Making and then acting upon sound decisions

October 31, 2011
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Whether you feel it best to simply avoid them, live in frustration because of them or view them as an opportunity to shine, decisions are a necessary part of life.

Though some parents (and supervisors) try to protect others from the consequences of poor choices by catching them before they fall, nobody is completely isolated from the decision-making process. Some may wish they had a roadmap that would provide a definitive route upon which to travel. Others would like a detailed instruction sheet so that they know that the actions they take have a high likelihood of succeeding (though there are some that would refer to such directions as a last resort if nothing else works). 

A select few, however, see each decision as an opportunity to choose — which road to take, what path to follow, when to climb (or circumvent) a mountain — the intentional actions to be taken that allow for the exercising of independent judgment to accomplish new and different things.

There are as many approaches to making decisions in life as there are people living it, and therein lies the problem. 

Since no two people are alike, no two decisions will be alike, either. There are very few absolutely “correct answers” to a question (though some may be better). Nor is any one answer completely wrong. Depending on the situation, the timing, the results required (and the immediacy of those results), any action should be considered better than inaction. Refining the possibilities helps to minimize risk and maximize success, but life is truly the ongoing result of the decisions we make and the actions we take.

Life is not a spectator sport. It requires careful consideration, intelligent planning and intentional action. Most successful individuals establish rules they use to hold themselves accountable for their actions.

While everyone lives by some set of values and ethics, some of the rules that provide the “highest return on investment” would include the following:

  • It is OK and natural to dislike parts of any job, situation or relationship. It is not OK to avoid, refuse to do, or ignore the parts you dislike — or to discuss openly your dissatisfaction with others not having a need to know your opinion.

We accomplish much more when we move forward with a positive attitude than we do by complaining as we go about things we cannot  influence or control.

  • It is OK to make a mistake, but do not repeat the same mistake. Everyone who makes decisions will make their share of wrong decisions. You probably never act if you are never wrong. We prefer that every choice we make would lead us to prosperity, but it is OK to make a wrong decision on occasion. A well-thought-out decision that results in action is better than no decision at all.

Learn from your errors, using them as a springboard to propel you forward. People will usually work with you as long as you continue to show measurable progress or the ability (and willingness) to grow.

  • Focus on things you can control rather than worrying about those you can’t. Identify obstacles that are within your sphere of influence so that you can remove them and act accordingly. Actively seek to eliminate the hurdles that are outside of your control by giving them up to someone having the ability to influence them.

  • Lying, cheating, or stealing is intolerable. If you are the best performer or individual with the highest results, but those results came through dishonesty or at someone else’s expense, you will not be respected, credible or working (or participating in an ongoing relationship) for very long.

It is always more profitable to elevate yourself and brings others along with you than to diminish others so that you appear to be superior.

  • Results are recognized; effort is merely a means to the end. Don’t seek praise for working hard or contributing greatly; let recognition come your way through the results your effort has achieved.

  • All individuals may speak, question and have a voice in any decision but that does not mean all votes are equal. Life is not a democracy. Input is valued but the individual responsible for the ultimate success of any endeavor must make (and live with the results of) the final decision. Do not confuse “equal” with “equitable” as you live life.

  • Nothing is impossible in life. While some solutions may not be cost-effective, practical or may be beyond our ability to implement, “I can’t,” “It is not possible” and other self-defeating attitudes should not be permitted. Well thought-out solutions to issues you may encounter while doing your job (or during life, in general) are not reasons for celebration; they are simply expectations of the way you should continually exhibit and utilize your abilities.

Everyone comes to a fork in the road — a decision point that forever changes what they have done or where they are going — redirecting all efforts and activities toward the accomplishment of what they have yet to become. Do not walk blindly on an uncharted path or you may end up missing a turn and becoming helplessly mired in a ditch.

Establish the rules YOU choose to live by and then keep them close to you, guiding your steps and actions as you reach for the stars.

David J. Smith, CAE, is president and CEO of The Employers’ Association in Grand Rapids.

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