Your place in life is the result of your decisions. There is no greater determinate of your life path than your own decisions. Even horrible external events cannot displace your choices as the greatest factors in your own success.
A choice made 20 years ago often continues to impact your life today. It is ironic that we are called upon to make many profound, life-changing decisions during immature stages of life. Before reaching adulthood we have already decided who we will marry and what career we will choose. Those big decisions are usually very sticky – they hang around for a very long time.
Past the profound decisions are millions of minor decisions we make daily. For example, the decision of which grocery store we will go to is rather small. Unless that decision places us in just the wrong place at just the wrong time and we are involved in a terribly auto accident.
We must not be paralyzed by the decisions we make but we can give more thought to some of the big ones. Here are 5 suggestions.
Stop to Make Better Decisions
My father almost never made a big decision until after he slept on the idea. He found, and I learned, that a little time often changes our thought process for the better. Retailers understand that tempting a consumer to make quick decisions is good for business. That is why you find so many “junky” low value items crowded around the checkout lanes.
Online retailers know that the secret to conversions (that’s sales-speak for sales) is a fast process with minimal decisions for the customer. In many cases websites maintain your credit card information for an even faster sale. Why? Because they know that time allows you to change your mind.
Most decisions that you and I make are not time critical. They can be made today, tomorrow or next week. Stop and think for better decisions.
Analyze to Make Better Decisions
The best choices are not always obvious. Use the time you gain from slowing down to carefully analyze your decision. One common technique is to simply list the pros and cons of a given decision on paper. It is important that you actually write down each positive and each negative. Then compare the two sets.
For example, if you are deciding whether to take a new job you might take a legal pad and list the positives. Maybe the positives include more money and greater chances for advancement. Those are certainly good. But then list the negatives which might include longer hours, a longer work commute and new schedule. When you look at the two lists you suddenly realize that the new job might not be the best idea. What is important is that you took the time to study your decision. Analyze to make better decisions.
Discuss to Make Better Decisions
There are two old sayings here worth considering:
Two heads are better than one,
A camel is a horse designed by a committee
While we need help making big decisions we need to be careful not to create committees to waste time and delay choices. But it is important to talk through important decisions with a truly disinterested third party. In other words, talk with someone who receives no benefit from your decision.
This is a Biblical principle too. Solomon wrote,
Where there is no guidance, a people falls,
but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. (Proverbs 11:14)
Use the wisdom of friends and associates to improve your choices. In pre-marital counseling we often ask prospective couples what their families and friends think about the upcoming marriage. A negative opinion may signal issues that need to be discussed.
Broaden Your View to Make Better Decisions
Sometimes we become so focused on a single option that we fail to consider other possibilities. It is a form of tunnel vision which excludes other possibilities. To use the job search analogy again we might become so focused on a job with Company A that we fail to consider similar possibilities at Company B.
Broadening our perspective is a deliberate act. Like much of the above such alternative thinking requires time and effort. Search for other possibilities knowing that there are usually many other options available to us.
Once, while planning for my first mission trip, I was told to have a plan a, plan b, plan c and plan d. By the time we boarded the plane we were already at plan d! Broaden your view to make better decisions.
Evaluate to Make Better Decisions
Experts call this the post-decision phase. It’s the time when we review and evaluate our prior decision. We fine tune or decision. Some decisions are essentially irrevocable. Once you sign the note to buy a car you are stuck with it. But some decisions really lend themselves to review and adjustment.
What if you decide to study your Bible every evening at 8 PM? After a week you may find that decision doesn’t work. Maybe there are too many distractions. Instead you adjust your study time to 6 AM.
If you are dating someone and discover they have an abusive attitude and that they have a short temper. A re-evaluation of your decision to date them is in order. Make the change sooner rather than later and avoid much heartache.
Added to all of the above is the essential need for prayer and Godly guidance. James says it so well:
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5)
God alone knows the future. When we ask according to his will we can depend upon his aide. Learning to listen to God and be guided by his truth takes a little practice sometimes. But with frequent prayer we can come to know him deeply and to learn his ways for our lives.
Remember, the decisions you make today will follow you for years. Make good choices!