Once a decision is made, it becomes a story. Enough stories make up a life. When you look back and tell that grand story to your loved ones, do you want to be the hero or the villain?
We’ll all be faced with decisions either personally or professionally that will go against our values. Framing each decision as a future story can help us develop and shape our careers and personal lives.
Whether we realize it or not, we make decisions all day, every day: What time you wake up, the choice of breakfast, going to work, activities after work, and so on; and yes, even the days where we sit and do nothing all day — it’s still a choice. So, if decisions are so integral to each and every one of our lives, do we think enough about the decisions we make?
“The decisions you make are really no better than the questions you ask.” — Andy Stanley
For Andy, the lesson came early. If there was ever a decision he didn’t know how to handle, he would ask his dad. The response: What would you do if I wasn’t here? While frustrating at the time, it taught an important lesson — teach your children to make decisions when the stakes are low so they know what to do when the stakes become high later in life.
It doesn’t come naturally
When you pick a healthy option to eat for lunch over the more desirable option like a cheeseburger or pizza, do you ever stop to really think about why you made that decision? Once we realize that the decisions we make don’t come from intuition, we can begin to train ourselves to actively, consistently, choose better decisions.
Andy, with the help of his book on decision making, walks us through some steps we can take to start living a life without regret.
Recognizing your internal salesperson
We all have a little salesperson in our heads that tries to sell us on bad ideas. Think of a time when you made a particularly poor decision and the internal sale going on. Now imagine an actual salesperson try to sell you with the same narrative:
“Eat that entire pizza. Who cares if you have dangerously high cholesterol?”
“Just buy the car and don’t worry about what your partner thinks.”
If someone said either of these things to us, we’d turn and run. So why do we so freely listen to such terrible advice when it’s coming from ourselves? The easiest way to know whether a decision is the right one or wrong one: notice if that internal salesperson is talking.
”The bottom line is simply this: you rarely have to talk yourself into a good idea.” — Andy Stanley
In most situations, we already know the right choice. It’s only when we let personal opinions, skewed ethics, and internal sales people take control that we go down the wrong path.
From personal to organizational
If we want to be the hero of our life story, we have to make decisions that reflect a heroic lifestyle — putting others before yourself or making sacrifices when it matters most, for example. But this isn’t just on a personal level.
Organizations have the same question to ask: What story do you want to tell? A good way to stay on the right path, according to Andy, is to make sure you have a clear vision mandate.
”A tightly formed vision eliminates a lot of options.” — Andy Stanley
So, during the COVID-19 pandemic when Andy’s church was faced with the decision between shutting down to protect the community or staying open with risk to the public, the decision was easy to make.
A key takeaway
Question yourself more frequently and pay attention to that salesperson in your head. Knowing the wise decision is a lot easier than you think when you can eliminate all the noise around it.
When decision making is so integral to our daily lives, it only makes sense to know the best practices for making continually correct decisions. It’s the only way we can look back on our personal and professional lives without regret.
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