The #1 Key to Great Decision-Making

Do you trust yourself to make good decisions, or do you find yourself regretting them? How can you be sure that the decisions you’re making are the right ones, every single time?

Anita* sits across from me, a wad of tissues in her hand. She’s been crying for several minutes now as she shares how her husband of six months flew into a rage over the weekend, destroying pictures on the wall and taking a hammer to her pickup truck.

Her oldest daughter, who was in the house at the time, is terrified of her stepdad.

This isn’t the first time Greg* has raged at her. Anita’s told me on several occasions that Greg has a temper. And I’ve witnessed it as well.

As she cries out her hurt and anger over this latest incident, I remember sharing concerns seven months prior about Anita marrying Greg. 

She agreed. Yet she went ahead with the wedding.

Anita’s story is not unusual. Many women struggle to make good decisions, especially when it comes to men. 

Why is that?

The answer has to do with the way we make decisions.

Make decisions based on your values, not just your emotions

Seven months ago, Anita had a difficult decision to make. 

Should she marry Greg or not? 

Unfortunately, she made the wrong decision, and now she and her children are paying dearly for it. But why did she marry him in the first place, with so many clear indicators of who he was?

She married him because she saw “potential.” Her heart told her he was a good person, even though he had a temper. When he said or did something hurtful, he was quick to apologize and reassure her. And when he wasn’t angry, he was a lot of fun. 

Anita also knew what a challenging childhood Greg had experienced. She felt compassion for him. She understood him, maybe better than anyone.

Surely her own “unique” brand of TLC would shape Greg into a softer, less angry version of himself over time.

Nope.

Instead, Greg’s anger got worse.

How many times are YOU guided primarily by your emotions?

I love walking on the beach. The moment I step onto the sand, off come my flip-flops so that my toes can curl into that delicious warmth.

 But sand is not known for its stability. It’s always shifting, which makes it a very unstable foundation. You wouldn’t want to build something permanent on it. Sandcastles, sure. Relationships, never.

Emotions are like shifting sand. How we feel today is not how we will feel tomorrow. The feeling may be the same, but the intensity of that emotion may be different.

For example, when Anita first told me what it was like living with Greg, she expressed anger at how he would treat her and her three children.

But the very next week, she was less angry and more defensive of his actions. Her feelings had shifted, and what she had resolved to do out of anger only a week prior had morphed into a decision to stay.

Emotional sand, right?

She talked herself out of leaving because she felt differently about what had happened. The problem was that Greg was still the same volatile person.

Think back on some of your own choices. How many decisions were influenced by fear, loneliness, anger, or hurt? Do you now regret any of them?

Emotions are part of decision-making. They give us information about ourselves and help us to interact with others. In fact, they often motivate us to act. For example, anxiety about a work presentation might make us prepare better. Concern for a friend might lead to us reaching out. Gratitude for an unexpected gesture might lead to a reciprocal act of kindness.

But they’re not the most important part.

That’s what values are for. Values are core beliefs that provide a solid foundation for decision-making. Unlike the instability of sand, I like to think of values as being the bedrock of who we are. Yes, we have feelings. But (ideally) our feelings are guided by what we believe, not just what we feel. 

The problem occurs when we disregard our values to accommodate our hearts.

Anita’s decision first to marry and then to stay with Greg is a good example of this. Anita talked often about how much her children mattered to her and how they were her priority. She wanted them to be safe. She wasn’t going to bring another man into their lives who didn’t treat her (or them) with love. These were the values she expressed to me.

But the way Greg made her feel (when he wasn’t angry) mattered most. She was tired of being alone. She just wanted to feel loved and desired by someone.

So, she placed a higher priority on feeling good than on doing right. 

We all struggle with this, at times.

Daily we’re presented with situations that test our “bedrock” beliefs. And in those moments, we come face-to-face with ourselves.

Do I really believe this? Or do I only believe it when it’s easy or convenient?

If you aren’t happy with who you are, or the relationship you have, it may be time to take inventory.

Just what are your core beliefs? Where do they come from?

God? 

Your parents? 

Society?

You need to know what you believe. 

You need to know why you believe it. 

And then you need the courage to live by it.

That may be the hardest part of all. Because it’s not easy standing firm when everything within you is screaming to do otherwise. Or everyone around you is.

There’s a lot of pressure to conform. To fit in. To feel good in the moment and deal with the fallout later.

Emotional sand.

Huge, heaping piles of it. A lifetime of choices built from emotional sand.

And then one giant wave knocks it all over.

Jesus talked about this very thing.

“All who listen to my instructions and follow them are wise, like a man who builds his house on solid rock.  Though the rain comes in torrents, and the floods rise and the storm winds beat against his house, it won’t collapse, for it is built on rock. 

“But those who hear my instructions and ignore them are foolish, like a man who builds his house on sand.  For when the rains and floods come, and storm winds beat against his house, it will fall with a mighty crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27, Living Bible)

His instructions give us that solid bedrock we can stand on. So that no matter what life throws at us, our wise decisions will hold firm.

Had Anita been guided by what she claimed to value—to have a healthy, safe family and to be a mother her children could depend on for safety and protection—things may have turned out differently. Instead, she struggled because she built upon her feelings. 

Anita eventually divorced. But her children have grown weary and distrustful of promises made but not kept. Perhaps they will make different decisions in their future relationships.

Perhaps they won’t.

But Anita’s struggle doesn’t have to be yours. You can rebuild if what you once had…has fallen apart.

You can learn to make better decisions, good decisions… GREAT decisions!

Bedrock decisions.

Is that what you want? Are you ready to do that? 

Need help learning how?

I’m just a click away.

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