COMMENTARY: Good Decisions Start With a Stop

More often than we like, most of us face choices that can have serious and lasting impact on our lives. Do we go along with the crowd? Do we tell someone off, quit a job, or end a relationship? Unfortunately, these decisions are not preceded by a drum roll warning us that the stakes are high. Even worse, we often don’t have a lot of time to figure out what to do.

It’s no surprise that most bad decisions — the ones that mess up our lives — are made impulsively or without sufficient reflection.

Ancient proverbs tell us to “count to ten when you’re angry” or “think ahead.” But anger and lack of preplanning are only two factors that can impede excellent decision making. Fatigue, fear, frustration, stress, impatience, and emotions also create obstacles to wise choices.

Just as we learned to look both ways before we cross the street, we can learn to analyze every important decision-making situation to allow us to arrive at conclusions that are both effective and ethical.

Each decision, therefore, should start with a stop – a forced moment of reflection to help us clarify our goal, evaluate the completeness and credibility of our information, and devise an alternate strategy, if necessary, to achieve the best possible result. Stopping also allows us to muster our moral willpower to overcome temptations and emotions that could lead to a rash, foolish, or ill-considered decision.

While it’s great to have a day or two to sleep on a problem, or even a few hours, many situations don’t afford us that luxury. But a pause of even a few seconds can often be enough.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you to think ahead because character counts.

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Comments 11

  1. Last pharagrap, last sentence, do you mean ‘rush’ and not “rash”. For ESL learnesr this can be missleading. Rush, something done in a fast way. Rash, red skin bumps.

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  2. Any decision is a good decision, as long as it is a true decision, that is the decision-maker is aware of, and ready to bear, all the consequences. What is not good, is no decision.

    1. No decision means you decided to not to make any decisions at the moment, which in itself is a decision, in my opinion. Passive one, yes, but a decision nonetheless.

  3. Great advise, I am a great believer of the power of a simple stop. Many things can be prevented and in many cases completely avoided if individuals simply took the time to “Stop” before taking that final step.

  4. Wonderful reading!
    The Rotary has a four-way test which can be applied to every decision in our lives. It is as follows:
    Is it the TRUTH?
    Is it FAIR to all concerned?
    Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
    Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

    Kindness always,
    Bob Votruba and Bogart too!!

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      I do a great deal of work with Rotary. In fact I will be a keynoter at International Convention in january. It is a wonderful organization. – MJ

  5. Great commentary as usual Michael
    My wife Jane and I have been advocating this “THOUGHT” philosophy for several years and here is our approach: STOP, PAUSE, REFLECT, WHAT IF….?, VALIDATE and ACT accordingly to YOUR VALUES. With a little practice it simply amazes us how much you can cover in a very few seconds. Jane teaches very young children and she acclimates them to this process by actually using a hand held stop sign. We get requests for them all the time from parents and yes from teachers also. It provides the visual experiential reinforcement that early learners need.

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