How to Make an Authentic Decision (or, The Problem with ‘Liking It’)

posted by Allison Stoos


Whether master planning a whole church campus or deciding what color flooring to put in the nursery, creating new spaces involves a lot of decision-making. How do you get a committee full of people with various tastes to agree? And when they do, how do you know if it’s the right choice for the church as a whole, and how do you know it will still look good 5 years from now, to new people? The temptation to second-guess everything can be overwhelming. In times of uncertainty it is best to remember that ancient aphorism:

“Know thyself.” 

Thankfully, the book, Unified Architectural Theory by Nikos Salingaros (now published in installments on gives us a great tool to check our design decision-making, called “the mirror of the self” test.

[The] “mirror of the self” test asks which of two objects that I experience provides a better picture of myself. We have to imagine all of our personality, our strengths and weaknesses, our humanity, our emotions, our potential, and our life experiences as somehow encoded in the structure of these two objects. Then, which of the two objects is a more faithful representation of my self?

In decision-making, we are too often swayed by liking something. This can be problematic because we never look farther to why we like it. Perhaps it was frequently pinned on Pinterest or on the cover of Dwell and like a catchy song over played on the radio we find ourselves knowing all the words… and liking it for reasons not deeply rooted in ourselves or anything else that is real, but simply in the apparent consensus that this thing is cool enough for a quorum of cool people to like it … today. “The mirror of the self” test easily strips away likes and asks us to think about how we are deeply connected to objects. The test helps us intuitively pick out “what reminds us of nature” and gives us a sense of wellbeing that biologically connects with other humans and our experiences – leading to choices that are timeless, beautiful and authentic to all who experience them.