Saturday, August 23, 2008

Making Big Decisions

I have a nephew who just completed his first week of college. Just thinking of that takes me back to when I was his age, with the world and its endless opportunities before me. What did I want to do with my life? Would I go to school, or go directly to the job market? Would I get married and have a family? What town would I live in, and in what kind of house?

These are all big decisions that just about everyone has faced at one time or another. For some, the decisions seem to be based on circumstances. Some are made in haste or on impulse. Then there’s the flip of a coin, or the “rock-paper-scissors” method. But the most sensible decisions are the ones that have deliberate thought behind them.

So how does somebody make a deliberately thought-out decision?

To begin with, it is helpful to have a solid grasp of your personal values. These values will be a useful filter in making major decisions. Take the time to identify what you value in life – the things that are important to you that are non-negotiable (family, financial security, peace of mind, honesty, integrity, and the like). Any major decision in life should be compatible with these values. For example, let's suppose you are facing a decision as to whether or not to take a job promotion with more money and responsibility, longer hours, and a longer commute. And let's suppose that you value investing time with your family. Since the new position is not compatible with your non-negotiable value of family time, then taking the job might not be the best decision for you at this time.

Know your options, and write a list of pro's and con's for each one. Make a chart listing your options, and then listing the good and bad things about each option. You may even give each item a “plus” or “minus” value, and whichever column has the higher value would go into the decision process.

It is always highly recommended to consult with trusted friends who have your best interest at heart. Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15:22). However, when you do ask for their input, go with an open mind. You are asking their opinion as part of the decision process, and not their permission or approval of what you have already decided. Take their feedback, and use it in the “pro's and con's” chart.

Get the facts from reliable sources for each of your options. Again, you are looking for information, not permission. More data for the “pro's and con's” chart.

Take time to pray about your decision. God may have a viable option in His plan that you don't see on your own. Find a quiet place where you can do this. Take time to read the Bible. Sometimes when facing a big decision, the verses that draw your attention will be the ones that can lead you to making the right decision.

Watch for circumstances in your life that seem to open or close doors for you. If you are looking to purchase a sporty little two-seat convertible for yourself and your wife announces that you're going to be a new daddy, then the practical four-door sedan might be the better choice, no matter how much fun the two-seater might be.

Wait. Once you have made your choice, give it what I call the “three-day rule.” (It's said that for major purchases, wait one day for every hundred dollars to be spent, up to six months.) . After that, if it's no longer an issue don't worry about it. The change you wanted to make isn't all that important to you. If it is still an issue, then take another look at your pro's and con's, and consider the counsel of those you've talked to.

When you feel comfortable (or perhaps scared beyond your wit's end) that you have made the right choice, then take action to make your decision a reality. Commit your ways to the Lord and He will make your path straight (Proverbs 3:5).

Is this method the best way to make decisions? Is it foolproof, or guaranteed? No. Nothing in life is. You still may misinterpret something along the way and later think you could have done better. Don't be afraid of failure. Often times mistakes and failures are part of the process.

When we trust in God and commit our ways to Him, He will continue to show us where we went wrong, and where we need to go next, and will then work it out for good. Our plans may not turn out the way we originally envisioned them, but with God's hand in completing them they will turn out for His glory.

1 comment:

Mandee said...

Great post Mary! I have had to make huge decisions in my life recently. I feel like if I pray and really try to converse with God, it helps. I try to make a decision on my own by doing some of the things you mentioned. I then take it to God and ask him if it is right, pausing right after I ask to see if I feel any impressions. If I do not feel a no, I proceed with my decision until I do feel a distinct no. I like what you said about God letting us make the wrong choice. You are so right. How else could we learn? I am just thankful that God knows all from beginning to end and that He is in every detail of our lives! Thank you for the good advice and the uplifting entries!