The Principle of the Path by Andy Stanley – In this simple, short book, Stanley lays out a key principle for life; “Direction not intention determines destination.” We may desire with all of our heart to travel to California, but if we drive in the wrong direction, we will never arrive. We may desire with all of our heart to meet the perfect spouse, but if we only look in bars, we are likely on the wrong path. He encourages us to consider the path that our choices lead. I have used this principle in my life a thousand times, and it almost always creates clarity for me.
The One Thing by Gary Keller – While not directly about decision-making, Keller’s book walks us through a process of identifying and focusing on the most important thing, whatever that might be. When we have a vision of our North Star, decisions become simpler. We know what is a distraction and what is an aid.
“When I have an important decision to make, my tendency is to get more input, not less. I approach my daily decisions and plans for the future like a hoarder gathering opinions, facts, perspectives, and lists. But what if I approached them like a minimalist: clearing space, quieting my mind, and listening for whispers in the silence?” Emily Freeman, The Next Right Thing
“What’s the ONE Thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary? Gary Keller, The One Thing
When fear shapes our lives, safety becomes our god. When safety becomes our god, we worship the risk-free life. Max Lucado, Fearless
Pause – There are two types of decisions: one in which you have clarity right from the beginning; the other type has some level of uncertainty. When the decision is absolutely clear in your mind, decide boldly. If you have any questions about what to do, learn to take a pause. Linger with the decision for a set amount of time, whether that is overnight or one week. Allow your mind the space to process all of the variables. Often, all you need is space to gain the clarity that is absent when the decision first confronts you. If you are still unclear, consider the steps below. In the end, if clarity is not present, say “no.” Reserve your “yes” for the best, not the borderline.
Be Wrong in the Right Direction – A wise retail consultant once told me, “You’re going to be wrong in retail 100% of the time: wrong sizes, wrong colors, wrong amounts. The key is to be wrong in the right direction.” I have found this wisdom useful for decision-making ever since. When confronted with a decision, I take the pressure off myself by acknowledging that there might not be a right or a wrong. What is important is which decision will be wrong in the right direction. Will this decision create debt? Will it overwhelm me? Will it bring me joy? Is it good?
Consider the Path – Andy Stanley advises to consider the path that your decision will take you. Relationships are paths. Careers are paths. Where you live is a path. When making a choice, consider, is the path leading you to the destination you desire.
Pray – Prayer may seem like a passive way of deciding, but if we believe in a living God, then prayer is the wisest thing we can do. We cannot see the future. He can. He knows all of the unintended consequences that will usher from your decision. Pray for His wisdom and then listen. You may be surprised at how often God finds a way to communicate His thoughts to you.