How do you make decisions?
Well, I would guess most of the decisions you make on a daily basis are made by thinking, without thinking. This idea is known as unconscious competence. It is the idea that we do many things so well we don’t have to think about doing them. For instance, when you walk, you slightly bend the left knee as you lift your left foot, extend your left leg, straighten the knee, plant the left foot, and then begin the same process with your right knee, foot, leg, etc. And then you repeat. And all of this is done without any real thought (for most people). So your brain is thinking about it, but you are not actively thinking about it. (And by the way, all of that is happening while moving arms, looking around, having a conversation, etc.) And really, you are making a decision to walk or to stop, so even walking has some aspect of decision-making.
But some decisions require thought. And some decisions require deep thought. These decisions require some type of process to help guide our thinking. Many may be familiar with a SWOT analysis or other type of analytical tool. Such tools are very helpful. Others use goal setting with ideas like SMART (or SMARTER), BHAG, of WIG. Again, these ideas are very helpful. (If you are unaware of these ideas, please Google any of those ideas and you will find an abundance of information.)
But each of those ideas can be used within the context of a SYSTEM. And that leads to the heart of this post.
Last week, I mentioned that I would show you how my SYSTEM helps me to make major decisions. I will do so this week and next by talking about two major decisions I made this summer. (Please note: This post is longer than most!)
First, was the decision to pursue a different doctoral degree. The situation is quite unique, and is simple enough on the one hand, but too convoluted to describe in a couple of paragraphs (plus, you likely do not care!). But the truth of it is, that I need to take a couple of additional classes, but will not have to write another dissertation. I do have to “give up” my current doctoral degree in the process, but the new one is more expansive in nature, and it is worth it. (My current doctorate is related to educational ministry. My new one will be in education. It is called an EdD – Doctor of Education.)
So, I begin with my VISION – to be the man God has called me to be. Now, I must abbreviate here, because I could spend a month of posts with back history on just this item, but I know that God has called me to serve in the church and to serve in an institution, in part, because He has called me to teach. It is my life’s purpose. So, advancing my degree to more broadly apply educational principles to my life cannot be against my VISION. But not being against it does not mean it is right. But, having considered my vision, and knowing it is possible, I can move forward.
Next is the MISSION. I encourage you to review a previous post with my full MISSION statement, but two parts stand out related to this degree option. First, “I will seek to grow in my knowledge and understanding of God’s truths, and His will for my life.” This statement relates to LEARN. Second, “I will externalize my faith by reaching out to others, teaching them God’s truths, and encouraging others to grow in their own relationship with Christ, so they may disciple others as well.” This statement relates to LEAD.
Again, I am already serving in a church and teaching in an institution. But I must continue to improve. Thus, this opportunity fulfills my need to LEARN.
One of the ways I seek to continually improve is to engage in various resources that will help me grow. Of course, that includes the Bible. I also read several books each quarter (you can find current lists at the top of the main blog page by clicking on Reading List and you can find my “short reviews” of what I have read over the past couple of years in posts made at the end of each quarter – around Dec 31, Mar 31, Jun 30 and Sep 30), in addition to listening to various podcasts each week. All of those resources help. But this opportunity adds another dimension – accountability.
Although, I do have some measure of accountability to read because I post my short book reviews each quarter (and if I don’t read, I cannot post for the readers of this blog), I am not really graded on my reading. And it doesn’t matter whether or not I listen to podcasts. At least in a truly objective way.
But this class will remind me what it means to be a student. I will be on the learning side of the class. I will be the one receiving formal instruction. I will be the one pushed by my peers and my instructor. And I will be learning about something from books and resources (and authors) that I did not choose. Although I do try to read from a fairly diverse group of authors, the general subjects are built around my STEPS (Learn, Live, Love, Lead, and Leave), but this class will push me to read from sources I might not otherwise choose.
And, I will receive a grade! That is, I have spent money to learn and to be evaluated on my learning. This accountability is especially healthy at times. And after five years of being on the other side of the table teaching, I am now back in the position of a student (although I am still teaching and still pastoring during this time as well – and blogging and hosting podcasts – more on that one next week).
But I am also learning to teach from someone different. I know my professor, and have had him for a couple of classes many years ago. I have taught with him in one education class as well. But this experience will provide me an opportunity to learn from him in a different way – which will be good as well.
And the class will also help me to LEAD.
All I knew when I agreed to apply for admission was the name of the two courses. My first course is about learning more about the culture, particularly of my church and town, and the second is about applying statistics to my knowledge. Both areas will help me immensely. The better I know and understand the town in which I live and the church I serve, the better (presumably), I can make a difference, especially in light of the current pandemic. And it has been nearly 30 years since I had a course in statistics, so I would not even call this a refresher. That course will allow me to better understand how to apply statistical data (and maybe models) to my situation. In short, I will be better equipped with information and better equipped to analyze that information which should allow me to make better decisions – to lead my church, and possibly the students I serve as well.
So, two of four areas of my MISSION are met specifically, and I cannot say that the others are not met. Having this new information may allow me to serve Him better which is a part of Love. And I am trusting for His provision for the extra resources (particularly time) to accomplish this new goal (which is a part of my STEP to Live).
That brings us to the STRATEGY and STEPS. These two parts of my SYSTEM relate to the HOW, as I have shared before. And if they WHY (VISION) and WHAT (MISSION) are ok, then we can figure out the HOW. But, I can say that a decision to pursue this option does fit my STRATEGY well:
L – Love – this one is least clear, but if God has called me to this, then following this path will allow me to Love Him more over time.
E – Exercise – discipline. I will need to be very disciplined during this period of time to accomplish this in light of my other responsbiilities.
A – Action – I am taking action with my faith to be able to take more knowledgeable action in the future.
R – Read – Yeah! Six books in six weeks for starters. I have kept this pace before, but these books are not light reading!
N – Nurture – That is the real long-term benefit here. Learning what I am about to learn will help me to help others, and that should always be the goal of my learning.
As for my STEPS, again LOVE is the one that is challenged the most. But let me cover each.
LEARN – I am doing this to know how to better serve Him, although not directly to better know Him. I believe I will learn some about God, but the emphasis is learning what to do because I know Him.
LIVE – This venture is definitely for His Kingdom, not mine. I don’t need to get a new doctorate, but if I do, I will be better equipped to equip others (including the church I serve), and that is for His glory.
LOVE – The purpose of Love in my STEPS is to help others find their place in serving God. That begins with my family. Again, I do not see this STEP as being fulfilled well by the completion of this goal, but they are supportive and it does not stand against my family or others in any way.
LEAD – I covered this in the MISSION portion above. I think this STEP is likely to be the most satisfied in this endeavor.
(LEAVE) – I have no intention to move on from my church at this time, but I do see the benefit of how helping our church to better know herself and the surrounding area can prepare her for a change of structure, if not leadership, in the years to come.
So, the HOWs fit well. Again, the only real challenge is LOVE, and it can be argued that LOVE is most important. But I do not see that this endeavor is against LOVE, it just doesn’t jump out to me like the others do.
Thus, all in all, pursuing a new doctorate with the little that will be needed (in the general scope of things – particularly not having to write another dissertation), fits my VISION well, fits two of four parts of my MISSION very well (and can fit a third pretty easily, and is not against the fourth item), easily fits within my STRATEGY, and is well-defined by most of my STEPS (again, with LOVE being the possible exception).
Now, the decision is still mine to make. But having checked off so many positives, it appears that the pragmatic approach to decision-making says I should do this. And because my SYSTEM is based upon biblical principles, I have tried to make the practical as aligned as possible with the spiritual. And that is important. Because even though, the SYSTEM may reveal a “YES,” I still need to make sure that God is in this (I believe He is) and that my family is supportive (they are). Additionally, I must consider my pace of life and the current needs of our church (the church is supportive as well).
So, it comes down to the decision of my pace of life. I must admit that I am particularly busy right now. And I do have some concern, but in four months the first class will be done. Then I have three months until the next once starts, and then I will have another four months. Thus, in one year, I will have achieved this goal. Is it worth it? Yes.
And thus, I am pursuing this goal.
I hope this look at how I have applied my SYSTEM to make a decision has given you some insight on how to apply yours. The exact process may be a little different, but the goal is to make sure what you are considering fits within the scope of what you know you are (and want) to do. Don’t force it and be honest with yourself, with your SYSTEM, and with God (as I have tried to be with the LOVE aspect in my MISSION, STRATEGY, and STEP).
Next week, I will review my SYSTEM in light of the second opportunity that presented itself this summer. That opportunity relates to hosting a second podcast which just launched earlier this month.