Perfect decisions are few and far between; however, a great decision is always possible! Great decisions don’t all have fairytale endings, but they do achieve the best outcomes under the given circumstances.
The most successful decision-makers usually don’t act on impulse, intuition, or even experience alone; they have a system that they work through step by step. Here is one such system:
Define the issue. A problem well stated is a problem half solved. Employ the journalist’s “who, what, when, why, and how” regimen. Why is the decision necessary? What is the objective? How can this decision change things for the better? Whom will it affect? When does it need to be made?
Take a positive approach. See opportunities rather than only problems.
List your options. The more alternatives you consider, the more likely you will be to identify the best solution.
Gather information. You will not only make better decisions if you have investigated thoroughly, but you will also have more peace of mind as you carry out your decision.1
Be objective. If you already have an opinion on the matter, the natural tendency will be to look primarily for evidence to confirm that opinion. That works if you happen to be right, but if you’re not, you’re actually being drawn further away from a great decision. Welcome alternatives and opposing views. Remember that the goal is not to prove yourself right, but to make the right decision.
Consider your options. Write down the pros and cons for each option and see how they stack up against each other. Try to determine both best-case and worst-case scenarios for each option. See if there is some way to combine several promising solutions into one potent solution.
Be true to yourself. Leave out any alternatives that compromise your values.
Make a decision. When you’re convinced that you’ve found the best course, commit to it.
Be open to change if circumstances change. Once you make a decision and begin acting on it, a better option may open up. This is sometimes referred to as the “boat-and-rudder effect.” It’s not until a boat is in motion that the rudder can come into play.
Ask Jesus. Last but certainly not least, pray for guidance at each step of the decision-making process. If you’re smart, you’ll be like the man who said, “I may not know all the answers, but I know the Answer Man!” Jesus has the answers; ask, and He will lead.2