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Four Steps to Good Decisions


All of us are called upon to make decisions, most of them relatively small but a few really big ones. Some of those decisions are easy to make. We hardly have to think about them. For example, should I buy a new BMW? NO! (That was easy!) Should I blast an angry email to the editor who just rejected my latest submission? No, not if I expect to develop or to continue a publishing relationship with him or her or if I want to maintain my professional reputation. Should I take out the trash on Wednesday night? Yes, the garbage man comes on Thursday morning.

But some decisions are really hard. They require more than a cursory thought; they take some close mental weighing of alternatives and some serious soul-searching.

I recently was put in a position of having to make a major decision that was by no means easy. My decision could redirect the entire focus of my writing and reading. It offered some promising possibilities. And I had to announce my decision within a matter of days. I made that decision. But how did I go about it?

First, I listed the pros and cons, the possibilities and the problems, both actual and potential. The idea was to see which predominated–the pros or the cons.

Second, I discussed the matter with my wife. If I’ve learned anything from 40 years of marriage, it’s that I’d better talk such things over with her! I’ve learned that she can shed a lot of light on issues, and I’d better pay attention to what that light reveals. She has a way of seeing things–whether positive opportunities or negative problems–that escape my best intentions and closest observations and musings.

Third, I read God’s Word and prayed in search of God’s perspective on the “big picture” and seeking Divine wisdom on the issue. Proverbs, written by the world’s wisest man, Solomon, says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and learn not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths” (Pro. 3:5-6). And in the New Testament, James wrote, “If any of you lack wisdom [and boy! did I ever lack it on this issue!], let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not” (James 1:5).


Finally, after taking the first three steps and still having no peace about the issue, I followed the advice given by a famous fellow Tennessean from the annals of history. (My father also gave me similar advice several times, but he wasn’t famous, so quoting him here wouldn’t carry as much weight as this historic character!) David Crockett–long hunter, frontiersman, congressman, and military hero of numerous Indian battles and at the Alamo–offered these two bits of advice for just such situations as the one in which I found myself:

  1. “Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.”

  2. “When in doubt, don’t.”

In my situation, I didn’t know what was right, so I dared not move ahead. And I still had a lot of doubts and uncertainties. So my decision was made!

Better safe than sorry. I’ve used these steps before, and I’ve found them to work well. Maybe you should give them a try the next time you find yourself having to make one of life’s hard decisions.

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