One time an elderly man started across a road. About half way he looked up and saw a big black Cadillac coming toward him at a high rate of speed. Quickly he turned and started back toward where he began. Almost immediately he changed his mind, and now believing he could make the crossing after all, turned around and started back across. Two steps later he changed his mind again and started back to where he began. He made it back safely just in time. To his surprise, the Cadillac stopped next to where he was standing. The driver’s side window lowered. A squirrel wearing dark sun glasses was sitting in the driver’s seat. The squirrel took off his glasses, looked at the elderly man and said, “Not so easy, is it?”
One of the most important disciplines in life is decision making. Whether making business or personal decisions, and especially in deciding matters of faith and God’s will, the ability to make good decisions has much to do with whether or not we succeed. Sadly, when it comes to making important decisions, some people are like that elderly man trying to cross the road.
While much has been written about decision making by business and counseling gurus, I’d like to share what I've concluded about good decision making.
5 practical principles for making good decisions
- Identify the decision that actually needs to be made.
Sometimes our decision making is sabotaged by the fact that we’re trying to make a decision in parameters much too broad. It helps to narrow the focus of the decision as much as possible – looking for the key decision which drives everything else.
- Gather as much information as is necessary to make a good decision.
Notice I didn’t say collect all the information that is available – just the amount necessary to make a good decision. When I first learned to play golf, I had one of those moments when I stood over my ball and tried to analyze every aspect of a good shot. I summoned all the information I’d collected about how to make a good shot in that situation. When I finally made my swing, I hit a rolling shot about twenty yards. My golf partner, a wise, older man said, “Jerry, have you ever heard of the centipede who was asked how he knew which leg to move next? The centipede thought and thought about it until he couldn’t move any leg.” My friend then said, “There’s such a thing in golf as analysis paralysis.” Analysis paralysis happens in decision making, too, when too much information locks us down.
- Go with your gut, but if your gut tends to be wrong, go with someone else’s.
That’s my way of saying seek wise counsel from those who have a good track record for making good decisions. I’ve found that God’s gut - His wisdom as revealed in the Bible - is the best counsel available anywhere.
- Don’t violate your core values with the decisions you make.
Obviously that means you must first identify them. A decision which violates your core values is never a good decision – unless it’s a decision to change a bad core value.
- Decide to decide.
Years ago a co-worker of mine was talking with someone about a very important decision that individual needed to make. The person had all the information necessary to make the decision but was still hesitating. My co-worker said, “Sounds to me like you need to decide to decide.” In the end, making a decision comes down to deciding to pull the trigger and live with the outcome.
One time I read this wisdom on Facebook: “Be decisive. Right or wrong, make a decision. The road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.”
Let’s not be members of the Flat Squirrel Society.