think ahead

More often than we like, most of us face choices that can have serious and lasting impact on our lives. Do we go along with the crowd? Do we tell someone off, quit a job, or end a relationship? Unfortunately, these decisions are not preceded by a drum roll warning us that the stakes are high. Even worse, we often don’t have a lot of time to figure out what to do.

It’s no surprise that most bad decisions — the ones that mess up our lives — are made impulsively or without sufficient reflection.

Ancient proverbs tell us to “count to ten when you’re angry” or “think ahead.” But anger and lack of preplanning are only two factors that can impede excellent decision making. Fatigue, fear, frustration, stress, impatience, and emotions also create obstacles to wise choices.

Just as we learned to look both ways before we cross the street, we can learn to analyze every important decision-making situation to allow us to arrive at conclusions that are both effective and ethical.

Each decision, therefore, should start with a stop – a forced moment of reflection to help us clarify our goal, evaluate the completeness and credibility of our information, and devise an alternate strategy, if necessary, to achieve the best possible result. Stopping also allows us to muster our moral willpower to overcome temptations and emotions that could lead to a rash, foolish, or ill-considered decision.

While it’s great to have a day or two to sleep on a problem, or even a few hours, many situations don’t afford us that luxury. But a pause of even a few seconds can often be enough.

Remember, character counts.

Michael Josephson

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Filed under: Wisdom

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