It is often ironic that successful people around us make bad decisions – Oscar Pistorius shoots his girlfriend, Tiger Woods cheats on his wife, Lance Armstrong uses enhancement drugs. The fact is that the more successful people become, the more options opens up for them – the more options one has, the harder it is to make the right decision. Opportunities successful people have dreamed about their whole life are suddenly available and attainable – a hunting trip, fishing in exotic places, sponsored golf excursions, talk shows on TV, key note speaker opportunities in conferences, meeting important and influential people etc.
But it is not only they who fall prey to this. We are all experiencing on a daily basis that we make a decision ‘because it feels right at that moment’. When we reflect on it later, we are disappointed with ourselves for making such a poor choice. I recently had a call from a marketing agent offering me a large discount on an impressive portfolio of excellent wines. My immediate response was to accept it with gratitude. When I saw the impact this decision had on my budget later that week, I regretted that decision. If one does not have a crystal clear focus and vision defined, it is guaranteed that life will get ‘messy’. Your life will start to spin out of control. Your program will be determined by others and you will get swamped with ‘stuff’. This is when things like family relations, quality of life and a feeling of ‘over-extending myself’ take over.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to make the right decision for me at a specific time when it really matters? The objective is to have clarity on what is the right thing at this moment in time for me in every key area of my life.
Here are 3 Key Steps to follow towards making the right decision:
1. Take a monthly ‘Time-Out’.
The most difficult part of making the right decision is not to define the priorities and things that matter most in one’s life, but to allow oneself the time to reflect and evaluate these matters. The challenge is to book out at least once a month 3-5 hours in your work schedule to sit back and work through these matters. This should have the same priority as an appointment with your primary client (no calls taken etc.)
2. Define your life essence.
Once we allow ourselves the luxury to define the essence of each part of our lives, we simplify life and make tough decisions simpler. Think through each sector of your life – career / work, finances, relationships (family, friends), spiritual, health, entertainment / fun. What are your objectives and goals for the coming month and start allocating time to them in your diary. When life happens, you have to be ready to make trade-offs, but it helps a lot to know what you are trading off against each other. Your wife’s cesarean for your first-born is scheduled at 10:00 on Monday morning, but one of your overseas clients requests a critical conference call with you at 09:00. Will you try to juggle both balls or trade off one against the other? How will you decide which one is more important that the other? If you have not been afforded the time to think this through carefully, chances are that you will tie yourself in a knot over this and most probably make a bad decision.
3. Keep a journal
One of the most valuable habits I have adopted into my life was when I started keeping a regular, daily journal. I have to confess that I still do not write in it every day, but I do it at least 4 to 5 days a week. This has become a vital source for my ‘Time-Out’ sessions as it helps me to evaluate my actions of the past month. Writing about my day has also become a source of clarity and focus in times when things were difficult to comprehend, e.g. when my wife and son died in a car accident..
This journey is not one to venture on alone. Find yourself a Coach or a Mentor or contract your life partner (wife/husband) to be your accountability partner and ‘soundboard’ against whom you can test your ideas, get feedback on decisions and help you define the essence of each part of your life.
I will appreciate comments on this article and also feedback on other matters you would like me to address in this forum. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the best books to read on this subject is: ‘Essentialism: The disciplined pursuit of less’ by Greg McKeown.