Making Decisions: Choose Water Over Fire

You and I make thousands of decisions each day, some major, some minor. Everything from what to wear, what to eat, and which route we will walk today all plague the brain’s neural network. Many of these decisions are automatic and most require very little conscious effort on our part.

But what about the big decisions? You know the ones – those life-altering, no-turning-back decisions that will forever set us on a path carrying a satchel full of consequences, either good or bad. Those opportunities to do the right thing and bring life to yourself and others or choose wrongly and you, along with a host of others, will suffer.

How do you make the right decision every time?

Simple – you choose water over fire.

Understand Your Options and Costs Making a Decision

At all times, in any major decision that you make, you have two options: go with what will do the most good for you and others (water) or go with what is convenient, less costly in the short term, and focused only on your gain at the expense of others (fire).

The choose water or choose fire principle is not a new one. It first appeared in the Book of Sirach, written between 200-175 B.C., part of the Apocrypha, or Books of Wisdom. What the author is conveying centers around God providing each person the choice to do good or do evil, and this choice is part of our personal responsibility and no one else’s.

Choosing water or choosing fire applies to modern psychology in the very similar manner: you are responsible for your choices and the consequences that follow. Each choice has a cost associated with it and this cost will have an impact on your mental well-being. While this may seem elementary to you, you would be surprised at how often decisions are made without considering the impact of those decisions on the decision maker and the world around them.

So what do you need to consider to make the right decision?

Considerations in the Decision-making Process

For many of the decisions in our lives, we use an intuitive method to make a decision more than 95% of the time. What that means is we use ordinary judgments and feelings or, in other words, our gut. The less used, and slightly more complicated, method to making a decision is the deductive method, which involves a more logical and systematic approach to reaching a decision.

You can arrive at a solid, good decision in your life by considering some of the principles and thinking behind decision-making and applying them to your life.

Step 1 – Identify the principles involved in making your decision. Depending on the issue you are wrestling with, guiding principles to resolving a problem might involve your religion or faith, laws, best practices or ethical standards. If you are able to apply a standard to your particular situation, you should ask yourself if there is a reason to deviate from the standard. Should there not be a single principle that applies to the situation, then look for a universal principle to apply. For example, one universal principle that is found in at least 12 major religions is the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” To apply a universal principle when making a decision, ask yourself if you would recommend the same course of action to every other person similar to you and your set of circumstances.

Step 2 – Consider overarching moral principles. Overarching moral principles are the foundation, the underlying principles, upon which all other standards are based. When you are in a situation where there is a conflict between standards or principles, consider using overarching moral principles, which include autonomy, beneficence, fidelity, justice, non-maleficence, and veracity. Here is a brief description of each in easy-to-understand language:

  • Autonomy – the freedom of an individual to make one’s own decisions and choose one’s own direction
  • Beneficence – promoting good for others, contributing to the welfare of others, and protecting the best interests of others
  • Fidelity – keeping one’s promises, fulfilling/honoring one’s commitments, and being faithful to one’s responsibilities of trust in a relationship
  • Justice – providing fairness to all people, regardless of age, race, gender, ethnicity, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation
  • Non-Maleficence – avoiding doing harm to others and refraining from actions that risk hurting others
  • Veracity – being honest, truthful, and trustworthy

Step 3 – Implement a course of action that is best for you and others. Choosing a course of action that is best for you and others almost always leads you to a more peaceful state and improves your mental well-being. That is not to say that taking the high road is the easiest or least costly route (it may call for considerable sacrifice), but a decision that includes your well-being and the well-being of others provides positive, significant returns to your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health.

Choosing Water over Fire to Make The Right Decision

With every major decision you make in your life, you are given a choice to choose for the good of yourself and others (water) or choose for yourself without consideration for other people (fire).

By first understanding the costs involved in the decision you are making and then applying a logical and systematic approach through careful consideration of standards and overarching moral principles, you can reach a decision that will not only benefit you, but also the world around you.

In the end, choosing water will result in positive consequences, wherein you will find more peace in your mental health and feel better about yourself.


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