Crisis Decision Making 101

It used to be that when I was upset, I either made a rash decision or said something I would later regret. I remember having to go back and clean up my messes or apologize for saying something out-of-line. Being impulsive in the heat of the moment never worked in my favor.

I may have learned it the hard way, but eventually I figured it out. The fact is, we don’t think as clearly when we’re in a highly emotional state (whether we are feeling angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, etc.). There’s too much distraction and we don’t think objectively. Today, if I’m upset and need to make a decision, I make a tentative one, but (where possible) wait until the following morning to confirm it. Generally, it proves to be a better decision because my thinking is clearer and more objective the next day. Often, with the perspective from time and reflection, I change my decision for the better.

Why do we tend to make poor choices when we’re under stress? It’s because of our physiology—that’s right, it’s how we’re wired. But we can learn to compensate.

Being in a stressful situation messes with our brain—and can impair our decision-making capabilities.  A new study shows that in a crisis (or even what feels like a crisis), the brain tends to focus on reward, and ignore the possible negative consequences of a decision. That’s why “feel good” decisions like eating what we shouldn’t, blowing off steam by losing our temper, giving in to peer pressure, or making a rash purchase we can’t afford are more likely to happen when we’re stressed-out.

Even worse, not only does stress make us focus on the ‘feel good” aspect of a risky decision or behavior, it impairs our ability to think about the negative consequences. (Frankly, I’d say that’s a pretty good recipe for potential stupidity, don’t you?)

When you’re in this situation, hold off until the following morning if you can, or at least defer it until you’ve settled down and can think clearly. Ask for more time if you need it. Learn to recognize and release your stress.  Here are 3 quick tips to help unwind and cool you down:

  1. Reach out to your support system. You don’t have to go through hard moments alone. Their wise counsel and perspectives can help immensely.
  2. The endorphin rush you get from exercise will up your mood and help chase away the blues.
  3. Practice conscious breathing and relaxation techniques. Meditate, pray, do yoga, or all of the above. Connect your mind, body, and spirit for a holistic de-stressing.

Also, think about the things that make for good decisions and force yourself to follow them. You’ll be glad you did!

Have you noticed that your decision-making improves when you’re not in an emotional state? Which young people in your life can benefit from this lesson when facing stressful situations?

Making the Best Decision in the Heat of the Moment

Can you remember a time that you were scared, sad, angry, or hurt and made a rash decision based on emotion or said something you later regretted? We’ve all done it. And most likely, these situations never worked out very well.

As we grow older and wiser, we eventually learn that it’s never smart to make important decisions abruptly or in a highly emotional state. Simply put, there’s too much distraction and it’s nearly impossible to think objectively or clearly. Today, if I’m upset and need to make a decision, I make a tentative one, but wait until the following morning to confirm it. Generally, it proves to be a better decision because I’ve had more to consider the pros and cons and potential consequences by then. It’s amazing how often I change my mind!

Why do we tend to make poor choices when we’re under stress or filled with emotion? It’s because of our physiology—that’s right, it’s how we’re wired. But we can learn to compensate.

Stress messes with your brain—and can impair our decision-making capabilities. A new study shows that in a crisis (or even what feels like a crisis), the brain tends to focus on reward, and ignore the possible negative consequences of a decision. That’s why “feel good” decisions like eating what we shouldn’t, blowing off steam by losing our temper, giving in to peer pressure, or making a rash purchase we can’t afford are more likely to happen when we are stressed out.

Even worse, not only does stress make us focus on the ‘feel good” aspect of a risky decision or behavior, it impairs our ability to think about the negative consequences. (Frankly, I’d say that’s a pretty good recipe for potential stupidity and regret, don’t you?) As I consider my own decisions (and those of our elected officials!), I would argue that failure to consider adverse, unintended consequences, is one of our biggest mistakes. It’s all too common, especially with relationships.

When you’re in this situation, hold off until the following morning if you can. Think about the things that make for good decisions and force yourself to follow them. If you don’t have the time to physically go to sleep and make your decision the next day, here are some tips to help you clear your mind and avoid making a rash decision based on emotion:

  • Learn to recognize and release your stress
  • Consult with a trusted friend and ask for honest advice
  • Science proves that exercise actually can calm our nerves.
  • If you are religious, seek spiritual counsel
  • Go to a place you consider beautiful (a park, a beach, a walking trail) and spend some enjoying nature and breathing in the fresh air. It will be good for your body and soul, and will most likely calm you down.
  • Develop a pro/con list to ensure you’re looking at all sides of a decision
  • Be sure to consider your conscience and intuition. I’ve learned to never disregard my gut feeling about something. Pay attention to yours, too.

As we enter our teen and young adult years, our decisions often have life-altering consequences. So, it pays to evaluate each one as comprehensively and objectively as possible while we’re calm and our thinking is clear. Not only will these tips help you make better ones (especially under stress), but they’ll also help limit your life regrets. That’s huge.

Have you noticed that your decision-making improves when you’re not in an emotional state? How can this lesson be good for young people who may find themselves in stressful situations—do you see how they can be influenced to make potentially life-altering decisions when they’re in the wrong frame of mind? Share your thoughts by commenting below; we’d love to hear your perspective and experiences.

4 Tips to Help Teens Listen to Their Conscience and Stick to Their Values

Parents and teachers, your teens and students are facing tough decisions every single day, and their choices are only going to get more difficult. Where should they go to college? What should they major in? Should they really go to that party? Should they take things to the next level with their boyfriend or girlfriend? This week’s post focuses on choices, and how to ensure your teen is equipped to stick to his or her values and make the right call. We encourage you to share it with the young people in your life or use it as a tool in your classroom or household.

Life is a series of choices, some planned and some not. Some involve fun, while others involve pain and heartache. Some are made from the mind after lots of thought and reasoning, while others are made impulsively from the heart or what “feels right.” Some turn out well and impact our lives for better, and some we regret.

Are your kids ready to make the right choices, both now and in the future?

I had the privilege of working for an inspiring leader, George Russell, who could distill the complex down to profound, but simple truisms. One of them was, “If you’re not sure whether to do something, imagine it as the headline in tomorrow’s newspaper.” Wow! How’s that for clarity and common sense? This works like a charm in our professional and academic lives, but also our personal lives, too—heeding that “inner voice” that has our best interests at heart. I know every time I ignored what my conscience was telling me, I lived to regret it. And, I know I’m not alone!

In a cultural climate where “values” are often measured on a slippery scale of personal taste, convenience, self-gratification, and “tolerance,” kids can get into real trouble when they dismiss the caution signals. That’s why helping young people identify their values and strengthen their conscience is so important. It’s more than important…it’s crucial!

Yes, this is what some refer to as “conscience training.” In times of growing independence, freedom, and opportunities, young people are increasingly faced with risky situations that require quick decisions. In some cases (many that involve alcohol, drugs, sex, social media, and cheating), one bad decision in the heat of the moment may do irrevocable harm to their reputation, college career, personal health and safety, or relationships, and derail their future plans and dreams.

That’s why having—and always listening to—that inner voice is so important in high-risk situations. Here are some ways to help set your teen up for success when it’s their turn:

  • Have them talk about their non-negotiable values. Moreover, encourage them to write them down and stick them in a school binder or on their desk. Make sure they don’t forget the principles that are important to them. These values are a big part of their brand.
  • Realizing that most unhealthy choices involve succumbing to peer pressure, be sure they understand their value and surround themselves with positive people and influences who have their best interests at heart.
  • Discuss potential situations that may put their reputation and integrity at risk. Remind them their best bet is to avoid high-risk situations altogether. And, if they can’t avoid them, they should at least decide in advance how they will react if their values are tested.I’ve heard far too many stories of people who didn’t heed this advice and whose futures were severely impacted because of it. They often lose years of momentum and wander confused and broken in the aftermath. Many times this could have been avoided had they asked themselves these simple questions:

“How will my conscience feel in the morning? What is it telling me to do right now?”

Have you ever been in a situation where you had to make a choice that challenged your value system? Did you have the courage to go with your values over the pressure you received from others? Share your experiences with your teen. Remember that life is about learning and recovering from our mistakes, and that stories are often the best teachers.

Note: We encourage you to visit our Resources page and download your FREE copy of our Personal Balance Sheet Assignment to share with the young adults in your life. Making sure they understand their own value is a crucial part of making good choices!

6 Steps to Help You Become a Masterful Decision Maker

Decisions, decisions, decisions. Some days (like maybe during this month!) your biggest decision is no larger than what gift to choose for that hard-to-buy-for person on your Christmas list. Other days, it seems the weight of the world is bearing down on your shoulders and the impact of YOUR decision could be life changing—for you or for others.

Often, people make important decisions impulsively and based on emotion rather than on a thorough and objective evaluation. However, you needn’t be this way. Making tough decisions is never easy, but if you practice the following six decision steps, your odds of making the right one will be significantly greater:

Step 1: Get the facts.
Gather all of the facts you can, along with any accompanying assumptions. In some cases, you’ll have to use your best guess.

Step 2: Determine your key decision criteria.
Identify the key factors in making your decision, prioritizing your criteria from most to least important.  
 
Step 3: Identify all of your alternatives.
Consider all realistic options without prejudging. No choice is a “bad choice” at this stage.

Step 4: Engage wise counsel.
Solicit the views of experienced and insightful people who know you well and understand the decision at hand. (If you’re a person of faith, this is a good time to pray!)

Step 5: Conduct an objective pro/con analysis for each option.
Record the advantages and disadvantages and weigh them by importance. This is a particularly valuable step for visual learners since the right decision often emerges when the pros significantly outweigh the cons.

Step 6: Consider your “gut instinct” or intuition.
Chances are, by the time you’ve completed the fifth step, your best choice will have emerged. However, the final test is what your intuition is telling you. If, after completing steps 1-5, you have a nagging feeling that your preliminary choice isn’t right, sleep on it.

If you’re still uncertain the following day, have a heart to heart talk with yourself and your most trusted advisors. This will either reinforce your preliminary decision (which will provide the needed conviction) or it will compel you to more seriously consider your other alternatives.

When I look back on my own life, I can honestly say that I’ve never made a major decision that was personally wrong for me. I think this is one reason that I have very few regrets—and that’s something I’m forever thankful for!

How have you approached major life decisions up to this point: Are you diligent and methodical or are you more casual in your approach? How might the six-step approach identified here help you make wise decisions? Share your responses below; we’d love to hear from you!

Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide

Life is a series of choices, some planned and some not. Some involve fun and others involve pain. Some are made from the mind and others from the heart. Some turn out well, and some we regret.

I was blessed to work for an amazing leader, George Russell, who could distill the complex down to simple truisms or questions. One of them was, “If you’re not sure whether to do something, imagine it as the headline in tomorrow’s newspaper.” Yowza!

This works like a charm in our personal lives, too—heeding that “inner voice” that has our best interests at heart. I know every time I ignored it, I lived to regret it.

It’s that time of year again. Graduation exhilaration runs rampant. Parties abound. There is much to celebrate—and, you guessed it—lots of values-based choices! Are your kids ready to make the right ones, both now and in the future?

In a cultural climate where “values” are often measured on a slippery scale of personal taste, convenience, self-gratification, and “tolerance,” kids can get into real trouble when they dismiss the caution signals. That’s why helping young people identify their values and strengthen their conscience is so important.

 

Yes, I am advocating “conscience training!” In times of growing independence, freedom, and opportunities, young people are increasingly faced with risky situations that require quick decisions. In some cases, often involving alcohol, drugs, sex, social media, and cheating, one bad decision in the heat of the moment may do irrepairable harm and derail their future plans and dreams.             

 

That’s why having—and listening to—that little voice in their head is so important in high-risk situations. Here are some ways to help set your teen up for success when it’s their turn:

·      Have them list their non-negotiable values

·      Help them identify potential risks before the fact

·      Discuss potential situations that may put their reputation and integrity at risk and how difficult it can be to recover

·      Remind them their best bet is to avoid these situations altogether before they occur. And, if they can’t avoid them, they should at least decide in advance how they will react if their values are tested.

I’ve heard far too many stories of people who didn’t heed this advice and whose college terms or career aspirations were abbreviated because of it. They often lose years of momentum and wander aimlessly in the aftermath.  Many times this could have been avoided had they asked themselves one simple question:

“How will my conscience feel in the morning?”

Have you ever been in a situation where you had to make a quick decision that challenged your value system? Did you have the courage to go with your values over the pressure you received from others? Share your experiences with your teen. Remember that life is about learning and recovering from our mistakes, and that stories are often the best teachers.

Decision-Making under Stress: Sleep on It!

It used to be that when I was upset, I either made a rash decision or said something I would later regret. I don’t know about you, but that never worked for me!
 
I may have learned it the hard way (a few times over), but I did learn. The fact is, we don’t think as clearly when we’re in a highly emotional state. There’s too much distraction and we don’t think objectively. Today, if I’m upset and need to make a decision, I make a tentative one, but wait until the following morning to confirm it. Generally, it proves to be a better decision because my thinking is clearer and more objective the next day.
 
Why do we tend to make poor choices when we’re under stress? It’s because of our physiology—that’s right, it’s how we’re wired. But we can learn to compensate.
 
Being in a stressful situation messes with your brain—and can impair your decision-making capabilities. Why? A new study shows that in a crisis (or even what feels like a crisis), the brain tends to focus on reward, and ignore the possible negative consequences of a decision. That’s why “feel good” decisions like eating what we shouldn’t, blowing off steam by losing our temper, giving in to peer pressure, or making a rash purchase we can’t afford are more likely to happen when we are stressed-out.
 
Even worse, not only does stress make us focus on the ‘feel good” aspect of a risky decision or behavior, it impairs our ability to think about the negative consequences. (Frankly, I’d say that’s a pretty good recipe for potential stupidity, don’t you?)
 
When you’re in this situation, hold off until the following morning if you can. Think about the things that make for good decisions and force yourself to follow them. Learn to recognize and release your stress. You’ll be glad you did!
 
Have you noticed your decision-making improves when you’re not in an emotional state? How can this lesson be good for young people who may find themselves in stressful situations—do you see how they can be influenced to make potentially life-altering decisions when they’re in the wrong frame of mind? Share your thoughts by commenting below; we’d love to hear your perspective and experiences.
 
 

Plan, Don’t Procrastinate

Are you sabotaging your own success? If you’re a chronic procrastinator, chances are … you  might be.
 
Procrastination is the act of putting off what seems like a mundane, intimidating, or unpleasant task to some (usually vague) future date, replacing it with a task or activity that feels more comfortable, exciting, or pleasant. This is not a genetic trait; psychologists tell us that procrastinators are made, not born.  This is good news for procrastinators! Though it takes work and retraining, you CAN increase your follow through and productivity and multiply your chances of success.
 
 
As you may have already discovered, life becomes increasingly challenging for the procrastinator, especially when things get hectic. When we’re kids, most of the deadlines we face are school-assignment driven. However, that quickly changes when we’re in college and worsens precipitously with careers and family. Keeping it all together without missing deadlines becomes almost impossible when you juggle a million balls and chronically wait until the last minute to get things done.
 
What does procrastination sound like in your head? It says things like, “I’ll feel more like doing this tomorrow,” or, “I work best under pressure.” But, in fact, you don’t feel like doing it the next day and you don’t really produce your work best under pressure.
 
What does procrastination look like? It looks like distraction—which is particularly easy to come by these days. Most procrastinators actively look for distractions, especially those that don’t require a lot of commitment. Checking e-mail is a great example. It appears productive, but is often little more than a time-waster in the face of more important things that need to be done. And then there’s Facebook …
 
If you tend to procrastinate important tasks, here are five steps to help break this habit:
 

  1. Start by setting your deadline the day before your task is due. Then, simply work backwards by estimating how much time you’ll need and the number of days over which you’ll have to spread the work. Once that’s done, you’ll have your plan in place with a beginning and end and a series of in-between days with their required time allotments.
  2. Promise yourself some “feel-good” rewards at the end of your task. Often we procrastinate because the benefits of completing a task don’t seem beneficial enough when compared to the amount of work and time required. Increasing the “win” factor for yourself—even if only psychologically—can be motivating.
  3. Ask your friends to check in on your progress and hold you accountable—and to NOT accept your excuses. Peer pressure is another great motivator.
  4. Improve your ability to make decisions. Much procrastination occurs when decision-making skills are weak or underdeveloped.
  5. Regularly make and keep a “to-do” list so you can’t (conveniently) forget those unpleasant or intimidating tasks. And, be sure to block your time sufficiently to get the job done.

 
Once you practice these suggestions a few times, it becomes a piece of cake and you will be more effective. I have no doubt your success factor will shoot up exponentially: you’ll be a better student, a more valued employee, a more organized parent, and you’ll dramatically lower your stress level as well.
 
How have you learned to overcome procrastination and increase your productivity and effectiveness? Share your ideas and experiences with us by commenting below; we’d love to have the benefit of your insights and experiences.