A driver makes at least 20 decisions per mile. Most decisions don’t come at us quite so fast. But each day we face countless decisions. Some can be met easily like: What time will I get up? What shall I wear? What will I eat? Others could be more difficult and complicated, like: Should I change jobs? Do I want to get married? What stand shall I take on a particular issue?
Making decisions means making
choices. And our choices matter. They matter because we matter. Through the
decisions we make, we achieve our
identity. We become more than observers in life. We are participants in God’s
universe. Our choice can help to shape
Steps for Effective Decisions
1.Select the goal:
A famous recipe for rabbit stew begins: first catch
a rabbit. Sometimes we put the wrong animal in the pot. Study the facts carefully. Get to the key questions.
“I learned long ago”, says management consultant Peter Drunker, “that the most serious mistakes are not being made as a result of wrong answers. The truly dangerous thing is asking the wrong question”!
2. Explore courses of action:
An explorer is geared to change, to
pushing back boundaries, to blazing fresh trails. No one discovers new
territory by staying in a safe comfortable camp.
Leave your “base camp”. Shake loose
from fixed thought patterns. The reward may be the discovery of fresh
possibilities for attaining your goal.
3. Deepen your knowledge:
Discuss the matter – not only over
the back fence, but with people from whom you can really learn.
Decision – making is a solitary
business. “But all the preparatory steps,” said an executive”, “must be shared
to the widest extent that time and circumstance permit”.
4. Weigh the possibilities:
Evaluate the choices open to you.
Visualize the outcomes of each. List
their advantages and disadvantages. Check your motives for favouring a particular option.
5. Let your decision brew:
The architect Corbusier said that, for him, the birth of a project was
like the birth of a child: “There’s a long period of gestation… a lot of work
in the subconscious before I make the sketch. That lasts for months. One fine
morning the project has taken shape without my knowing it.
Decision – making is a creative
function. Sometimes after a period of
studying, checking and weighing, the next move is to put it aside. “Sleep on it;”
“Put it on the back burner”, are clichés which describe a mental process that
Living is a risk. Every undertaking
has it uncertainties. Face the fact that the decision you make may turn out
badly and that you will have to live with the results. Or, you may be able to
revoke a wrong decision and try again. We cannot afford to let fear paralyze
Two thousand years ago, a Greek
sailor was shipwrecked on the coast of
Asia Minor. The epitaph on his tombstone reads: “Fear not to set sail. Ships
other than ours have weathered the gale”.
What Goes into a Good Decision
1. Facts and feelings:
Facts and logic are the stuff of a
good decision. But so is strong emotion that provides the drive to get us off
the ground. When emotion becomes bias, clear thinking goes astray.
2. Courage to be oneself:
Carl Rogers hit the nail on the head
when he said: “I find I am more effective when I can listen acceptantly to
myself and can be myself”.
3. Openness to growth:
No one but you can know what you can
do, nor will you know until you have tried. God has entrusted each of us with
the working out of a life that has never been lived before. A decision is the
point at which we face the challenge of how we will use potential.
How original is our own thinking? How
often is it “Borrowed?” Are we too settled in comfortable mental habits? Or do
we let thoughts flow freely?
Is there any other way to express the
problem? Can I turn the problem upside down? Can I shift the emphasis from one
part of the problem to another?
6. Willingness to fail:
Failure is part of the learning
process. Expect to fail sometimes. Build
with the rocks you stumbled upon.
7. Hard work:
Ralph Waldo Emerson called it “the hardest thing in the
world to do”. Think through each situation and don’t get trapped by fixed
8. Acceptance of limitations:
What are the restrictions put on me
by time? Energy? Age? Education? Position? Knowledge? Ability? Facing them can
help all of us to decide more effectively.
St. Paul puts it very neatly: Let each of you look not only to his own
interest, but also to the interests of others.
“Give your servant”, prayed Solomon,
“a heart to understand how to discern
between good and evil”. There is a Source of wisdom outside ourselves. We are
not alone – not even at the point of decision!