How I Learned to Take Healthy Risks

Ron and Makayla

“You are always one decision away from a totally different life.” Author Unknown

By Ron Sandison

As a young adult with autism I often struggled with making decisions and taking healthy risks. After employment and relationships this was my greatest challenge. I have learned to take risks through my support team and using the 7 Step Process of Decision-Making. My support team is my family, friends, and experts in the area I am making a decision with their help I experience less anxiety and feel confident to take action.

Decision-making is often exhausting, overwhelming, and anxiety-provoking. Hating change in my routine and fear of the future, I would avoid making decisions by allowing others to make them for me. Transitioning into adulthood requires us to learn to make wise decision for ourselves by evaluating the consequences of our choices. We should not fear making wrong decisions but instead have a desire to learn from our choices and how we can improve decision-making skills.

Success in life requires us to take proper risks. Myles Munroe, a fellow Oral Roberts University alumni, and author of Maximizing Your Potential, wrote:

The graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step.

During the 2008 housing crash, my parents and Brother Steve urged me to purchase a house or condominium. They informed me, “With the housing crash, prices will never be this low again.” During the crisis you could buy a $270,000 dollar house in Michigan for only $60,000. Fear of job security, the economy, and taking a risk; I failed to heed their sound advice. Looking back, I wish I’ve would purchase a home. For our support team to be affective we need to heed their sound advice and learn from our mistakes. After this missed opportunities, I’ve learned to utensil the Decision-Making Process.

Ron Sandison Support Team
My Support Team

7 Steps of the Decision-Making Process

Life is inherently risky. There is only one risk we must avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing. The decision-making process helps me to be proactive to resolve issues by examining options and deciding on the best route to take. I experience less anxiety by implementing a step-by-step routine to make my decisions.

The seven steps of the decision-making process are: identify the decision or goal, gather information by research, identify alternative options, weigh options, choose from among the options, take action, and evaluate your decision based on results and consequences.

First, identify the decision, ask yourself the questions, “What is the problem I need to solve?” or “The choice I need to make?” Write the decision as a question and as a goal. For example, you desire to transition from your parents’ home to an apartment to gain more freedom. The decision is “How can I move from my parents’ house into an apartment?” Decision written as a goal, “I desire to move into an apartment in the next three months.”

Second, gather information by research and contacts. Gather data by asking people who have recently made that decision, professionals, and read books and articles on the subject. You will want to gather as many resources as possible in order to make the best choice. Write down the information you gained from your research and share this with your support team. For moving out of your parents’ house, gather information on the different apartment complexes in the area and talk to the apartment office management for comparing rent prices and accommodation you may need.

Third, identify alternative options. After you gathered information, identify possible solutions to your problem or different ways to accomplish your goal. For example, I could save money for an apartment down payment (options 1) or save money by having a roommate who helps pay the rent (options 2). Write down your options and discuss with your support team.

Fourth, weigh your options by examining the pros and cons. Once you have identified your options based on the information you gathered and your support team’s insight you can make an informative decision. Write a list of the pros and cons of the different options. Pros and cons of moving out of home: a positive of moving out of home more freedom and no curfew, a negative cooking meals and washing laundry and paying rent. Some could be both a pro and a con depending on what your goal is.

Fifth, choose from among the options. You gathered the information, discussed the decision with your support team, weighed the pros and cons, now make your decision. For choosing the best option ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” and the “What’s the best that can happen?” This can help you understand the risk factors in your decision. If you find yourself still plagued with indecision or dwelling on the worst-case scenario, you may just have to trust your support team’s advice. They have wisdom from experience and know what you need and can help you to make a wise decision based on logic and not emotions.

Sixth, take action by developing a plan to accomplish your goal. Mark on a calendar the date you hope to reach your goal. Break your decision into small attainable steps. Kate McNulty, a therapist who is autistic, recommends, “Having a list to work from helps your brain focus. Checklists are particularly calming for the Asperger’s mind because they reduce decision fatigue. With a list of steps to follow, you can get into action without overthinking. A list enables you to place your attention where it’s needed.”

Each day, I write in a pocketsize notebook a list of the things I need to accomplish for that day. I use my daily lists as a reminder which helps me to remain focused on long term goals and projects. My lists breaks large goals into attainable steps. In fact, writing this article was on my September list.

Finally, evaluate your decision based on the impact. After you’ve taken action to reach your goal wait a month and evaluate the consequences of your decision and every six months make a re-evaluation. Examine the process you took to reach your decision this will help you to further develop your decision making skills. Talk with your support team about the impact of your decision.

Analyze the positive and negative results. Asks questions like: “What other decision could I have made?” “How is my life better or worse by the decision I made?” “Did I have anything to fear by making this decision?” The decision-making process enables us to prioritize our tasks by their level of urgency, importance, and the severity of the consequences for not doing them.

The 7-Step Process of Decision-Making has empowered me to resolve issues with less anxiety and provides me with confidence to take healthy risks. When making an important decision I still consult my support time for advice. As an adult with autism, I enjoy taking healthy risks: trying a new restaurant or going on a family vacation to a new place like Painted Rocks. Confidence with decision-making was essential for my career, writing books, and having a family. For me to accomplish these goals I had to take action.

On October 5th, I am presenting on Risky Business—Decisions & Consequences for Living with Autism Workshop hosted by Metro Parent and Dr. Temple Grandin is the keynote speaker.

Ron

Ron Sandison works full time in the medical field and is a professor of theology at Destiny School of Ministry. He is an advisory board member of Autism Society Faith Initiative of Autism Society of America. Sandison has a Master of Divinity from Oral Roberts University and is the author of A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom, published by Charisma House and Thought, Choice, Action. He has memorized over 10,000 Scriptures including 22 complete books of the New Testament and over 5,000 quotes. Ron’s third book Views from the Spectrum was released in May 2021.

Ron frequently guest speaks at colleges, conferences, autism centers, and churches. Ron and his wife, Kristen, reside in Rochester Hills, MI, with a baby daughter, Makayla Marie born on March 20, 2016.

You can contact Ron at his website www.spectruminclusion.com or email him at sandison456@hotmail.com

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