When facing decisions while growing up, my grandfather always reminded me to “Take two and think it through.” This small phrase was a reminder for me that, no matter what the situation, I should take two minutes, two hours, two days, maybe even two months before making any decision. He taught me to take my time and think through my decisions before I act. This has been a helpful principle for me as I continue to grow as a man and continue to make decisions in my life.
To be a man means learning how to wrestle with tough decisions and to be decisive even when it is difficult.
As men, everyday we are making decisions. What college to attend, what relationships to pursue, how to plan out our time, what opportunities to seek. To be a man means learning how to wrestle with tough decisions and to be decisive even when it is difficult.
But many of us have developed the tendency to make decisions based simply on what is most convenient or comfortable in the moment. This is so much so that it has become a natural way to make decisions for so many men. However, to make decisions solely based on what is convenient and comfortable can threaten our potential to make the best quality, and the most beneficial, decisions in our lives in the long run. Looking only to what is convenient and comfortable often leads to decisions that are rash; that is, decisions that don’t take into consideration the long term impacts on our lives or on the lives of those around us. Rash decisions may lead to the temporary or immediate results we desire in the moment, but they will never lead to long term character development and benefits for others. Instead, what we need as men is to learn to move from making rash decisions to making thoughtful, careful, and wise decisions that will grow our character as well as help us achieve our goals. When we do, not only will we make better quality decisions for our lives in the long term, we will also make decisions that will benefit those who depend on us the most.
Here are three principles in decision making that can help us to accomplish this.
1. Our priorities, goals, and objectives must govern our decisions.
It is easier to allow our desire for things like comfort, convenience, and immediate gratification to govern how we make our decisions. But if we are going to make better quality decisions, we must allow our long term priorities, goals, and objectives to guide our decision making and not our temporary feelings and desires at any given moment. This is why it’s important to write down your goals and objectives and think through how your daily decisions can help you achieve them. You should take time to think about the implications of each decision you have coming up and how they will affect your long-term goals. By doing this, you will ensure that before you make any decision, you understand how it may affect the bigger picture of what you want to accomplish in your life.
I have heard it said that we should stop asking young men what they want to do when they grow up and start asking them what kind of men they want to be. This question prompts us to reflect on our character first when making decisions, and less on what we want to achieve. Too many times we view decision-making merely as a means to do something, or get ahead in life, rather than a process that develops us into mature and decisive men. Even when we focus on maturity when making decisions, there will be a temptation to tie the success of the decisions we make only with the outcomes of our decisions. On the other hand, we will always make our best quality decisions as men when our primary aim is maturity and character development, and not things like temporary pleasures or mere monetary gain. Although outcomes in life are important, they are not the only things that are important. Sometimes, what happens within us - that is, within our character - is just as important, if not more important, than what happens on the outside.
As many of us know, we will not always make the wisest decisions in our lives. Even if we do, there is no guarantee that thoughtful and wise decisions will always lead to the outcomes we desire. However, if our maturity is the priority, if our character development is the ultimate goal, we will always be able to grow even when decisions do not pan out the way we want them to. And, even though our skills and abilities may help us achieve our goals, it is our maturity and character development that will ensure we are able to handle whatever progress we make.
2. Wise decisions flow from wise counsel.
We all have strengths that we need to exercise, and weaknesses that we need to acknowledge. A strength is something that we can use to achieve our goals and help others while a weakness is something for which we will need help from another person in order to overcome. When it comes to making decisions, no matter how much information we can gather, no matter how thoughtful we are, no matter how smart we may be, we will always have weaknesses in areas or lack all of the knowledge we need to make the wisest decision. This is especially true when making decisions in areas we are unfamiliar with. We will always lack experience and insight when confronted with new situations or opportunities. And this will weaken our ability to make the best quality decisions.
It is in these moments of weakness that it is important to have a mentor or counselor who can walk with us through the decision making process and provide additional encouragement and direction. Two heads are better than one. There is strength in numbers. Having someone more experienced to lean on in certain situations is beneficial because it gives us someone who knows the struggle of making good decisions and weighing the potential outcomes. We often settle for taking advice from peers who might provide helpful insight but have limited experience to pull from when making hard decisions. While their presence and support is invaluable, it can be more helpful to have a wiser, older person who can give a more comprehensive assessment of the pros and cons of a specific decision. We don't have to struggle making decisions on our own. There is a potential wellspring of wisdom available for us when we seek out the expertise of people who have more experience than us. The more advisors we have in making decisions, the better the probability we have to make good decisions.
3. We must prioritize being decisive.
In most cases, the worst decision we can make is not making a decision at all. There is always a level of uncertainty that we have to deal with when it comes to decision making. Fear of the unknown can grip us, and can cause us to hesitate and feel paralyzed when we are attempting to decide what to do in any given situation. But in moments of uncertainty, we must learn to be decisive through establishing guiding principles for decision making. These principles should prioritize the development of our character and the benefit of those that depend on us when it comes to making decisions. We must also learn to rely on the wisdom we gain from the wiser and more experienced individuals in our lives. Although uncertainty will still be present, rooting our decisions in guiding principles and wise counsel gives us the courage to be decisive.
Whether making decisions in our careers, relationships, marriages or even when we are making major purchases, it takes courage to be decisive. There will always be the temptation to doubt when we are uncertain about the outcome of our decisions. Many of us have seen people close to us make bad choices that have led to painful consequences. Some of us have made terrible choices ourselves that we are currently suffering as a result of. These experiences can hinder us from being decisive because we are afraid of making mistakes. However, if our priorities are established and we rely on the wise counsel of others, we can trust that we are making good quality decisions, and that we’ll experience growth in our character, no matter the outcome.