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Whatever Works for You

by Joan Marques

Decisiveness is often the art of timely cruelty.
(Henri Becquerel)

Lately I've been wondering about an issue that may not have an appropriate answer to it right away: "How do we know that we're making the right decisions?" I mean, in some cases it's pretty obvious what is good and what is bad, right? If you see a little child heading for the street, for instance, you'll run, grab the child, and so prevent him or her from being hit by a car. Decisions like those are easy to make. But what about the huge ones? Those, which appear every now and then in our lives: The kind that we have to make when we find ourselves at a crossroad. The ones that will cause the one thing we fear most: change.

The conclusion I drew from my latest struggle with life-changing is that facts don't necessarily help us to reach our verdict. Sometimes we can have all facts lying before us, and still not feel good about the decision that they point to. Facts, after all, can also be multi-interpretable: They will be colored by our perceptions. And perception is a very personal thing. What one perceives as right, another may condemn. More strikingly: What one sees as right today, the same one may perceive to be wrong tomorrow! Hence, the answer to making the right decision lies in the way you feel about it now: what your conscience tells you at this point in time.

In order, though, to allow your conscience to make a decision you can live with, you will need to contemplate: The more delicate your issue, the deeper. And for different people that may work in different ways. For me it's prayer. For someone else it may be meditation. And yet another one may call it something else. It doesn't matter. Whatever works for you is okay, for ultimately it all boils down to finding the inner source of wisdom. It requires crossing boundaries and allowing yourself to look deep within, in order to recognize your real "gut" feeling.

The tricky part about making crucial decisions is, nevertheless, that only time will tell you whether it was a good one or a not-so-good one. Especially when your decisions involve people, there will always be a risk factor. Because people change. And you change. And, as I mentioned before, what felt good yesterday, may feel bad today. For "All our final decisions are made in a state of mind that is not going to last." (Marcel Proust)

And you know what? Making the right decision has nothing to do with your level of education. Even without established statements by famous people from the past, we should all agree with that, for the simple reason that there's a clear distinction between intellect and compassion. But the famous statements may nevertheless illustrate it better. Here's one: "Some people, however long their experience or strong their intellect, are temperamentally incapable of reaching firm decisions" (James Callaghan). Here's another interesting one: "Most of our executives make very sound decisions. The trouble is, many of them have turned out not to have been right" (Donald Bullock).

From the above we can thus conclude that there is an important portion of luck involved in the outcome of any decision. Oliver A. Fick projected his findings in that regard to the professional area when he said, "Business leaders often get credit for the successful decisions that were forced on them." But what Fick just stated, works just as well in the more personal parts of our lives.

You know, there are so many theories out there that can blur your view if you start thinking of them. There are some that tell you to "never throw away an old pair of shoes before you know that the new pair walks comfortably." And, contradictory, there are those that teach you that "holding on too long to old habits may turn you into stone."

The art is, thus, to find the solution that works for you at the time when the issue occurs. And taking your time in making the decision (if you can afford that) is no shame. In fact it's crucial, for it may work wonders. Even the ones marked in history as heroes, must have struggled with the issue of decision-making. Take Napoleon Bonaparte. He once said: "Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide." That statement must have been the result of a long, deep struggle.

As a final comment I would like to share with you my conclusion, that it's not upon us to determine whether a decision we made was right or wrong: Sometimes making a wrong decision can be right for us, because it may mean that we need to learn a lesson.

Wow! Is life an art or what.

About the Author:
Joan Marques, MBA, Doctoral Student,
Burbank, California; March 1, 2003.

(URL: http://www.joanmarques.com )

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