The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Patching Cracks


July 1, 2020

Nearly 15 years ago, I read a book on management by Peter Drucker. I remember that it was excellent, but I only recall one clear lesson from it: The more decisions you make, the more likely you are to make a mistake, so make a decision once and apply that decision over and over and over again. Ideally, you should make your one decision when there is no pressure or emotional stress to taint your reasoning. The idea here is that we tend to make poor decisions when we’re excited or emotional, so we should make our decisions when we are calm. When I worked for the Children’s Home, we called those decisions “policies,” and we spent tremendous amounts of time thinking through the details of those decisions to make certain they were absolutely correct. It was boring, detail-oriented work that always paid off in the long run. One of the decisions I remember clearly was: “Our agency will help in any way we can, by all the means we can, in every way we can, in any place we can, at all the times we can, for anyone we can, as long as we can.” I saw this applied in difficult, emotional, stressful, financially difficult situations that may have prompted different responses in the moment if not for the decision having already been made. I have tried to pastor in the same way. I make decisions as rarely as possible, then stick to the principles behind them. Those decisions, whether they are the organization’s official policies or my own policies for how I deal with people, have made it easier to avoid emotional, spur of the moment mistakes. I recently started reading a book by John Maxwell that takes this principle of rare decision making and applies it to every aspect of life. He argues that the earlier in life you make a decision and apply it everywhere, the more effective and happy your life will be. He begins with the most basic of daily decisions: Attitude. He argues that deciding to approach each day with the attitude that we pick in advance will help us avoid the pitfalls associated with discouragement or depression. His decision, made as a teenager, was to approach every day as an opportunity to accomplish great things. For example: He’d walk into basketball practice determined to go all out no matter what, figuring that the effort he put into practice every day would make him a successful player. He never allowed himself to decide that he was too tired to try hard because he couldn’t make up for it tomorrow. Today was the day to practice hard. The same idea regarding attitude can be applied to nearly every aspect of life. We can choose to see every day as an opportunity to love our spouse better, teach our kids to be amazing, love our neighbor as we love ourselves, serve God to the fullest, do our job to the best of our ability, eat right and exercise, etc. That personal policy decision regarding the attitude of opportunity can drag us through days where we lack motivation or feel indifferent toward the people around us. It can push us to deal with the world in a way that creates a better tomorrow for us. I must confess that this idea struck me as brilliant. It’s easy to wake up cranky and treat everyone poorly or discouraged and apply ourselves half-heartedly to our commitments. However, we choose to live with that attitude, and we can choose to take a different approach. The key is to make the decision well in advance so that our feelings in the moment don’t sway our decisions today.


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