Life is filled with choices.
Every day we are faced with small and big decisions – what to eat for breakfast, what to wear today, how to prioritize the ever-growing “to do list,” what to say and what not to say, where to go, what to do, and with whom to meet with, talk with, and more.
Ultimately, our choices lead to consequences both short-term and long-term. However, it’s not often that we consider how it is that we make decisions, or how good our problem-solving skills are. Usually, we don’t think about this until we are faced with a big, daunting decision.
I have a small journal dedicated to “words of wisdom” and personal thoughts that have come to me over the years, along with bits of wisdom gleaned from others. When I run across something from someone else that speaks to me, I try and write it down in my own words. This way, I’m forced to think about it beyond the usual momentary thought, “Oh, that’s good. I’ll have to remember that!” I write it down in my own words so I can own it, and make it real for me. And usually, I’ll put a post-it note on the fridge for a while to help me remember what I wanted to remember.
Below, in no particular order, are a few of my collected thoughts on decision-making. As you read them, find three or four that speak to you in this present moment, and write them down in your own words. Own it; make it real for you. You might be surprised by what you learn about yourself and the situation you’re faced with in the present.
One more thing: If what you’ve written isn’t too personal, put it on the refrigerator door or bathroom mirror instead of tucking it away in a notebook immediately. Own it, and make it part of your every day life until you feel it’s time to replace it with something fresh that’s speaking to you.
Consider whether or not you will be able to look proudly into the mirror the next day.
Reflect on past difficult decisions and how you made them. The problems don’t have to be similar for the method to work the same.
Set aside time to pray and give careful thought to the decision. The worst thing you can do is act in haste.
“Pray without ceasing.” In my words: “Don’t say – Amen.” Leave the conversation open all day, every day.
Imagine having made the decision. If you get a feeling of relief and peace, consider that choice, even if it’s coupled with sadness.
Know the difference between a friend and a counselor. Oftentimes, we over-tax a friendship by not knowing the difference between a friend who can support us, and an advisor who can help us understand our situation. If it’s an offense we are dealing with, a close friend can mistakenly reinforce our resentments by sympathizing with us. On the other hand, an advisor will help us get to the root of the issue so we can make a clear and healthy decision.
Before diving into something new or daunting, ask yourself three questions: (1) What’s the worst that can happen? (2) How likely is that to happen? (3) Can you deal with it?
Take a moment to think about the consequences of every course of action, and decide which course will be best for everyone. Try to see the situation from all angles.
Sometimes you need to walk away from the issue for a bit, relax, focus on something else, and then come back for a fresh look.
“Stay in the tension” as long as possible. If neither choice feels right, try to delay making the decision, but don’t procrastinate. By pausing briefly, sometimes a third option you hadn’t thought of before becomes open.
Ask yourself two questions: (1) Is this choice good for me? (2) Is this choice good for the people I love? Then listen.
Reflect on past decisions and the outcomes. Good or bad, each teaches a lesson. To learn from mistakes is key, but don’t forget the triumphs. They are just as important.
Think about how you will feel when you’re 70. First, it will put the difficult decision into perspective (maybe it’s not as big a deal as you think it is). Secondly, it will help you make a good decision for the long-term, rather than just for instant gratification.
Avoid being critical, because negativity never makes good decisions. Identify frustrations and dismiss them. God once told me, “Frustrated people do stupid things. And Luke, that’s right where you are now – frustrated. Don’t be stupid; dismiss the frustration.”
Align your actions with your life purpose and personal values, and then it’s much easier to know the direction that is right for you. The prerequisite to this is actually knowing and defining yourself. Gain awareness. Be honest with yourself. Oftentimes, writing your thoughts out and reading them back to yourself helps you gain clarity.