Bill Hybels, in Courageous Leadership, describes how at a certain point in his ministry, he noticed that he was often asked how he seemed to find it so easy to make decisions, be they large or small. Did he have some kind of leadership sixth-sense, or special hot-line to God that fed all the answers into his brain?
He decided to pay attention to the decisions he was making and how he was reaching the conclusions he did.
He discovered that many of the complex choices he had to make were made easy when he viewed them through the filter of his principles. When he knew what mattered to him, he could see more clearly which path to take.
That’s all very well, but how do you know what those principles are?
Well, the only way is to ask yourself. Pray about it, think about it, and look at how you spend your time. Those are good ways to start figuring out what it is you really value. (A former boss of mine was fond of the aphorism ‘We organise for that which we prioritise’ – if you can never find time to meet a friend for a drink, but always manage to catch the latest episode of Strictly Come Dancing (or Newsnight) on the TV, guess which you are prioritising!)
Think back to the last difficult decision you had to make, what was it about the different options that almost swayed you one way then the other? You were invited to see Play X, but you had already planned to work on writing your novel that evening. The values this dilemma might unveil include being creative, learning, reading the culture, making time to relax and unwind, building relationships, saving money, being self-disciplined… and all kinds of other things.
Once you know what’s important to you, you can start to whittle these down into categories and broad principles. One of Hybels’ was ‘Honouring people’, another might be ‘Fighting Poverty’ or ‘Nurturing my children’.
Knowing what you stand for, what you care about, what matters to you and, if possible, which things are the strongest concerns, or at least the strongest for right now, gives you a framework through which to view the decisions and dilemmas of every day life and decide how to spend your time, your money, your resources and your passions.
When people look at your life, would they be able to tell that you care about the things you think you do?