9 Keys to Confident Decision-Making

One of the areas that we most often question ourselves in is our decision-making. If you’re like me, you’ve probably had decisions to make that you’ve analyzed to death, both before and after you decided, and a number you’ve regretted. When Leah and I moved to Texas, we had to fight against regretting it. We believe God called us to be here, but it took nearly five months for me to get a job (I just started a week ago, so I will probably only be able to post a couple times a week now.) and our money was running low. She missed her family and we both missed our friends and our church. As if that wasn’t enough, Houston traffic is ten times worse than Colorado and we had the added stresses of finding a new church and not getting lost.

Now that I have a good job at a respected company and we’ve found a church we like, it’s easier to believe that we made a good decision in coming down here. The problem with that thinking, though, is this:

It was always a good decision to move down here.

There are several principles of good decision-making. If you follow these, you can consistently make good decisions.

1. First and foremost, follow God. If it weren’t for this principle, moving to Houston might well have been deemed unwise. We had little in the way of a safety net and we had next to no connections down here. I have no oil and gas experience (Houston’s biggest industry). We could have blown all our money, had to sell one of our cars, and piled up credit card debt before limping home to live with her parents while we got back on our feet. But because we believe God told us to do this, we went, having faith in Him to take care of us. And you know what? He did.

2. Gather all the information you reasonably can before making a decision. Sometimes God is silent and expects you to decide. When that happens, find out what you can about the pros and cons of a choice. Don’t obsess over finding out everything you can, but do your homework. For example, if the decision is whether to go to college, find out what student loan interest rates are, how much you’d be in debt when you graduated, whether the school you want to attend is well-respected in the subject you want to study, how much people in your field generally make, the downsides of their jobs, and how readily available jobs are. Then find out what jobs are available to you with your current skill set, what kind of pay you can expect, and how high you can climb without a degree. Only when you have all the necessary information will you be able to make an informed decision.

3. Make a list of pros and cons. If your decision has only two options, one list will do. If you have multiple options, make a pros and cons list for each. To use the college example, a pro for someone looking to get into finance is, “Financial analysts can make over $80,000 a year,” while a con could be, “But in four years of being a bank teller, I could rise to the level of manager and make $50,000 a year with no student debt.” Then assign two numbers to each item you listed: importance to you (on a scale of 1 to 10), then a realistic probability that each will happen. I emphasize realistic because, while becoming a programmer could make you a billionaire, the world has millions of programmers who aren’t, so the odds of you surpassing millions of other good programmers are very small. If you wanted to be a vet, a con would be a good chance you’d get scratched and bitten on at least a weekly basis, but if you have a high pain tolerance, that might not matter much to you, so you could put 4 on the importance and 90% on probability.

Once you have your numbers, multiply them for each item, then add the results. The side with the higher total is the one that makes the most sense for you given your values and priorities. If you have multiple options, have the pro side be positive and the cons be negative, then net them together. The option with the highest overall score is the one that makes the most sense.

4. Think long-term. This may depend, of course, on the situation, but I highly recommend emphasizing long-term goals over short-term ones. For example, you can buy that big TV now, but what are the costs? Will it prevent you from being able to save enough money should you lose your job? Will your credit card interest bury you and hurt your credit? And how will lower credit affect any efforts to buy a house? Also, could you live with your current TV or get by with one that’s not as high-end? Will the one you want be cheaper in just a few months or a year? Multiple studies have shown that the people who do the best in life are the ones who think long-term and are patient. 

5. Ask other people for advice. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established.” You may consider yourself very wise and prudent, but your friend may have a totally different take on your decision or think of a solution or possible outcome you missed. When possible, go to someone who you know had a similar decision to make. And for important decisions, I recommend asking at least three trusted friends, people who are willing to disagree with you, for advice. You don’t have to listen to them, but you’d be wise to hear them out. 

6. Don’t forget your heart when doing this. Certain decisions should be made without the heart, to the greatest extent possible. Others, such as what career to choose, need your heart for your decision to be successful. Success in life is more than money or a good job; it’s being content with where you’ve chosen to be. 

7. That said, accept responsibility for whatever the results may be. There are no guarantees with any decision. Moving across the country to accept a promotion sounds great…unless you get laid off three months later in a round of severe budget cuts. You may not have chosen to get laid off, but you chose that path knowing it was a risk. It may not be your fault that it happened, but you could have chosen to remain a lower-paid employee and had a greater chance of keeping your job. Either way, the sooner you accept the results of your decision, unintended or not, the sooner you can get to work repairing the damage or going down a new path. Every decision will have its cons, so don’t regret a decision just because something bad happened; realistically, you should know that something you don’t like will happen with every major decision you make. A good decision doesn’t get rid of all the bad results; it just has more good results than bad.

8. Know that the results of a decision do not determine whether a decision is good or bad. It’s the decision-making process you used that determines the quality of your decision. You can make a great decision, such as to go to work in the morning, and get t-boned by a drunk driver and end up in the hospital. Or you can quit your job, by a lottery ticket, and win. The quality of a decision isn’t affected by the results, especially the highly improbable ones. If you did your homework, weighed the outcomes objectively, and thought long-term, then your decision is good even if the results aren’t what you hoped for.

9. Most importantly, your decisions don’t affect your self-worth. You could make bad decision after bad decision and God will will still love you as much as He does right now, which is enough to sacrifice His Son for you. You can’t be either more or less valuable to Him and it’s His opinion that matters, so your value doesn’t come from your decisions. Realizing this will help you not stress about them, which will keep emotions out and let you think more clearly. The result will be both better decisions and less stress about them.

Becoming a Better Man

I used to be a horrible person. I had honor in one sense – I was always honest – but I was addicted to pornography, swore often, hated myself and disliked most of the people I knew, had serious anger issues, and leaned on people for pity until they distanced themselves from me. Then I would, of course, blame them and myself for things falling apart. I was miserable the vast majority of the time. I wallowed in it until I reeked of desperation, then I wallowed some more.

God’s changed that. I still get down on myself when I’m very stressed, but these times are rarer now and I bounce back often in a matter of minutes rather than weeks. Everything else has either gone away completely or gotten much, much better.

I’d like to think that I’ve improved, but the moment I start thinking that is the moment where I prove I haven’t, for that statement shows that my life is about me once again. When I was miserable, it was because I thought constantly, incessantly of myself and my woes. I could break out of it long enough to have some time with my friends or compartmentalize enough to do my job well, but the thoughts were always in the back of my mind. I tried to do right by others (often failing), but nearly everything I did was at least in part for me.

One thing I’ve noticed since God’s gotten hold of me is that less of my life is about me. When I’m stressed, it’s more about me. When I’m not, I’m free to think of others. 

The less of me there is in my head, the more peace I have.

And isn’t that the thing we’re all striving so hard to find? Jesus had it right when He told us to love others as ourselves. When we’re focused on them and what they need, we aren’t worrying about our own needs. We should, of course, still make sure that we’re tending to our own needs, but the actual fulfillment of those needs is on God if we’re serving Him. We don’t have to worry about it; in fact, worrying about it shows a lack of faith in Him and is thus a sin.

I want to challenge you to spend an entire hour today not worried about what you want or need, but busying yourself fulfilling the needs of others. Be selfless for one hour today. Then, see how you feel at the end of that hour. Do you feel better than you did, or at least, do you feel less worried about the problems in your own life?

It is our selfishness that brings unrest. The more of God you have, the less worrying you’ll do about yourself.

On Money and Worry

Image

Most of us would like a little more money…or a lot more money. With the economy still down and improving slowly, many people are without jobs, drawing on either the government or their own savings to make ends meet.

As a guy, I worry about money quite a bit, not in the sense of needing tons of it, but in the strong desire to provide for my wife. I worry about not getting a job, about us having to sell one of our cars or some other possessions to get by, and about what we’d do after everything we can sell has been sold. I worry that she’ll be the only one of us to find a real career job and I’ll be stuck flipping burgers or stocking shelves at 2 AM.

These fears aren’t really justified. My head, that rational part of me that I often ignore, knows that. It tells me I’m an experienced accountant, but just have a rusty resume. It tells me I’m smart, hard working, and skilled, so with determination, I ought to be able to find some accounting or finance job, even as a temp, to spruce up my resume, then get a pretty good job and be a great provider.

My heart counters with its fears and usually wins.

All the while my spirit is trying to tell me that it doesn’t matter because God is in charge anyway. He can do whatever He wants. He can have the winning Powerball ticket blow through the little crevice under our apartment door, give us minimum-wage jobs that are barely enough to scrape by, or anything in between. Whatever His plan is, though, it’s not on me to provide. It’s on me only to obey.

God is a good Father. This means several things:

1. He wants to provide for us.

2. As God, He has the power to provide for us.

3. He will give us what we need, even if it’s not what we want. Just like a good parent won’t let their children have cookies all day, so God won’t give us things that are bad for us.

4. God is willing to give us things we want, but won’t give us things that will take us from Him. When I wanted a wife more than anything, God kept one from me. When I loved Him honestly regardless of whether I was married, He blessed me richly with Leah. God must always be our chief treasure, not a means to our chief treasure.

5. As my King and Employer, it’s on Him to give me orders, judge my work, and pay me accordingly. He doesn’t owe me anything, but He promises to give to us according to our works (Romans 2:6, Revelation 22:12). He is also in charge of the results of our work (1 Cor. 3:6).

6. His blessings are dependent on my walk with Him. Even if I’m obeying Him in His calling, I can do it out of a wrong heart or have other areas of sin in my life. You don’t have to be perfect for God to bless you (or else we’d never get any blessings), but just as a good parent won’t give a rebelling child presents all the time, so God won’t bless you if you are rebelling against Him.

I don’t have to worry about money. In fact, worrying (by worrying, I mean “having anxiety,” not “paying attention to”) about money or anything else is a sin because it shows a lack of faith in God to provide. If I am His child, I should behave as a little child who wants something from His parents.

Imagine you were six years old and wanted a bike. If you had a good father, you might ask him for a bike for Christmas. If he said yes, you’d tell your friends you were getting a bike. In your mind, it’d be a done deal, even though you don’t have the bike yet. You’d be waiting impatiently for Christmas, knowing full well that you’d get what you wanted when the time came. No worries about how your father would pay for it. No fears that he’d change his mind. No stressing that he’d forget about you or decide he didn’t really love you. He promised the bike, so you were getting the bike.

And if he said no, you weren’t getting the bike and you’d have to learn to live with that. You’d still have to obey him and you’d still love him, even though you’d be disappointed and confused.

We are to be that way with God. We are to come to Him with everything, ask Him for what we want, and then let Him make the decision. If He says yes, then it will happen. If He says no, we should still love and obey Him. Under no circumstances should we have any worry or fear that He will let us down, for He loves us more than any human father ever could and He has more power to protect us than we can imagine.

Don’t worry about money (or relationships, health, <insert other stress here>). You have a loving Father who will provide what you need when you ask Him and trust Him.

Pressure Cooker

We put a lot of pressure on things we get our value from. Too much, in most cases. I used to do this with friends, particularly my female friends. From most of the women I’ve been close friends with, I’ve sought something more at one time or another. I got rejected nearly every time, often resulting in my feeling hurt and, depending on her reactions to my hints toward that end, sometimes angry. I was getting so much of my sense of self-worth from being single that every time a door was slammed in my face, I felt not just that door shut, but all of the previous ones shut again and felt there would never be an open door in my future.

It’s really no wonder, looking back, why my approach didn’t work. I was putting so much pressure on my friends to do something for me that they never could: make me secure in my value. Even if I had gotten a girlfriend, I wouldn’t have felt valuable. I would have been clingy and controlling out of fear that she would realize how worthless I was and dump me. She could never have done enough to prove to me that she really loved me and always would, neither could she convince me that I was worth being with. Because of that, I would have always pressured her to show me again, and that kind of pressure will always lead to a meltdown of some sort.

It could have been a blowup that ended the relationship, a steady decline into a state of dislike and resent, fighting constantly, her being frustrated that her efforts are never enough, or me just sinking into a depression and her fretting because she has no idea how to bring me out of it. But something bad would certainly have happened because self-esteem is essentially a black hole demanding always to be fed. You will always need your worth affirmed from time to time, and if your source isn’t constant, you will put pressure on it to give you that affirmation because you’re afraid of losing your value. If it doesn’t, something breaks.

This started in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve thought God was holding out on them. They questioned their God and their worth at the same time. If they didn’t depend on God any longer for their worth, then it was up to them to find it and they looked for it in the forbidden fruit.

Whatever you find your value in outside of God is going to be something that you put too much pressure on.

The bright side is that this makes it easy to determine where you’re getting your value from currently. Think about things in your life that you berate yourself for or that get you upset with others easily. Think about what causes you the most stress and frustration. Go deep, too. The easy answer may be the surface answer.

For example, I would get frustrated with myself at my last job for doing anything wrong. The surface answer is that I was afraid of not getting a promotion or raise when the time came, as well as that I hated messing things up for other people. The deeper reason is that I hated looking stupid and feared that any error would cause someone to look on me as an idiot who didn’t deserve to be there. The frustration with being wrong at work was just a symptom of my deeper issue.

After you’ve decided to change, the next step is to find out where you’re currently getting your sense of self-worth. Once you find that, you can be more aware of these situations and remind yourself that your value doesn’t come from them. God alone is an always open fountain of affirmation, the only one who will never tire of telling you what you’re worth, and the only one whose opinion matters. And His opinion of you is so much higher than the worth you’ve been trying to prove you have.