Get This Decision Right

Many of the choices we make don’t require a great deal of thought. For example deciding what you’re going to wear today, what you’re having for dinner, or where you want to go on vacation this year, while important, are not life changing decisions. If, in fact, you do make a bad decision in one of these areas, the consequences are pretty insignificant. (Your life isn’t going to change a great deal if you had chicken for dinner instead of salmon!) However, for those decisions where the stakes are much higher, we must make sure we’ve gathered sufficient information and given ample thought to our decision before we pull the trigger.

One of the most important decisions we make is the primary person we decide to do life with. Whether it’s a spouse, a life partner, or significant other, this person will have a very substantial role and impact in our life. As such, this type of relationship should be entered into slowly. Only after we’ve gathered significant experiences and information about the other person are we about to make a good decision.

If you’re currently in the process of making this decision about someone, before you decide, you should have answers to the following questions:

  • Do you know what your own goals and dreams are and what you, specifically, want out of life?
  • What are the other person’s goals and expectations from life? Do they align with yours?
  • What are the non-negotiable character traits and attributes you’re looking for in another person?
  • What are the non-negotiable character traits you are unwilling to settle for in another person?
  • How does this person align with the previous 2 questions?
  • No, really! How do they align?
  • What’s their worldview and outlook on life?
  • How does the other person handle conflict?
  • How do they handle money?
  • How do they treat other people?
  • How do they treat you?
  • How do they respond when life gets tough?
  • What guides them in how they make decisions and live their life?

The only way you will get answers to these questions is through conversation and time together. Lots of time together, so don’t be in a big hurry. The questions above are a list you can check off in a weekend, a week, or month. To really answer these questions, I think it’s important to observe someone for at least a year, if not longer.

Nothing will affect the quality of your life more that the primary person you decide to do life with, so spend the time to seriously answer these questions, lest you rush into a bad decision.

The Responsibility of Imperfection

Here’s a piece of information I find liberating: None of us are perfect, nor are we expected to be. While I make an effort to do my best at whatever it is I’m doing, in my imperfection I often miss the mark, screw up, or fall short.

While knowing that I’m not perfect frees me up to try, fail and improve, knowing that I’m imperfect also reminds me that with imperfection comes responsibility. When we screw up or say the wrong thing, or a host of other things imperfect people do, we should be quick to:

  • Apologize to those we’ve hurt or negatively impacted
  • Own our mistakes instead of giving excuses or looking for someone else to blame
  • Ask for forgiveness when needed

We should also be quick to avoid expecting perfection from others and be equally quick to show grace to others when they fall short, because isn’t that what we’d like from others?

Let’s work at being responsible with our imperfections, and graceful to others in theirs.

Face It 

We’ve had a busy week at our house.  One filled with unpleasant trips the dentist and unexpected visits to the veterinarian for a sick cat.  Neither of these events has been very enjoyable, but what they’ve lacked in joy, they’ve made up for in unexpected expenses!  Regardless, unexpected events are a part of life, and when they occur, we have a choice.  We can run from them, ignore them, or face them.

Unexpected events, especially when more than one of them occurs at the same time, can feel overwhelming.  When we’re overwhelmed we may feel like ignoring or putting off what we know we need to do.  While this may sound good in the short term, failing to act only prolongs the situation.  I think it’s best to face it and take the action we know we need to take.  It’s ok to be overwhelmed, and nothing says we have to enjoy unpleasant experiences, but after we’ve had a moment or two to be feel overwhelmed, it’s time to face it.

The best way to get through a bad situation is to face it and start moving toward a solution.

Change

Our church is currently in the middle of a couple of significant changes.  We’re looking for a lead pastor and a youth pastor as well.  Fortunately, it’s a good thing.  Both of them left on excellent terms to pursue the next step in their careers.  Even so, the congregation is sad to see them go and interested in seeing what this change will bring.

I’m again reminded how constant change is in our lives.  As a result, I want to make sure I’m not defaulting to being afraid of change, but instead deciding how I want to view change as I live my life.  For me, there are 3 thoughts about change that I try to keep in mind:

  1. If there’s something I’m currently enjoying in my life, don’t take it for granted. Be thankful for it and enjoy it while you have it, because you never know when things may change.
  2. All the things I currently enjoy usually entered my life as the result of a change of some sort. Therefore, with regard to change, I’m always asking, “What does this make possible?”
  3. As a Christian, I know that God never changes, and He is with me no matter what changes I experience.

These thoughts give me the mindset to see change not as tragic event or something to be avoided, but as fertile ground for new opportunities.  If you’re looking for something different or new in your life, the only way it will happen is through some sort of change.

The next time you’re facing a change, whether you chose it or not, consider one or all of the thoughts mentioned above.  You just might be on the cusp of something exciting… and you won’t want to miss it.

Turning Off The Auto-pilot

I like being in control.  Not in a “control-freakish” kind of way, but being in control of how I respond to events and scenarios I’m presented with every day, instead of automatically reacting.

Just because I like being in control of how I respond doesn’t mean that I always do it as well as would prefer.  Unless I’m consciously aware of how I want to respond to life every day, I find it easy to drift along on “mental auto-pilot” and automatically respond to the day’s events without much thought.

I listened to an excellent podcast from Brendon Bruchard this week that discussed how high performers have the habit of deciding in advance how they want to feel during a specific events or scenarios.  By defining in advance how we want to feel, we can avoid the feelings (usually negative ones) that automatically will arise.

For example, if we know we’re going to be giving a speech making a presentation to a large group, we may be confronted with fear, but that don’t mean we have to feel afraid.  We can decide ahead of time that when we’re confronted with this fear, we will instead choose to feel confident, prepared and capable.  We’re not required to feel afraid.  We can choose a different feeling.

I think this is a potential life-changing concept that can improve our relationships, careers, and attitudes, which can improve the quality of our lives.  All we have to do is be willing to turn of the mental auto-pilot and chose how we’re going to feel.

What We Don’t Know

We think we know more than we actually do.  Consider the following scenarios:

Scenario What we think
Someone cuts us off in traffic. They are mean-spirited jerks and did that to us on purpose.
Someone is short or rude with us. They are also a jerk, just like the person who cut us off in traffic!  What a jerk.  What a rude jerk!
We reach out to someone via email, text, or phone call and they don’t respond. They must be mad at us.

The “What we think” column sounds rather petty as I write this, but I’ll admit that I’ve often made quick judgments in similar scenarios.   What I’ve discovered is that my quick judgments, like the ones above, are seldom, if ever, accurate.

What if, for example:

  • The person who cut us off in traffic didn’t see us when they were getting over and would have been mortified to know they had done that.
  • The person who was short with me just got a bad medical diagnoses about themselves or a loved one.
  • The person who didn’t respond to an email or text has been preoccupied with an urgent family emergency or has just been busy and hasn’t had the chance to respond, even though they have been thinking about us.

The next time we’re presented with a similar scenario, let’s consider something besides or initial negative judgement; perhaps a response with a little more grace and understanding.  Just like the type of response we’d like to receive.

Different Perspectives

It’s easy to put a plan together when you’re the only person creating the plan.  As soon as you get another person involved in the planning, it gets even more difficult, because the other person has their own thoughts and beliefs about how the plan should look.  And you can be assured that their plan is not 100% like yours.

The larger the group, the more challenging it becomes to reach agreement because there are so many different ideas, beliefs, and perspectives that are shaping each person’s idea of what an ideal plan or strategy should look like.  This gives me an appreciation for the work required of a large group to come to an agreement.  And by “large group”, I’m referring to any group with greater than 1 person.

Being aware of differing ideas, beliefs, and perspectives in a team environment reminds me that just because someone has a different idea or plans than I do, doesn’t mean that they’re against my plan or ideas, or that they “just don’t get it”.  Rather, it reminds me that they likely have a perspective that I don’t or a belief that I don’t hold.  Whatever the case, they are bringing a proposal that aligns with how they see the problem, and also how they believe it should be solved.  And that’s good, because without their input, I would not have considered their perspective.

The next time you’re in a group of people that are trying to create a plan or make a decision, resist the urge to become frustrated when people don’t come to the same conclusions that you do.  Instead, see it as an opportunity to understand how another group or person might view the situation.  Who knows, you might even have your own perspective changed.