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Preference, Emphasis,
Priority, Importance

by Melanie Anne Phillips

There are four principal kinds of decisions that can be made. Sometimes we have to choose if we want one thing OR another. To do this, we establish our Preferences. Sometimes we have to divide our resources among several uses. To do this we determine our Emphasis. Sometime we must determine the order in which things will occur. We do this by establishing Priorities. Finally, we sometimes must decide which of several things should get ANY of our resources and which should get none. We determine this by Importance.

Whenever one makes a binary choice: "If I had to choose, I would pick this one" or "I'll have the dessert first, please!" one is selecting one definitive item over another. Both items are seen as objects, are compared and the winner takes all. This is a rational assessment between items that are mutually exclusive.

Binary choices, however, account for only half of the decisions we make. Gray scale choices are the other category. "I think I'll spend 30 minutes reading today and an hour and a half on the laundry." and "I'll let you borrow my chisel, but you're not getting your hands on my Swiss Army knife!" are dealing in balance. How much this compared to how much that treats items as tendencies - areas that exert varying attractions due to an emotional assessment of the value of each.

In the example above, "I'll have the dessert first, please!" it is emotion that holds the information ("I want the burger THIS much and I want the dessert THIS much"). Reason takes a look at those two "readings", compares them and says, "MY desire for dessert is MORE THAN the burger, so I will ask for it first." To logic, the choice appears binary.

If we take the example "I think I'll spend 30 minutes reading today and an hour and a half on the laundry." it is Reason that says, "You need to get the laundry done and you want to read. If you read all day you can't do the laundry, if you do laundry all day you won't be able to read." So Emotion takes a look at that reading and says, "Okay, I can't do both, but I can do part of each. So, the way I feel, if I do 30 minutes of reading and 90 minutes of laundry, I'll have made enough progress in each area not to feel unbalanced about how I spent my day." To feeling, the choice appears as a matter of Balance.

Binary decisions sometimes choose THIS or THAT, and sometimes choose THIS before THAT. Picking one thing instead of another is a spatial decision: which one do I get? Picking one before another is a temporal decision: Which one is first?

Balance decisions also have a spatial and temporal mode. When choosing how MUCH of one compared to others we see the choice as spatial. When choosing how LONG one will last in comparison to another we are dealing in time (relative duration).

These divisions create four categories of decisions: Binary Spatial, Binary Temporal, Balance Spatial, Balance Temporal. In more familiar terms, Binary Spatial decisions are described by Preferences. Binary Temporal decisions refer to Priorities. Balance Spatial decisions establish Emphasis. And Balance Temporal decisions determine Importance.

Copyright Melanie Anne Phillips

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