How to Make Decisions

I learned long ago in decision.

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 the world.


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 works.

6. Choose:

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 us.

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.

4. Imagination:

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?

5. Flexibility:

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 ideas.

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.

9. Responsibility:

St. Paul puts it very neatly:  Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interests of others.

10. Playfulness:       

“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!


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