Decision-Making: Personal and Life Choices
“Preparation for Better Personal and Life Choices”
by William M. Pinson, Jr., Th.D. with Lloyd Elder, Th.D.
adapted from SkillTrack® Vol. 10 – Decision-Making
Series Introduction: Article #99 through #104
Objective: The common objective of the six articles in this series is to develop and enrich the making of personal and life choices based on substantial preparation, foundational principles, and proven practices.
Joshua’s Choice: At a crucial time for the Jewish people, their leader swept up into one grand declaration that bound together the issues of his own life, that of the people, and of their common destiny:
Joshus 24:14-15: “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for
yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fore fathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household we will serve the Lord.”
Context: Within the larger context of a lifetime of decision-making, these articles properly focus on the volume, reality, and significance of personal and life choices. The basic decision-making process described in the previous series
applies both to personal and group decisions The quality of these choices affects a person’s relationships to others and performance in workplace.
Leadership: The Christian servant leader participates in many group decisions, both small group and congregational. In the midst of these, the leader makes numerous decision that are personal, related to such areas as ministry calling, place
of service, ethical concerns, style of leadership, family, finances, mortality, and others.
Tapestry Weaving: Decision-making in our lives is somewhat like the weaving of a tapestry. It is composed of countless threads. What it portrays or symbolizes does not apear clearly until near the end of the weaving. Similarly, the final
pattern of our lives may not be clearly evident until near the end. But we can be sure that every thread that has been put into life affects the final product. –T. B. Maston & W. M. Pinson,
Right or Wrong, p. 13
Now, to the topic of this article: Preparation.
Preparation for decision-making and personal choices is serious business and should never be taken lightly. Good decision-making requires staying in shape in order to make the best choices possible. A poorly conditioned football team will not play well. A concert
singer must prepare for every performance. Similarly, a poorly conditioned decision-maker will not choose well. Spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional factors all relate to making good decisions. Let’s take a look at each of these, starting with balance:
One of the best ways to prepare for better personal and life choices is to live a life in balance. Take an example from driving your auto. What is the one of the earliest warnings that you may experience an auto driving breakdown, or even a possible accident?
For me, especially at Interstate speed, it is that dreaded sound of a wheel out-of-balance. The noise may be difficult to mimic on this keyboard, but I can recall it clearly through remembered experience.
So it is for us in daily living. A life lived out of balance is very noisy but it may be ignored. Or it could become an early alert signal that trouble is near at hand; I can stop, think, and do something about it. Just so, why not prepare to make better choices
by bringing congruence and harmony with your life principles, values, relationships, and activities? Ask yourself the question, “Am I living my life as a whole with quality and balance?” Jesus did and commands us to do so:
Luke 2:51-52, of Jesus: “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”
Luke 10: 27, Jesus love Commandment: “He answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all you strength.”
Balancing daily life issues prepares for better decisions about them all:
(See Study Resource at end of article.)
Spiritual conditioning plays a vital role in making good choices. Keep in
mind that God is the ultimate authority for decisions. His will ought to be
sought in every dcision, large and small. (see also SLT #36).
Proverbs states this truth: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight" (Prov. 3:5-6). Such assurance
enables us to move forward in making decisions with confidence, but keep in
mind that this is a conditioned promise. If we trust in the Lord with all
our heart, if we lean not unto our own understanding–then He will direct
our paths. Therefore, staying close to God–an essential ingredient of good
spiritual conditioning–provides the basis for making correct choices.
Calvin Miller writes: “Great leadership always gets God involved
in the process. . . . Servant leadership wants God close at hand.”
–C. Miller, The Empowered Leader, pp. 83-84
Good spiritual condition requires attention to certain fundamentals, just as good physical condition does. What are these? Prayer, quiet times with God, devotional reading of the Bible–these all play a part. Holy Scripture provides specific guidance on
many, if not all, personal choices. The psalmist affirms a centerpiece of conditioning: Psalm 119:105–“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” So does exercising faith through personal witness and ministry. We become spiritually
fit by joining God and God’s people in sacrificial service to others. How is your spiritual fitness program? Daniel had an enduring focus:
“But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.” –Daniel 1:8
The person who stays close to God remains aware that God’s grace and
forgiveness are ever available. Fear of making a wrong decision can paralyze
you, preventing you from making a good decision. Failure to seek and follow
God’s will and principles will lead to bad decisions. Remember, though,
that God stands ready to forgive. Decisions can take you out of God’s
will but never out of His reach: “If we are faithless, he will
remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Tim. 2:13).
Knowing this should not lead to reckless decision-making, counting on
God’s forgiveness no matter what we do. However, this truth lends comfort
in the face of the fact that we will often be wrong in what we decide.
Good decision-making, including personal choices, requires mental preparation. Amazingly, many leaders spend much time studying all sorts of things other than decision-making. Yet making decisions affects everything else. What does mental preparation involve?
- Mentally, sort out and identify a rational decision-making process; other
SL articles set out these elements.
- Study books, articles, and information from the Internet on
decision-making–plenty of material is available.
- File away this material and your analysis for future reference.
- Talk with persons who obviously function well in decision-making,
seeking guidance and suggestions.
- Read biographies about persons who were or are effective decision-makers
for insights on how they function.
- Participate in conferences, seminars, and courses that deal
- Review available resources on critical and systems thinking.
- Emotional Fitness:
Emotions play a significant role in decision-making, good and bad. A person
who is angry or stressed out is less likely to make good choices than one
who is calm and in good self-control. Attitude of the servant leader ought
to be one of serving others. This calls for making decisions based on what
seems best for all concerned, especially for other persons. A decision out
of spite, or to get even with another, or out of jealousy is beneath the desired
character of a Christian servant leader. How can a person remain in good emotional
fitness? Admittedly, it is not an easy thing to do. Here are some suggestions:
- Stay focused on Christ, as the Bible puts it: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). Practice the presence of Christ. Note that Jesus’ anger was not kindled by insults or slights to him but by the
mistreatment of others. Anger does have its place. But to remain in a state of anger is not healthy. The Bible teaches,
“don’t let the sun go down on your wrath” (Eph. 4:26).
- Practice good emotions. Meditate on allowing the fruit of the Spirit to have free reign in your life–“love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22-23). These good emotions will ferret
out the bad and enable you to function in a positive, constructive manner in making decisions.
- Be aware of what your trigger-points are for negative emotions, such as out-of-bounds anger, envy, or self-pity. These are especially dangerous in decision-making situations. Most of us, with a bit of practice, can become aware of when we
are about to “go over the edge” and lose control. When that feeling comes, concentrate on cooling down–take deep breaths, walk around, and if possible, get away from the situation that is causing you to “lose it.”
- If you seem constantly to have difficulty maintaining emotional stability, seek a reputable Christian counselor. Often such a person can help you discover the source of your emotional instability and find ways to either control or cure it. The cause may
be a bio-chemical one; if such is the case, medication may help.
[See SL article #10 for additional direction on self-understanding.]
Physical fitness is related to emotional and spiritual fitness. Sometimes the cause for destructive emotions rests in physical illness. A person in constant, unrelieved pain may find it difficult to stay on top of things emotionally, for example. A person who
suffers fatigue from poor diet, lack of exercise, and inadequate sleep undermines the possibility of making good choices.
- Beware of making major decisions when you are weary and fatigued.
- Seek to be in tip-top physical condition all of the time, but especially when faced with making choices that greatly affect you and others.
- Often certain physical signs indicate strong negative emotions or may be a way of signaling that not all is well with the decision.
- Pay attention to these physical expressions, such as a sour or dry taste in the mouth, hair standing on end, knot in the stomach, or a feeling that darkness is moving in around you. Of course, these may only indicate that the decision is a
difficult one. But they may also alert you to the need to hold up the process until you feel more in control.
Closing Reflection: Self-assessment is one way to start a “decision-making fitness program.” Make your own notation about the following elements, and then add your own:
- Prayer–personal and with others.
- Meditation–a quiet time with God, planned and extempornaneous.
- Devotional Bible study, for your own needs.
- Ministry to human needs, planned and at random.
- Sharing your faith with others, in word, example, and deed.
- Study/reading up on decision-making.
- Seminars or workshops, on process of personal choices.
- Personal or peer-group learning.
Study Resource: A Harvard Business Review: On Work and Life Balance
Harvard Business School Press, 2000;
Article: “Work and Life” by Stewart D. Friedman, et. al., pp. 1-2, 27-29
Resource Abstract prepared by Lloyd Elder
This is a very substantive book with insightful review articles on the subject of time use; only the first article is introduced here, reflecting on both purpose and balance:
Most companies view work and personal life as competing
priorities in a zero-sum game, in which a gain in one area means a loss
in the other.
A new breed of managers, however, is trying a new tack,
one in which managers and employees collaborate to achieve work and personal
objectives to everyone’s benefit.
These managers are guided by three principles with an emphasis
on “what is important”:
- Clearly inform employees about business priorities and encourage
them to be clear about personal priorities.
- Recognize and support employees as whole persons, celebrating their
roles outside of work.
- Experiment with creative ways to get work done and to allow employees
to pursue personal goals.
- Clearly inform employees about business priorities and encourage
© 2010 servantleaderstoday.com; hosted and copyrighted by Lloyd Elder
& Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at www.servantleaderstoday.com
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church