More often than we like, most of us are faced with 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, end a relationship? Unfortunately, these decisions are not preceded by a drumroll warning us that the stakes are high and, even worse, we often don’t have a lot of time to figure out what to do.
So it’s no surprise that most bad decisions — the ones that mess up our lives — are made impulsively or without sufficient reflection.
Ancient proverbs warn us to “Count to ten when you’re angry” or to “Think ahead.” But anger and the lack of pre-planning are only two factors that can impede excellent decision making. Fatigue, fear, frustration, stress and impatience also create obstacles to wise choices.
Just as we learned to look both ways before we cross the street, we can learn to systematically analyze every important decision-making situation to allow us to arrive at conclusions that are both effective and ethical.
So each good decision should start with a stop — a forced moment of reflection to let us clarify our goals, evaluate the completeness and credibility of our information, and devise alternative strategies to achieve the best possible result. The stop also allows us to muster our moral will power to overcome temptations and emotions that can lead to rash, foolish or ill-considered decisions.
While it’s great if you have a day or two to “sleep on a problem” or even a few hours to make a decision, many situations do not afford us that luxury. But even a pause of a few seconds can be enough.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you to think ahead because character counts.
You should also take a look at my brief discussion of the essentials of making decisions that produce the best possible result, filed under “Observations.”