Decision-Making Made Easy
Life is a series of decisions. The life you are living today and the joy you are experiencing today -- while potentially marked by circumstances out of your control -- is a reflection of the decisions you have made over the years.
A word about the past before we discuss the future. If you're wallowing in regret about poor decisions from the past, don't fret. God can redeem all things. In Romans 8:28, the Apostle Paul says "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." You can't change a decision you made yesterday, but you can control how you will move forward today.
It's this "looking forward" aspect - not the "grace required" aspect --- that I want to focus on.
Many people I coach experience a lack of joy because they can't make a solid decision on some issue in their life.
With that in mind, here are 8 simple approaches for making confident decisions. (The first four approaches come from the Henry Blackaby classic Experiencing God.)
1. Scripture - I heard it once said that the word B.I.B.L.E. stands for Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Even if someone dared strip out all the spiritual truth of the Bible and looked at it simply as an instruction manual for living, it'd still be the best source of wisdom on issues such as work, marriage, money, sex, parenting, friendships, time management, leadership, etc. Start by referencing the bible when you have a decision to make. (Check out www.biblegateway.com and www.gotquestions.org) One of the reasons people make bad decisions -- or are frozen on the trigger with a decision -- is because they don't know the bible or they don't trust its advice because it's so counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. Big mistake. Trust it.
2. Consult Godly People - Making a decision in isolation is dangerous. But so many people do it because they're impatient, don't want to ask for help, or are afraid they will hear something they don't want to hear. If you're about to make a big decision-- or even medium-sized decision -- I encourage you to ask Godly people who know scripture, have sound judgment, know a little about the nature of the decision you are making, or who can pray for you with no bias.
3. Circumstances - Some people live in la la land regarding decisions because they are not operating with the real facts of their circumstances. At one point I was wrestling with "Should I self-publish The Joy Model or go the traditional publishing route?" My son Neal said "Dad, you don't have an agent or a publisher so you're focused on the wrong question. You need to take action to see if the traditional route is an actual option." I replied, "I brought you into this world and I can take you out just as fast." ;-)
The other place circumstances play a role is when persistent, repetitive circumstances keep pointing you toward a particular course of action. Or when doors are obviously swinging wide open or slamming firmly shut.
4. Prayer - Take the time to settle down your mind and heart and ask God for guidance as you sort through the options. Then be still. I find that this approach often leads me to a peace about a certain option.
5. Low Cost Probes - There are some decisions -- like a job/career change, geographical move, or a decision about a volunteer opportunity -- that can be best made with low cost probes. This means taking small exploratory steps to learn more before making a full commitment. In other words, don't quit your job before you do all your due diligence on the new opportunity. Maybe rent for a month in that new city before uprooting everything. Commit to 60 days of volunteering to see how it works out before committing long-term.
6. Don't Think Black and White - Oftentimes, we're presented with decisions that aren't black and white and "yes or no" situations. There are multiple paths that all have their pro's and con's. These are good times to do the old "Ben Franklin" approach and write out the options with all the pro's and con's. Then, pray about them, consult other Godly people, pour them through the filter of scripture. Maybe there is some hybrid pathway moving forward.
6. Mission Statement - At the Halftime Institute we help people discover their life purpose and develop a personal mission statement that reflects the reason God put them on this planet. A mission statement serves as a powerful "Go Statement" and "No Statement" when decisions present themselves.
7. The Unity Prayer - This is great for couples facing a big decision or who are differing in their opinions. It works like this: Both of you do your best to "move your heart to neutral" on the decision. Then, separately pray about the decision for a week. Reconnect on the issue after a week and share what you've heard/sensed from God. If you disagree, guess what? One of you is wrong! There is only one Holy Spirit and He will draw you to unity. So, repeat the cycle. Be sure to get your heart to neutral. Ultimately, you want to be in enthusiastic agreement about the course of action.
8. Love God. Love others - This is a big one. Almost as big as the scripture filter. Literally -- not virtually -- every decision we make impacts our ability to follow through on these two commandments that Jesus says are most important. (Mark 12:30-31) We love God by obeying His Word, drawing peoples' attention towards His goodness, and by spending time with Him. We love people by meeting their physical, spiritual, emotional and practical needs. Any decision that limits your ability to do these two things will limit your ability to experience the best God has for you.
A final word: As long as your intentions are pure, God can make any decision work out for the best. In others words, you could make the "wrong decision" with the "right heart" and God will bless and honor the outcome regardless of the path. How cool is that!?
Obedience always precedes joy.
"If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." John 15:10-11