Decision-making occurs daily throughout our lives. These decisions can be simple, such as choosing what time to wake up, deciding what to eat for lunch, or choosing what to wear for the day. Conversely, decisions can also be complicated, such as choosing a career path or choosing a romantic partner. Often, decisions are important and life-changing, such as accepting a new job offer or deciding to seek help for a problem. Therefore, when making decisions, it is essential to stop and think before acting.

Life can be viewed as a series of decisions and associated consequences or results –either positive or negative— of those decisions. Some decisions are constructive, such as choosing to exercise daily or choosing to attend classes. Others can be destructive, such as choosing to “tell off” a supervisor or choosing to stay out late on a work night.

Destructive Decisions

Generally, destructive decisions are made impulsively and without any thought about the consequences. Sometimes, destructive decisions can seem relatively harmless in the moment yet can lead to long-term destruction. Examples include overeating while stressed, which can lead to forming bad nutritional habits.

Other destructive decisions are immediately destructive, such as walking out on the job due to a disagreement with a coworker. Utilizing the technique of “STOP, THINK, ACT” can help prevent acting on impulse.

Stop Think Act

“STOP, THINK, ACT” is a simple way of redirecting yourself to consider the consequences –either long-term or short-term– of your decisions. Remember, this technique can be utilized not only to prevent yourself from making bad decisions but also to help you make positive ones as you navigate your wellness and recovery journey. The steps are as follows:

1. Stop: “I will take time to calm down before making a decision.”

Emotions like stress and anger can often lead our minds astray, so the first step in decision-making is to calm down. Impulsive and destructive decisions tend to be made as an automatic reaction to a situation when our emotions are running high. For example, being criticized by our boss at work may make us feel inadequate. We may then act defensively by quitting on the spot.

Decisions made reactively like this can have negative impacts on our lives. If you struggle with impulsivity when feeling upset or angry, it is helpful to recognize your emotions and intervene before reacting automatically. Think of what activities or actions calm you down and do those things before taking the next step. Some common practices include:

  • Taking deep breaths
  • Going for a walk
  • Talking to a friend
  • Counting to ten
  • Mediating
  • Listening to music
  • Looking at photographs or watching videos
  • Playing a video game

What are some things that help you to calm down?

Once you are calm, you can begin working on the next step in decision making:

2. Think: “I will think about what I need and consider solutions.”

What needs are you trying to fulfill at this moment? What are you attempting to accomplish? Begin to brainstorm your options and be creative! Try some of the following:

  • Discuss things with a friend. They may have gone through a similar issue and may have some good suggestions on what to do.
  • Consider alternatives to fulfilling your needs. Often, we get stuck thinking that there are only one or two solutions for our problem. However, by generating more options, we become more empowered and do not feel as helpless or “stuck” in old patterns of behavior.
  • Think about people that you admire – either a person you know, a person from history, or a character from fiction – and imagine that they are in a similar situation. What would they do in your shoes?
  • Ask yourself honestly: “Do I need help?” And reach out to others, such as friends, family, counselors, or mentors, to get the help you need.
  • Ask yourself, “what will I gain from making this decision?” You may find it helpful to develop a list of pros and cons. In other words, write out a list of potential benefits and a list of potential losses.
  • Remember, there are potential gains and losses to nearly every decision we make. For example, choosing to sleep in could give us extra rest, but we may run late for work. Deciding to take classes at night could help us build new skills, but we may have less time to spend with friends. Only you will be able to decide what you value more and what you are willing to give up!

Once you have thought about your choices, it is time to:

3. Act: “After I choose a solution, I will begin to take action!

After you have generated options, consider which decision will be best and begin putting that decision into action. It may be helpful to write out a list of your choices and then choose the best one. Remember to evaluate the decision as you put it into work.

Sometimes, what we thought was best does not fulfill the needs we were expecting –and that is okay! We are always learning new things about ourselves. If something does not appear to be working, try one of the other options, go back to the first step (STOP), and work through them again.

Impulsivity is the undoing of many a recovering alcoholic or addict. In early recovery, we are particularly vulnerable if we aren’t surrounded by a loving and supportive community. If you’re ready to get sober, it’s time to lean on the experience and strength of others who have come before you. Remember – you don’t have to do this alone. Through a holistic recovery program, you can heal spiritually, mentally, and physically – you just need the time to do so. At Camelback Recovery, you’ll find the community you’re looking for and the experienced guidance you need. Give us a call at (602) 466-9880. Getting sober is one of the most important and healthy decisions you can ever make. Now, choose a sober living that offers you the support you need for long-lasting sobriety.