Originally published in the News Star and the Shreveport Times on Sunday, October 16, 2016.
Question: I was on the fast track in a big corporate job in Chicago, but once I got a taste of what that life was going to be like, I realize I don’t want to live like that. Now I’m faced with taking a similar job in my field (back here at home) or taking a chance on doing something a little crazy, but following my dreams. What do you think?
Answer: I think you need to learn how to make decisions.
Because you’re going to be making them for the rest of your life and the consequences of what you decide will shape the course of your life.
Tony Evans says it this way, “You can choose your choices. Or you can choose your consequences. But you cannot choose both.”
Rid yourself of any inclination that you can avoid making a decision. Making no choice is making a choice. When it comes your turn to decide, “I pass” is not one of your available options.
So while there are no perfect decisions, we can continuously improve the quality of the process by which we make decisions.
Let’s take a look at two extremes and then zero in on the preferred approach.
Too hot. Some decisions are made too quickly. Others with too much emotion and not enough thought. When your decision making process is too hot, it usually means you are reacting to something, or more precisely, being controlled by that reaction.
Too cold. Other decisions are made too slowly. Procrastination rules the day because we don’t want to make a choice. Rather than not enough thought, the “too cold” approach over-thinks a decision. Whether afraid, ambivalent or apathetic, we delay pulling the trigger on a decision. The result is that the decision is effectively made for us, either by others or by circumstances we allow to transpire.
Just right. Good decision making takes into account many important factors at the same time. A great analogy is the 2 to 3 seconds a quarterback has in a game of football to decide what to do on a pass play.
Once the ball is snapped, the quarterback is looking at both his own players and those of the opposing team. Some of those players are “covering” the quarterback’s own teammates, attempting to prevent them from catching any pass thrown in their direction. Other opposing players weigh 300 pounds and are lumbering at full speed towards the quarterback, hoping against hope they can catch him this time and separate one part of his body from another.
A good quarterback is hyper aware of time: he only has a few precious seconds to decide.
He must be aware of risks: some opposing players want to intercept passes; others just want to use the quarterback as a trampoline.
Finally, the quarterback must know what is most valuable to him at this time: does his team need a first down? Do they need to advance the ball a long way on this one play, or do they have several plays left? Is he trying to score a touchdown, or simply position his team to kick a field goal?
Not a bad set of questions to ask yourself:
What is most important now? What is most valuable to me at this time in my own game (of life)?
What are the risks and how do I avoid them? Don’t try to avoid all risks – you’ll never leave your house in the morning. Decide which ones are worth taking to gain what is important to you now.
How much time do I have in the game? None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. But you can check the averages. If you’re in the early stages of the game, you may be willing to take greater risks, knowing you’ve got time to make up any losses. If you are late in the game, and have unfinished business, you may choose to take few risks for different reasons.
At the end of life, a few people regret what they have done. Most regret what they have not done.
Which risk are you most willing to take?
It’s time to decide.
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