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How do you decide?

The tension was tangible in the gymnasium as the girls lined up on one side and the boys on the other.

As a youngster at school in preparation every year for St. Andrews Day, we learned how to do some Scottish Ceilidh Dances – The Gay Gordons, The Dashing White Sergeant, The Pride of Erin Waltz, The St. Bernards Waltz and a Canadian Barn Dance have all been etched into my memory. Don’t get me wrong, over many years these dances have provided many hours of fun and created wonderful memories.

However, those days of lining up at school were both painful and unforgettable! The boys had to cross the gym floor and pick a girl to dance with.  I have no idea how the girls felt?! All kinds of teenage angst and turmoil were exposed in those fleeting moments. Far reaching, defining decisions effecting your credibility and status amongst friends were determined in those character building seconds. Somehow, I found the courage from somewhere and learned that it was best to get off your marks quickly and race across the gym floor, otherwise the biggest dread of all was that you’d end up with the last pick of the girls. That was risky and always had consequences!

When it comes to decision making, I’ll never forget those lessons from my dance classes – pause, breathe, ponder, choose, do!

How do you decide?

Decisions

We’re always deciding something.

Stripped down to its essentials, life is about making choices and decisions! Who will I vote for? What direction will I move in now? What job will I take? Who will I marry? Is that the house we really want? Will I have that healthy piece of fruit or that tasty cake?! Do I really need that new car? Isn’t it time we moved abroad? What will I have for lunch! Its election time again…. who will I vote for this time around? Big or small, decisions determine our destiny.

As taught by Robert D. Hales, we need to examine our motives every time we make a decision. Life’s plan and the challenge to be successful are demonstrated in an Aesop Fable,  “The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey.” The objective of the man and the boy was to journey to the city marketplace and sell the donkey for winter provisions. As they started to town, the father rode the donkey. In the first village, the villagers said, “What an inconsiderate man, riding the donkey and making his son walk!” So the father got off the donkey and let his son ride.In the next hamlet, the people whispered, “What an inconsiderate boy, riding the donkey and making his father walk!”

In frustration, the father climbed on the donkey; and father and son rode the donkey, only to have the people in the next town declare, “How inconsiderate of the man and the boy to overload their beast of burden and treat him in such an inhumane manner!”

In compliance with the dissident voices and mocking fingers, the father and son both got off the donkey to relieve the animal’s burden, only to have the next group of onlookers say, “Can you imagine a man and a boy being so stupid as to not even use their beast of burden for what it was created!”

Then, in anger and total desperation, having tried to please all those who offered advice, the father and son both rode the donkey until it collapsed. The donkey had to be carried to the marketplace. The donkey could not be sold. The people in the marketplace scoffed, “Who wants a worthless donkey that can’t even walk into the city!”

The father and son had failed in their goal of selling the donkey and had no money to buy the winter provisions they needed in order to survive.

How much different the outcome would have been if the father and son had had a plan to follow. Father could have said, “I’ll ride the donkey one-third of the way; Son, you ride the donkey one-third of the way; and we’ll both walk the last third of the way. The donkey will arrive at the marketplace fresh and strong, ready to be sold.”

Then, as they received confusing advice while traveling through each hamlet and village along their way to the city, they could look at each other, give a reassuring wink of the eye, and say, “We have a plan.”

Do you have a plan? Do you know where you are going…..

  • In your personal life?
  • Or in your family life?
  • Even in your career and work life?

If not – then here are some suggestions that will help along the way.

Firstly, Know Yourself. In order to make a good decision, you really need to understand yourself, your values and what makes you who you really are. There are lots of great personality tests on the market and working with a good personal coach will help you to identify what your core values are. When you know yourself, your core values and what you want out of life, decisions are a lot easier to make. By taking time here, it’ll enable you to really identify what the problem is that you are trying to solve.

Secondly, Consider the Long Term. This approach to decision making requires time, patience, and probably most important of all…. courage. It takes courage to listen to your inner self, to slow down, ponder, reflect and consider what really matters most. All of these factors allow the creation of some space for yourself, so that ultimately you will hear that inner wisdom, intuition even, thereafter making a decision will become much easier. But!! No matter how strong that intuition is, always do your homework and systematically check through the pros and cons of the options on the table first. Never be short-sighted.

Thirdly, Gather the Facts.  What do you really need to know? Decide what information you will need to gather in order to come up with and develop various options to choose from. The more options you have to choose from, then the likelihood is that your final decision will be a much better one. Spend as much time here as you need to consider and then evaluate the options at hand.

Fourthly, Listen! As a professional coach, I spend a fair amount of my time listening to others and over the years I have learned that it is much better to get other peoples perspectives, before you start sharing your own views and opinions. When faced with making the big decisions, it is always better to seek some others viewpoints and listen intently to what they have to say.

Finally, Make the Decision. After you have done all your homework, then now is the time to commit to the way forward and make the decision. Make the commitment and follow through. Even if after all of that, the decision turns out to be the wrong one, don’t let your ego get in the way, its still okay to change course. As I’ve written of before https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/leadership-essentials-humility-vs-pride-daryl-watson humility is a great quality to possess.

In conclusion, there is no scientific formula that will magic up a guaranteed correct decision every time…!!! Further evidenced in the HBR article here… https://hbr.org/2016/03/a-checklist-for-making-faster-better-decisions However, these 5 tips for success are well worn, tried and tested principles that will guide you in those critical decision making moments that are ahead for us all.

Are you on the right track?

Living in Dunfermline, I have frequently travelled over the Forth Railway Bridge into Edinburgh and beyond on 100’s if not 1000’s of journeys over the last 50  years.  My dad started working as a fireman on the steam locomotives towards the end of World War II and spent virtually all of his working life driving diesel engines.  He had many stories to tell about the bridge, including the golden rivet and many a crossing during a stormy night (those are for another time!)

Recently, after delivering a series of coaching workshops in London, I returned north, departing Kings Cross Station, and got to thinking about a story I’d heard a number of years ago, by Gordon B. Hinckley….

“The course of our lives is not determined by great, awesome decisions. Our direction is set by the little day-to-day choices which chart the track on which we run.

Many years ago I worked in the head office of one of our railroads. One day I received a telephone call from my counterpart in Newark, New Jersey, who said that a passenger train had arrived without its baggage car. The patrons were angry.

We discovered that the train had been properly made up in Oakland, California, and properly delivered to St. Louis, from which station it was to be carried to its destination on the east coast. But in the St. Louis yards, a thoughtless switchman had moved a piece of steel just three inches.

That piece of steel was a switch point, and the car that should have been in Newark, New Jersey, was in New Orleans, Louisiana, thirteen hundred miles away.”

My question to everyone reading this article today is simply this…..

Have you thrown a tiny switch in your home, family, career or business life that has placed you on the wrong track?

Some years later Gordon B. Hinckley also stated that  “Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, side-tracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed.”

I believe it is never too late to get back on the right track and enjoy those beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed that we are all entitled to, in each of our individual life’s.  We simply need to recognise very quickly when we are on the wrong track and never be misled by the sunk cost fallacy.

I recently found a beautiful quote that captures my thinking for today, by Jim Rohn…

“I find it fascinating that most people plan their vacations with better care than they plan their lives. Perhaps that is because escape is easier than change.”

My invitation to everyone is to slow down a little, by considering what matters most and change if necessary.  If you are on the wrong track, you can get back on the right track anytime, by simply throwing a little switch…..!