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Lessons from the Martial Arts: Decision Making

Your decision making ability influences your life and many others. Learn how to make good decisions more often.

friends_mountain_hike_map_happy_adventure_fun_picSuccess, in all realms of life, does not happen by accident. Victory is the result of good decision making. Furthermore, it is not enough to make a good choice here and there—the only true path to consistent achievement is learning to make a series of good choices. Many are the people who struggle with this reality. Many are the people who doubt themselves, their worthiness, and their capacities. Are you one of them? If you struggle with the responsibility of forging your own path, then you will be relieved to know that making superior choices is a skill that can be learned and mastered, and that success is possible in every aspect of your life. Do not fool yourself into thinking that this task is complex or difficult; it is simple, it is easy, and it is entirely within your reach.

Decision making is the process by which one chooses the most favorable course of action given a particular set of circumstances. Your daily life is filled with such instances, from choosing what to eat for breakfast to negotiating the fine points of a romantic relationship and managing every day work problems. If you think about it, you will find that most of the weightier decisions you make are relationship related matters, and the outcomes of the choices you make in this realm will likely impact your life the most.

Good vs Bad

So what constitutes a “good” decision? A good decision can truly only be measured by its outcome. This presents a problem: you cannot be certain of your success until the end result is evident. This is why so many people struggle with the decision-making process. The fear of failure is paralyzing, and indeed, many people wind up consistently answering “no” or choosing the illusory safest route. The problem with this approach is that it is a “damage-control” over “growth” method, and it leads to nothing but stagnation and unfullfillment over the long run. It is fear-based determination, and no choice based on fear can lead to freedom and joy.

So let’s get back to our question: what constitutes a good decision? A good decision is one whose end result is positive, meaning that the outcome is in line with your original goal or even better than what you initially planned. It follows that a bad decision is one in which the outcome affects your goals negatively or leads to a situation that is worse than you previously imagined possible.

How to Make Good Choices

The question then becomes, how can you learn to make good choices? Let’s break down the process:

Stimulus: A Question/Concern Arises

PHASE I: Identify Goals and Possibilities


Ask yourself: What do I want to achieve?

Now, don’t take this step for granted! If you miss this step, the battle is lost before it is begun.

Choose! What do you want to happen? Notice that this is the very first stage; it is crucial and non-negotiable in the decision-making process, and it is the most often overlooked step. This is the most important point of Phase I.


Evaluate possible outcomes

The question here is: If I choose A, then what? If I choose B, then what?

Don’t get too complicated here. In almost every situation there are two or three likely scenarios. In fact, most of the time evaluating two options is sufficient.

friends_women_happy_fit_active_run_race_outside_nature_picSTEP #3


Literally take a moment to visualize both (or all three) scenarios, scrolling through them one at a time. Imagine what it would feel like to be in Situation A. Imagine how it would affect other people and the environment. Do the same with Situation B (and Situation C, if applicable).


Ask yourself: Which option brings me closest to what I desire to achieve?

As soon as you look at the options, one will usually jump out as the best one. That’s a good start, but it’s not always the correct choice. Further analysis is required.

PHASE II: Compare Risks and Benefits


Ask yourself: Which one of these scenarios can Iinfluence the most to achieve my goal?

I encourage you to realize that if you want to gain control over your life and your happiness, you must learn to shape your circumstances and your environment. The best way to achieve this is by learning to think a couple steps ahead. Many people get stumped at this point, but it is mostly a lack of practice that limits your potential. This skill will develop and improve with experience. In the meantime, make yourself do it. You’ll master it before you know it.

So ask, if I’m in Scenario A, what can I then do, as a next step, to maximize my benefit/advantage? What about Scenario B? Which one will I be able to direct most effectively? This is the most important point of Phase II.


Evaluate Best and Worst Case Scenarios

bike_mountain_scene_pretty_fun_adventure_fit_picBy now, you have a good idea of what the most likely outcomes are. What else could possibly happen if I choose A? And B? Positive outcomes need little attention; if your choice results in greater than expected advantage, you’ll evaluate that when you get there. The key at this juncture is to give brief thought to the question: What is the worst that can happen? Will I be able to manage that situation if it does arise? Only let this threat dissuade you from action if the consequence is a) dire or b) likelier than it should be. Otherwise, be brave!


Go for it!

In life, as in all things, you will win some and you will lose some; it is the nature of the game. But practicing these principles will enable you to impact your environment and your life more fully. Learning to think methodically will carry over into all your interactions and grant you increased capacity to be the author of your own circumstances.

Finally, I offer you the following word to the wise: better decision-making leads to an increase in personal power. In keeping with the power-responsibility relationship, I highly suggest that you factor in your calculations the well-being of all affected parties. Every decision you make creates something. If you have regard only for yourself and your interests, your creation will bring much unhappiness in the long run. There is a difference between being strategic and being devious. The truly deserving leader seeks to find the maximum benefit for all, and never seeks to willfully damage another person in order to achieve personal gain. Follow the Golden Rule all the way to true happiness and prosperity. Your life and happiness depend on it.

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