Decisions determine destiny. You are where you are today because of the decisions you’ve made in the past. The decisions you are making today will determine where you will be tomorrow. The world you see around you was created through decisions. To say that learning to make wise decisions is very important is very important would be an understatement. It’s priceless. Your very life, calling, leadership, success, and fulfillment in life all depend on the decisions you make.
How to Make Wise Decisions
How does one make wise decisions? Great decisions are made with filters. For over a decade now, I’ve had the privilege to coach leaders in various areas of industry. When coaching and mentoring leaders who are making tough decisions, I lead them to use my eight filters for wise decision making. These filters are questions. The questions are not designed to be asked sequentially but to be addressed together during the decision making process. They are filters that ensure that users come up with wise decisions. I call this, the WISE PATH for making decisions. WISE PATH is a mnemonic device to help people remember these questions when they need them. WISE PATH is not a decision-making framework but filters that form the foundation for making great decisions.
1. Worldview / Word of God
The first key to making wise decisions is to pass your decisions through the filter of your worldview. According to the Collins Dictionary, a person or society’s belief system “is the set of beliefs that they have about what is right and wrong and what is true and false” In other words, it is a collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group.
A person’s worldview is their comprehensive philosophy or conception of the world and of human life. It is the overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world. It is their paradigm or the lenses with which they see the world. From it comes our personal values. And if it’s a business, core values reflect the company’s worldview.
To succeed, your decisions must align with your worldview. A decision is a choice. Ask yourself: If I chose this option, would that be congruent with my values and worldview? Does it agree with what I believe? Does it agree with my core values?
Are you an atheist, a believer in a deity, or unsure? It does matter. Your beliefs shape your worldview. A synonym for “Worldview” is “Belief System”.
The point here is to ask yourself, does the decision you are about to make is congruent with who you or your company is on the inside and how you see the world–i.e. your values and worldview?
Related article: 7 Core Values of Success in Everything I Do
NB: The overwhelming majority of people around the world believe in some form of personal God. If your faith means a lot to you and influences the way you live your life, then your faith will also influence your values and your worldview. And that is perfectly fine. If that’s the case, ask your self, does this decision align with the Word of God? Is it in line with the will of God?
If you don’t believe in a personal God, no problem, let your beliefs also influence your worldview. Everybody has a worldview, whether they believe in God or not.
Our decisions are as good as our belief systems. To use another analogy, our worldview/belief system is analogous to the operating system of a computer. Our brains are like the CPU (Central Processing Unit). Just like every input into the computer is processed through the operating system, so it is with our worldview.
Advice: To make sure you stick by your worldview or word, do this:
Clear your heart and conscience of any known sin or wrongdoing.
Sin means missing the mark. It means living in a way that deviates from what you know is the truth according to the word you believe and follow. I’ve said before that our worldview is the glasses through which we see the world. Sin clouds those glasses and makes vision difficult. Confession and repentance are how you clean your glasses so that you can continue to see well. Before you make a big leap, make sure your glasses have been cleaned and you are seeing clearly. Otherwise, you might jump into a hole or worse off the cliff because your vision is so poor you can’t see right.
Synonyms: Worldview, Belief system, Word of God, etc.
2. Information (facts)
The second key to making wise decisions is to get the facts before making the decision. Is this decision based on the facts? Get the facts to make an informed decision. Base your decisions on facts, not feelings. Wise decisions are made by gathering the facts, understanding them, and applying them. Keep in mind the Data, Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom (DIKW) relationship.
Here is some wisdom from the ages for this point:
“Every prudent man acts out of knowledge. How stupid to decide before knowing the facts!”
“Sensible people are careful to stay out of trouble, but stupid people are careless and act too quickly.”
Note: You don’t need to have all the facts. You just need to know enough to make a responsible decision.
To handle the facts well I recommend the following:
1. Bring our heart desires to a position of neutrality.
Become a good scientist and not let the outcome you want to cloud your judgment. As hard as it is, bring your heart to a place where it has no will of its own. This will enable you to be objective.
George Muller, said it this way: “I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter. Nine-tenths of the trouble with people is just here. Nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the Lord’s Will, whatever it may be. When one is truly in this state, it is usually but a little way to the knowledge of what His will is.”
The importance of information in making wise decisions is that the facts will show us the truth. The job of making wise decisions simply becomes making decisions that are in line with the truth. To do this, we must first suspend our own prejudgments and desires so that we can truly handle the information fairly and arrive at the truth.
Unfortunately, many people don’t surrender their own will when they go out seeking the truth. The result becomes that they have selective hearing and sight and only pick information that supports their preconceived notions and desires. The outcome of that is foolish, not wise decision making.
Surrender your will and desires and only seek the truth. Follow the facts no matter where they lead, even if they go against your desires. In the end, you will be happier and make wise decisions.
2. Don’t yield to pressure to compromise pursuing the truth.
It’s not a matter of if but when. If you are making an important decision, there will be huge pressures (both internal and external) to compromise. Be mentally ready and be prepared to stick to the truth to win.
3. Examine your motives.
Our decisions are only as good as the motives that drive them. Check your heart and make sure you have the right motives. If not, check it.
3. Strengths / Strategic capabilities
The third key to making wise decisions is to align your decisions with your strategic strengths. Ask yourself: Does this decision align with our strengths or strategic capabilities? While we are talking about strategic capabilities, do you even have a strategy? If so, does this decision align with your overall strategy?
Do a SWOT analysis if necessary. Go through the steps of strategy and see how your decision might fit into your overall strategy from mission, vision, values, to fulfillment.
Related article: DESIGN: 6 Keys to Finding Your Calling or Element
4. Evaluate the costs vs. benefits and risk vs. reward
The fourth key to making wise decisions is to evaluate the costs vs. benefits and risks vs. rewards. Have you done a Costs/Benefits and Risks/Reward evaluation? If not, do a Cost/Benefit Analysis: Do the potential benefits justify the potential costs? What if the costs exceed expectations, and the benefits fall below expectations? Estimate the Risk/Reward Ratio. Estimate all possible rewards as well as all possible risks. Are the odds in your favor or against you? Look at the effects (good and bad) and the evidence for and against. Who will be impacted by the decision? (both directly and indirectly).
Here are a couple of wisdom proverbs for this point.
“It is foolish and rash to make a decision before counting the costs.”
“A sensible person watches for problems ahead and prepares to meet them. The simpleton never looks and suffers the consequences.”
**When you handle information well (above) and surrender your will and desires so that they don’t get in the way, you will be able to evaluate the situation fairly.
5. Peace after Prayer / Reflection / Meditation
My fifth key to making wise decisions is to look for peace in my heart. Listen to your heart, your intuition, your gut instincts.
Persist in prayer, meditation, reflection –whatever works for you. Important decisions may take weeks or even years to make while easy ones take minutes.
After doing this, ask: Do I feel peace about this decision?
I don’t proceed with a particular direction until I feel peace about it.
Be Patient. Don’t rush. Don’t move until you find peace. The universe bows to those who are patient and seek the truth. God will make everything work for good.
Another helpful thing at this stage is to ask yourself: Why are we choosing to make a decision? Is the motivation inspiring or demanding/condemning? Is this decision motivated by fear/avoidance of pain or is it inspired by a promise of pleasure/opportunity?
I find that fear is not usually a good reason to make a decision to change course. Love, faith, and hope for a brighter future is a much better guiding star to follow than fear.
My sixth key to making wise decisions is to consult at least two or three advisors with expertise in the area. I talk to people who have made similar decisions, started similar ventures or been in similar circumstances. I find that it’s best to also talk to people who know your DESIGN. Have you consulted at least 2-3 expert advisors?
Another very helpful question is to ask: What would happen if the public knew of your decision? The public doesn’t have to agree with your decision but it’s often useful to imagine what would happen if the public were to vote Yes/No on whether your idea was wise or not. How would your family vote? How would employees, shareholders, customers, and the entire public vote if they knew the circumstances you were dealing with?
Here is some wisdom from the ancients:
“Plans succeed through good counsel; don’t go to war without the advice of others.”
“Without advice, plans go wrong, but with many advisers, they succeed.”
“The more advice you get, the more likely you are to win.”
7. Timing and Circumstances
The seventh key to making wise decisions is to look at the timing and circumstances. There is a right time and a right place for everything. Have you looked at the timing and circumstances to see if they are right? If you do the right thing at the wrong time or in the wrong circumstances, you won’t get the results you want. Are the timing and circumstances right?
Related Article: Opportunity Comes in Waves, Get Ready To Surf
8. Higher purpose
My last key to making wise decisions is to surrender or subordinate the decision to my higher purpose. A higher purpose is crucial to leading an effective organization or personal life. An organization’s higher purpose is often defined as “the difference it is trying to make in the world.” An often forgotten part that must go with it is the difference it is trying to make in the people who work there –a difference at the level of character and the soul. We have to do work that helps make us better human beings while at the same time making the world a better place. That’s where higher purpose and holiness go together. Some people might not think the word holiness and business belong together. Holiness speaks of purity, integrity, moral purpose, respect, and reverence. Companies have a huge social responsibility to the communities they operate it to be blameless and above reproach. If we don’t start expecting companies to act with integrity and be holy and pure, then they will continue to be corrupt and deceive the people.
Ask yourself: Have you surrendered this decision to your higher purpose?
A company’s higher purpose and what it believes (worldview) are great filters for making wise decisions. But so are the other 8 filters above.
BONUS Summary Filter
Will this decision put or keep you on a wise path to victory? Is this a viable path to success? Lay it out. Lay out your vision for success. Give us your game plan for winning.
WISE PATH doesn’t only work for business decisions. I use it for making personal and family decisions all the time.
Our decisions determine destiny. Your decisions determine your destiny. Your choices determine your future. Discipline determines your destiny.
I hope this helps you make wise decisions.
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