Prudence and Decision-Making

Do you find yourself stuck whenever the moment to take an important decision arrives? We are constantly faced with decision making moments at every moment of the day. Some of the decisions we have to make are little ones, like what we will have for lunch. Others are life changing, like whether you should marry that person or not, or whether you should turn down that job. Understanding some of the basics elements needed to make a decision can save us a lot of pain in life, and also lead to many surprising rewards.

When it comes to making decisions, aim at developing the habit of prudence. Prudence literally means “right reason in acting.” Put simply, it implies thinking correctly before acting, and letting those correct thoughts influence the actions that you take. This is often needed whenever you are faced with two choices that cannot be carried out simultaneously. In other words, when you have come to a fork in the road. The word dilemma has this connotation, namely, a choice between two options. So does the word “crisis”. At such a moment in your life, it is helpful to know the three essential steps that you need if you are to make a wise decision.

Step 1: Gather All The Facts

This sounds easier than it looks. Often times, you are so close to a situation that it makes it difficult for you to asses it objectively. Remember the story about the blind men who were asked to describe an elephant, and each one of them touched a different part of it? One came away saying that an elephant is like a wall. Another said it was like a snake. Another said it was like a tree trunk. All because they had each touched the elephant’s trunk, side and leg respectively. Many times you are like that. You only see one aspect of a problem, and are blinded to the other elements by your emotions. This is why it is helpful to ask for advice from someone who is knowledgeable on the subject, and is also not biased. Take choosing a life partner for example. Whilst your happily married parents might be very knowledgeable on the subject, they might not exactly be unbiased about the topic. This is why it’s always useful to get marriage and dating advice from someone else whom you look up to, other than solely your parents.

Step 2: Reflect.

This is a difficult moment, because it requires taking time out and away from the problem, and assessing all the information that you have gathered. This is the moment to look at the various pieces of advice you have received, what you yourself know about the matter, and also any other information you may have gathered from your research. In terms of assessing what decision to take, a very helpful tool is your list of values. This is a list of things that are really important to you. Examples of values include financial independence, family, friendship or physical health. Holding up your options against your personal values is always a good way to find the decision that will best align with you.

Step 3: Decide.

The moment you have been waiting for. There can be no prudent action without taking an actual decision. Decision literally means the killing off of an option. In this step, you eliminate all the unsuitable courses of action, and move forward with the single course that you feel is right.

No decision is a decision without taking action. You now have to go out into the world and execute. As Winston Churchill said, “No good decision was ever taken in a swivel chair.” At this stage, it might be good to pull some people into your decision. Let someone know what you have decided to do, even if that someone you yourself, writing in your journal. That expression of intent to a third party will work wonders in terms of accountability. You will be well on your way to executing your decision.