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Character Quality of the Month

Decisiveness:  Processing Information and Finalizing Difficult Decisions

Circles of Impact

I believe one reason decision-making is difficult is because we cannot know the future. When we make a decision, we commit to a path that we’re not sure where it’s leading. We can never know all the variables involved, so to make a decision can feel like cutting off other potential avenues or possibilities. This feeling can’t ever be completely resolved, but one way to process information and come to a difficult decision is to think in regards to the circles of impact the decision could have.

Look at these nestled circles. All of them are connected layers of the same whole, from you—the individual—all the way out through society. Any decision you make has a ripple effect through the layers. In turn, the changes in those outer layers of society and community that are influenced by hundreds or thousands of individual choices, return and impact the family and the individual. It’s a reciprocal process. This can be true for all sorts of decisions, big and small—for example: whether to have another child, what to recycle, or who to vote for.

Consider Outcomes

Intentionally thinking through this process can help you organize information in order to come to a difficult decision. Ask yourself—what might be the potential consequences of this? What might they be not just for me, but for my immediate and extended family, my community, and society as a whole?

Consider both good and bad outcomes. Perhaps ask your family or other community members to weigh in (depending on the likelihood that the decision will impact those levels). As you think through each level, also consider the interdependence between the choices. For example, if a consequence of taking on a new role at work would be that you would experience more stress and anxiety, what impact might that have on your family? If it means your family has to eat out more instead of cooking at home, what impact does that have on the health of family members? What impact could your decision to take a new job have on your extended family and the amount of time you are available to them? And so on. If you’re comparing two choices, you might think through these levels for both options.

Set a Decision Date

There is one important caveat, though. It’s easy to vacillate over options forever. The point of all of this information isn’t to keep you trapped in consideration and agonizing forever, it’s to help you come to a decision. If you’re someone who needs it, set a time limit for yourself in thinking through this process, and commit to making a decision by a certain date. Use these circles of impact as a tool to help you come to a decision—don’t let it be part of what holds you back. You still won’t know the future, but you will have systematically considered the consequences of your decision not only for yourself, but for the important people in your family, community, and society as a whole.

EDG actively participates with Strata Leadership and the Character First program.

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