Decisions, Decisions

When our 24 year old was in eighth grade, he chose a quote by the author of Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Waterson, to be read as he received his diploma. To paraphrase the quote:

The decisions you make now will determine the choices you have later.

I’ve always liked the flow of those words, and it doesn’t hurt that there’s plenty of truth in them, as well.

It has long been thought that the area of our brains engaged in decision making is our frontal lobes. Our pre-frontal cortex is the last part of our brains to develop. Located in the front of our brain, behind the forehead, the frontal lobes are responsible for planning, organizing, controlling behavior, short-term memory, problem-solving, creativity and judgment – all traits associated with the term “executive function”.

While adults are usually capable of clear decision making, because the frontal lobes finish forming in the mid-twenties, decision making is still a work in progress for teenagers. And although the pre-frontal cortex is linked to decision making, there are researchers studying the brain’s “assembly-line” involved in the process of thinking. You can read more about one such 2007 study carried out at the University of Pittsburgh.

Dated just yesterday, the online issue of Scientific American discusses Tough Choices: How Making Decisions Tires Your Brain. Be forewarned, lest you tire out deciding which articles to read…there are numerous links from this article to others, and from those others to still others, all discussing the process of decision making.

And here is the full quote used by my son:

Each decision we make determines the range of choices we’ll face next. If you don’t make each decision carefully, you never know where you’ll end up.

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