Most Helpful Hint From Cave Men (And Cave Women) On Making Decisions

One of my daughters was struggling with what to do next with her life. She was overwhelmed with limitless options. I told her: be like a cavewoman. Gather. Gather all the information you need. Don’t do anything else. Just gather everything you need to know.

Then you can decide. It’s much more manageable to take this step first. Talk to people. Look around. The pressure’s off when you don’t have to decide right away (which segues into the fact that rarely do you have to decide anything right now.)

Be like a cave dweller. Go out and gather berries and seeds. Forage around. Gather your information. That way you can set out on your journey toward your goal by taking the first small steps. One step at a time and you will walk toward the right answer. It’s out there, waiting for you.

Being the hero of my life means that all I have to do today is be like a cave dweller and gather information. As Melody Beattie writes about in her books (and you can see her inspiring words here), you can do one small thing to get closer to deciding something. And always remember: positive acts build self-esteem. Picking up the phone and making one call today is a positive act that boosts you right up and gets your mojo working.

This is Part I on making decisions.

About dianabletter

Diana Bletter is the author of several books, including The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women (with photographs by Lori Grinker), shortlisted for a National Jewish Book Award. Her novel, A Remarkable Kindness, (HarperCollins) was published in 2015. She is the First Prize Winner of Moment Magazine's 2019 Fiction Contest. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, tabletmag, Glamour, The Forward, The North American Review, Times of Israel, and is a reporter for Israel21C, and many other publications. She is author of Big Up Yourself: It's About Time You Like Being You and The Mom Who Took off On Her Motorcycle, a memoir of her 10,000-mile motorcycle trip to Alaska and back to New York. She lives in a small beach village in Western Galilee, Israel, with her husband and family. She is a member of the local hevra kadisha, the burial circle, and a Muslim-Jewish-Christian-Druze women's group in the nearby town of Akko. And, she likes snowboarding and climbing trees.
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11 Responses to Most Helpful Hint From Cave Men (And Cave Women) On Making Decisions

  1. Yosi Mor says:

    I agree that for someone who might be overwhelmed with what appear to be limitless options, it is indeed important to first eliminate the paralyzing feeling of pressure. And understanding that the big and complete decision does not have to be finalized right this second certainly helps to relieve that pressure.

    On the other hand, if one just gathers and gathers, I fear that this might even aggravate the pressure, because each new discovery generally opens up new possibility that just add to the already-limitless options. So, I would slightly modify your advice by suggesting that — already from the start, during the “gathering” process itself — one always keep in mind the very next baby-step that can be done right *now* (or at least, ASAP).

    For those of us who are mathematically inclined, I would offer a “proof by induction”: if at any given moment one is generally in the mindset that there is rarely any need to “decide right now,” then the net result over time is that rarely anything will get done! 😦 Instead, the constant focus should be “what can I do right now” — even if that thing is only a “baby step.” On the contrary, by constantly breaking things into baby steps, we can always guarantee that we will always be making some progress! 🙂

      • dianabletter says:

        You are right. We can’t keep thinking and thinking and remain in a thinker’s pose forever. It’s important to then act!

    • dianabletter says:

      So I need to consider not only the caveman mindset but also the math? Mmmm. I like the concept of “Proof by induction” but would you please clarify it for the numerically-challenged?
      I agree that we need to set a limit on the gathering information phase because it does get overwhelming so I will include that in my next post. Thanks!

      • Yosi Mor says:

        Well, I was using the term “mathematical induction” non-rigorously. [See

        What I meant was that, with the mindset that seemed to be proposed: at any given moment, “n”, since there is “rarely a need to decide right now,” most likely *nothing* will get decided (or done) “right now.” And if this is indeed the general mindset, then the same will probably hold true also for the subsequent moments, “n+1”, “n+2”, … ad infinitum. Over time, we will end up with lots of … nothing! 😦

        On the other hand, if at any and every moment (“n”, “n+1”, “n+2”, …), there a likelihood that *something* — however small — will get done, then over time all of these tiny “somethings” can add up to immense progress! And, in fact, the smaller we manage to divide each baby-step, the easier each individual one will be to perform, and the more we increase the likelihood of making overall progress.

      • dianabletter says:

        Hi Yosi, I get mathematical induction. Yay! Who knew? So your point is that if someone says, “I don’t have to decide right now,” he or she might keep putting off the decision. That could lead to procrastination. Often, however, we get overwhelmed thinking we have to make a decision right now about something that is happening in the future…and we’ll get the answers down the road. Thanks for writing and teaching me something new today!

      • Yosi Mor says:

        I just noticed your wonderful “New Year’s Resolution: Be Resolute!” post, and there you yourself effectively write what I suggested here. Our focus should be on what we can do “this day, these minutes” and, maybe I should add: “this present moment.”

      • dianabletter says:

        Thank you for reminding me what I originally wrote about how we only have this moment to consider. We’ll get the answers when we get “there,” which is a few moments away.

  2. I like the cave woman approach, but I agree with Yosi Mor about being aware of baby steps and deciding “what can I do right now?”
    During much of my teaching career, I taught everything from remedial and repeat classes to honors/Advanced Placement classes (and everything in between). With the advanced classes the high performing students often faced so many options (and so many expectations and suggestions from parents) that sometimes they’d just stall entirely. One of the best techniques with them was to have them list all the possible choices they faced. Then they were to cross out those choices which did not interest them, or as one student said, “Made me cringe and my eyes blur.” Of all the remaining choices, they were to choose the top ten that appealed to them and rank them from first to tenth. They could start at the bottom and work up or the top and work down, but every day they were to research one and list the pros/cons, likes/dislikes, and obstacles and rewards, etc.
    By the end of ten days they’d often added more they hadn’t considered, etc., but at least they’d kept moving…taking baby steps.

    • dianabletter says:

      That is a great technique, Marylin. I like the idea of narrowing options down to only 10. Thank you for sharing this.

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