Section 1: FOCUSING ON GOODNESS
THE ANATOMY OF AN IMPORTANT CHOICE
When You Have an Important Choice to Make
Since we have repeatedly made the point that our lives (and our goodness) are dependent on the choices we make, we decided to include a lesson on the fundamentals of making an important choice. Obviously, many of our small choices can be made “on the fly,” but the really important ones require more time, thought, and effort. Here are some suggested steps to follow the next time you have an important choice to make.
Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing
are the same thing.
Most poor choices are made in trigger-happy moments when we don’t take the time to give some real consideration to the impact or long-term implication of what we were about to do. We wanted to do it, so by golly we did . . . only to find out later that it was a big mistake. So the purpose of this lesson is to help you prevent such mistakes by devoting some quality thinking time and a step-by-step process to any important choice you need to make.
People are different, circumstances are different, and choices are different, so there is no cookie-cutter way to make an effective choice. But our efforts to make an important choice can be much more productive if we make that choice in a well-thought-out and organized way. Here is a framework that you will find helpful as you consider the steps you should follow in making important choices in your life. The next time you are facing a big or potentially life-changing choice, pull out this lesson and let it “step you through” your decision in a thoughtful way.
THE 12 STEPS IN MAKING AN IMPORTANT CHOICE
1. Take some time to assess your situation.
Don’t just assume you have a clear picture of things. Start your choice-making process by taking the time to define your current circumstances and specifically why a new or better choice is needed. Reflect on how your current circumstances developed . . . why are you in this moment? It’s a good idea to make notes as you think about the circumstances as this first step may actually be a series of thinking sessions or discussions. Having notes from your previous thinking sessions will be helpful.
2. Confirm your alternatives (choices).
What are your options? Take some time to define the alternatives you have. Most likely, there are several choices that you could make. What are they, and how would you define each one? It’s important to complete this step before you zero in on what in the early going appears to be your best alternative. Zeroing in too early can cause you to overlook a viable alternative. If you have someone close to you whose opinion you trust, this is a good time to get them involved as they may suggest alternatives that you would have otherwise not thought about.
3. Evaluate and rank the choices (alternatives) you have.
There are pluses and minuses to most of the choices we can make. Here, we are suggesting that you consider what those might be and rank the alternatives you have—top to bottom—in some way. The guiding premise at this point should be what is best for you. There may be things later that prevent you from making the number one choice, but you need a good understanding—again, top to bottom—as to what is best for you.
4. Schedule more evaluation time as needed.
Depending on the circumstances, it could take you days, weeks, or even months to identify the alternatives that you have. Schedule as much time as you can (and need) to identify what you consider to be your alternatives. Sometimes life gives us deadlines we have to meet and such is the case with many of the major choices we make. But, if possible, take a reasonable amount of time to arrive at the choice you feel is best for you.
5. Select the choice you need (or want) to make.
You’ve identified the alternatives that you have and the resulting choices you could make. You have thought about them and considered which one is the best for you. You may have even lost some sleep over this decision, but, at some point you have to make it. Select the choice that you deem to be your best alternative. Consider it carefully and start to think about what will be required of you to fully implement it . . . the things you will have to do to make this choice become reality.
6. Discuss your choice with others (while performing additional research if needed).
The choice in our head always gets better defined when we explain it to someone else. Such a discussion gives us the opportunity to clarify our choice and to tweak it a bit if warranted. These discussions can help us determine if more research or homework is needed. So once you have selected the choice you intend to make, discuss your choice with people you respect and trust and whose opinion you value. The more important the choice, the more important these discussions will be, so select your discussion partners wisely.
7. Reconfirm the choice you are making.
You may have mentally made this choice days, weeks, possibly months ago, but given the discussions you’ve had and any additional research you may have done, you need to reconfirm the choice you are about to make. This is simply a time with yourself, possibly with your notes as well, when you make one final gut check and confirm your choice to yourself. It would be helpful if you finished out your notes by rewriting your choice at the end of them.
8. Share the choice you have made.
After you have personally made your choice, and hopefully entered it in your notes as well, you need to communicate your decision to others . . . to someone close to you, possibly to your whole family, and to those individuals who participated in discussions with you as you were thinking through alternatives and the choice you were about to make. This is a very important step, but the size and number of your audience is not. You are in effect “forming your team” as these will be the people who will be pulling for you, possibly helping you in some special way, as you work to make your choice a reality.
9. Complete your implementation plans.
Almost all important choices require some period of time to implement. Although you may have been working on these for some time, now is the time to finalize your plans to implement the choice you have made. Depending on the choice, the real work is just beginning, and you need good plans to see you through. You may have started on your “action list” before you finalized your choice, but now is the time to review it carefully and outline the major steps involved in turning your choice into reality.
10. Track your progress.
This could be a continuation of the notes in the notebook you developed. You don’t have to document everything, but it is very helpful if you can summarize the steps ahead of you. As you complete these, check them off and add any new ones that are now a part of your plans. Be sure to go back and review your progress from time to time. In addition to tracking your progress personally, share the steps you have completed with others, including those individuals you talked with when first evaluating the choice.
11. Adjust as needed, and work to complete.
Some adjustments will likely be needed as you work to complete the implementation of your choice. Stay alert to such needs and be willing to tweak your plans as needed. But be careful that you don’t let some “tough time” or moment sidetrack you from achieving the choice you have made. The bigger and more important the choice, the more likely you are to have difficult moments, some that might make you want to change your mind. Don’t do it . . . stay focused, work hard, and you will get there.
12. Feel good about yourself.
Your choice, especially a very important one, will likely take you on a journey that you’ll be on for the remainder of your life. At some point, you’ll know that out of that choice you made, possibly months or years ago, something good, hopefully wonderful, has happened in your life. You’ll know when the congratulations are due…but, be sure to stop and congratulate yourself on a choice well made.
We didn’t list this as a separate step as it is something you can apply or ask yourself at various times as you work your way through your decision process: Will this choice allow me to help others in some way now or at some future date? A yes answer is a good indication that you are on the right track. The stronger the yes (“most definitely” you might say to yourself), the more assured you can be that your choice will be good for you and for others as well.
You can, of course, adjust or expand these steps as needed. Clearly, some choices are more important and more complicated than others and, therefore, require more time and
details to complete. The benefit of following these steps, however, is that it affords you an organized opportunity to think things through and consider as many facts and facets as possible. This process increases your chances that your choice will be a good and effective one.
Be wise today so you don't cry tomorrow.
The Most Important Step of All: The Goodness Test
What is the most important choice you have made in your life so far?
Was the choice you made a good one or a poor one?
Can you identify a recent choice made by someone you know that was a poor choice?
Why do you think they made that choice?
Do you think they learned anything as a result? If so, what?
What do you think are the most important choices you will be making in the next few years?
How will you go about making these choices?
Is there someone you trust with whom you can discuss these choices as you make them?