, process improvement, strategic communication and marketing, strategic human capital and resource management, education and training, facilitation, organizational design and development, modeling and simulation, financial and budget analysis, activity based costing and management, quality management, competitive sourcing and privatization, leadership development, and business development.

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