Archive for March 2012

Future Looking Decision Making

March 29, 2012

We have been on the market for a new van for a number of months.  The repairs on our old van were getting more frequent.  However, for us, the decision of which van to buy was not intuitive.  It would be a major expense, and we knew that we would have to live with the consequences of that decision for years.   Last Saturday we bought a new (to us) van in Pennsylvania.  We chose to buy it in Pennsylvania because it would not have been exposed to as much metal-eating salt as New York vehicles face each winter.   We looked seriously at about two dozen vans in the Lancaster area.  We considered their age, condition, features, mileage, economy, anticipated future repair costs, and price.  Ultimately, we decided on a 2006 Town and Country with 41,000 miles, but it wasn’t an easy decision.   It was complex; many interrelated factors had to be addressed.

Over the last month, we have also been addressing another complex, future looking decision about chemotherapy.  I had an uneasy feeling about the decision because chemotherapy is a process.  It is a long, demanding and debilitating “process”  (and I have a harder time with processes than events).  You don’t just receive anesthesia and wake up six hours later with it behind you.  Although I understand that chemo affects patients differently, NONE of its side effects were appealing to me.   In addition to chemo, we considered alternative approaches.  As we wrestled with this complex decision, we asked ourselves, “In which decision is it worse to be wrong?”[i]

Careful decision making is a task that I wanted to teach each of my sons as they were growing up.  In the year that each turned twelve years of age, I took them hiking.  Although we go on hikes from time to time as a family, this hike was intentionally chosen to include a mountain climb with a panoramic view from the top. At the top, I encouraged my sons to think of the view as the future. From the mountaintop you could take in not only the nearby hills, but also the distant valleys, and mountains.  As we looked out over the other mountains, hills, valleys and countryside, I challenged each of my sons to be a “mountain” man.  Not a “mountain man” in the sense of the hunters and trappers of the nineteenth century, but a “mountain” man, as opposed to a “valley” man.  I want my sons to be men who will consider the distant consequences of decisions they make in the present.  On the other hand, a man in the valley can only see what is immediately before him. If he makes decisions on the basis of his view, he will be shortsighted, only considering the immediate, the moment.

Future looking decision making is often involved when one is deciding whether or not to date someone seriously, or consider marriage, or adoption, or a home purchase, or a business venture.  Such decisions often weigh the long term, future benefit, versus the probable negative consequences or problems.  When we decided on the van, we tried to make our decision in terms of what would be best for our family over the long haul [no pun intended], and when we were weighing the decision on chemotherapy, we tried to evaluate the options in terms of their potential long term consequences.

It seems so natural to consider whether a car will meet our needs and will last into the future without needing expensive repairs,  or to consider whether option A versus option B is more probable to give us a longer life after cancer.  But future looking decision making really needs to be applied to the choices we make in the present for the distant, distant future.   Some people give more thought to their ride — which will likely be scrap metal in twenty five years — than they do to their eternal destiny.  It would be wise for them to consider the helping question, “In which decision is it worse to be wrong?”

“As it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”  Hebrews 9:27

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

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[i] Decision-wise, we decided to go ahead with chemotherapy, because based on my situation, chemo seemed to be the wisest choice, especially as we asked the question, “In which decision is it worse to be wrong?”  However, my future, medically speaking, or my life in general, is ultimately in God’s hands.  The outcome of the chemo, and my future life will all be up to Him.  Yesterday I had my first chemotherapy infusion at the Cancer Institute in Buffalo.  I am now back home and wearing a chemo infusion pump which will continue to dispense additional chemo agent into me today through tomorrow morning.  Then it will be disconnected and I will have about a week and a half off before I begin cycle number two of twelve two week cycles.

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