Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. So many decisions. How do you know whether you’re making a good decision or a bad decision? According to Google (yeah that’s right I googled it) adults make 35,000 conscious decisions per day. A young child makes closer to 3000. This sounds a little excessive to me but I don’t really have the time to test Google’s estimation so I’m going to roll with it. No matter the number, we know we are making decisions all day long. Most of our decisions are inconsequential. From how much milk to pour into your cereal to whether you’ll stand on that crack on the footpath or step over it. However many choices we make have significant consequences and many of our choices compound. If you make that financial purchase it will lead to another financial decision later. It will affect you for either better or worse.
So how do you make decisions that set you up for a better future? Here’s a filter I call the 4W’s.
If you’re a Christian then this should be absolutely critical to your decision making process. As a Christian our highest end is to glorify God. We seek to live a life that is pleasing to Him. Before making a significant decision consider how it reflects on God and his reputation. Does it please Him? How will others view God in light of your decision? It’s easy to forget that before anything else you are a child of God. Before you are husband or wife; spouse or sibling; employee or employer – you are a Christian! You not only consider the affects of your decision on your own future or others but on God.
If you’re not a Christian then maybe think of this as ‘Valuable’. How will your decision meet up with your highest values? As a Christian our highest value is God. We seek His pleasure and His purposes and believe that all things that lead to His glory also lead to our joy.
Before making that decision think – Is It Worshipful?
I learnt this from Andy Stanley. He’s taught and written much on ‘Wise Decision Making’ and it’s super helpful. Andy encourages us to not think through the lens of right and wrong, but wise and foolish. Is it the wise thing to do? 1 Corinthians speaks of a similar distinction when Paul writes to the Church at Corinth.
12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.’ 1 Cor. 6:12
Paul challenged his audience to not just think through the lens of right and wrong. There may be some things that God is ok with you choosing – it’s lawful – but is it helpful? Is it a wise decision? Yes alcohol is lawful, but is it helpful for you? Maybe it’s controlling your life? Yes having a better half is lawful, but is it helpful for you right now? Do you really need that distraction at this point in your life? Yes buying that home is lawful, but is it helpful to spend that amount of money based on what you currently earn? You get the point. Don’t just think right and wrong.
Before making that decision think – Is It Wise?
Again you may not be a Christian and therefore might think to tune out on this one. But it applies to you also. The big idea here is to think how your decision affects others. In our narcissistic culture we are told time and again to not worry about what others think or say. As long as you’re happy and not hurting anyone. This isn’t the worst advice in the world but it is narrow, self-centred and undefined. What classifies as ‘hurting someone’? When we say ‘happy’ are we thinking short term or long term?
In a free society you will always live with the tension between individual responsibility and community responsibility. For an individual to flourish, the community must not supress or restrict the individual. For a community to flourish, individuals must consider what leads to the flourishing of the whole. If you’re a Christian I really want to encourage you to consider personal decisions in light of the community you find yourself a part of.
A good example of this was my Life Group from church. We meet together every fortnight to eat, hang out and encourage each other in life. Being on a Friday night most of our group would drink some form of alcohol (wine or beer). It was lawful and personally helpful. People enjoyed it. However we had a new member join our group who was attending AA. For her alcohol wasn’t helpful it was hurtful and she had made a ‘WISE’ decision to not drink. As a Life Group we decided to lay aside our freedom and make a decision to not drink alcohol to benefit her. This was a decision that was about our witness. We modelled to her what true love looks like. Love lays aside personal rights and preferences to benefit the other. This is how Jesus treated us. He laid aside his life to benefit our life (Phil. 2:1-11).
How will your decision affect others? How will it affect their view of God? What example does it set to others in following Jesus? How will it help and bless others?
Before making that decision think – Is It a Good Witness?
This may seem redundant but I have found it is really necessary to consider. In fact it is this question that really determines the outcome of most people’s new years resolutions. For example how many people at the beginning of the year decide they want to get healthy? They sign up for the yearly gym membership and start strong. Only for March to roll around and it’s been two weeks since they’ve seen a treadmill. Why? Because every time they ate that food or reset that alarm, they didn’t ask the question – will this decision work? Will it help you get where you want to be?
Think about marriage. How many marriages don’t get to where they could be because other decisions were made that undermine the ultimate goal? This is about priority. What is most important? Do those behaviours and decisions help or hinder where you ultimately want to get to? When you are clear on the end game it helps you to say yes or no, now or later.
I want to have a great marriage! Ok so will having coffee with that person of the opposite sex help or hinder? Will it work?
I want to finish Uni with honours! Great. Will hitting those parties regularly help or hinder? Will it work?
I really want a career in _______! Awesome. Will playing it safe in that job you don’t really like help or hinder? Will it work?
Before making that decision think – Is It Working?
This is a simple filter but I have found it effective in my decision making process. You already have a filter whether conscious or unconscious. The question is whether it’s a good one or not. These 4 questions help me. If a decision hits on all four I’m confident to go ahead. If it doesn’t it gives me pause to reconsider and go through the filter again. I hope this may help you or at least get you thinking about your own process for making decisions to set you up for a better future.