Choices and Decision Making

Strange how often we duck a decision.

We wiggle and squirm hoping the issue, the event, or the person will go away. Kind of like Pavlov’s experiment, the issues evaporate often enough that we are willing to continue with this dysfunctional behavior. This escape occurs often enough to reinforce the way we ignore reality.

I was waiting for a plane a couple of weeks ago. Sitting next to me in the waiting area was a mother and her 4-year-old son. The boy was cute and obviously bright. For almost five minutes I watched him eyeing the plane’s passengers. When one of them caught his eye, he reacted immediately. He literally dove under the row of seats we occupied, which were now above him. Not only did he take the lightning fast dive, but he also put his hands over his head and shut his eyes. At first, I thought it was a little strange and then I realized that he was scared and not able to face reality. Eventually, he reappeared and boarded the plane holding his mom’s hand.

I share that story because so often those we associate with do their own version of a “lightning duck under the seats." And just maybe you and I do some version of it too.

Choices are varied and decisions are final.

Both choices and decisions have key characteristics that are worth considering.

First, our choices. When faced with an issue, event, or challenging person, it is instinctual to begin to assess our way over, under, around, or through the problem. There is a high degree of discomfort when we do not see a legitimate choice or set of choices and it takes will power, energy, and perseverance to gather up those varied options. It is hard work to first find the dots and then connect them.

Some time ago when I was faced with an issue, I spent a couple of hours exploring different approaches. When I was certain I had all of them outlined, I decided to run the problem by another wise friend. After about 15 minutes of banter and problem exploration, he said, “Why don’t you…?” You guessed it, he presented an option I’d not thought of at all. As it turned out, his was the best of the options.

Here are some takeaways at this juncture:

1.     Take time to understand the legitimate options available to you.

2.     Bring wise counselors into the process.

Here is another insight into the choice issue. The variety of options or possible solutions you can identify are limiting in the sense that you may not have your arms around all of the options. While that observation is intuitive, I’m convinced that the fear of the unknown option is one of the factors that limits, or at least impedes, our willingness to make any decision at all.

Not wanting to be wrong often results in us doing nothing. And that, in and of itself, is the definition of being stuck. It is strange how fear shows up even in the development of choices.

Next, comes our decision - choosing from the identified options. A common idea that arises in this process is the following: once I make a decision I’ve eliminated all other choices. Knowing that when we make a decision, disregarding other options, we are also responsible for the results. “It comes with leadership,” you say. And indeed, it does. However, even if the mantle of leadership rests comfortably on your shoulders, the responsibility for setting the menu of choices, and then making the best decision is often difficult.

I take great solace in two ways:

1.     I have God’s wisdom available to me assuming I avail myself of it through the Holy Spirit.

2.     I have access to a community of believers for insight, wisdom, and support.

Choices and decisions - they are what shape our present and future. And they are ultimately the elements that shape our destiny.

Acknowledging that all of our past decisions are what shape our future, the presumption is that we should make better decisions the older we grow. We have experienced the pain that comes from making poor decisions and have been encouraged by the joy and satisfaction that come from making good ones. When our decisions are lined up with God’s plan for our life, we can be assured of a future with both meaning and purpose.

I’m continually amazed at how much I have yet to learn, which is encouraging in the sense that when you stop learning, you’re functionally deceased. And as Carl Reiner purportedly advised, “First thing I do in the morning is check the obits. If I’m not there, I eat breakfast.” Good choice!

Stay with us as we Journey through Life together. It is a journey that lasts a lifetime.

Bruce