Thursday, April 23, 2015

Values and Decision-Making

Decision-making can be both fun and frustrating. Some decisions are simple and inconsequential: what to eat for breakfast; what shirt or dress to wear; what color to paint the wall; what restaurant to select for an evening meal.

Other decisions carry considerable weight: what college to attend and what to study; what career to pursue; who to marry; how to manage your finances; how to budget your time; which people to associate with; even what house to buy, and where to live.

So while some decisions fall under the “I don’t care, you pick” category, others can truly prove to be life-changing – for good or for not so good. So how do we go about deciding on the more important choices in life? An insightful quotation I read recently offers some helpful advice.

Even in all its grandeur, Disney's
famed Cinderella's Castle rests
on its foundation for stability.
Almost everyone has heard of Walt Disney, the creative visionary whose dreams turned into live and animated movies, TV programming, music, and theme parks. But other members of his family made important contributions to the success of the Disney brand. One of them was the late Roy E. Disney, whose father, Roy O. Disney – Walt’s brother – was co-founder of The Walt Disney Company.

The younger Roy spent many years as a senior executive with the company. His quote in question: “When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” It’s a simple statement, but quite profound nonetheless.

Values the Disneys embraced through the years have guided them in developing such delightfully popular characters and projects as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy; “Mary Poppins”; TV’s Mickey Mouse Club, Disneyland and Walt Disney World; “Snow White”; “Toy Story,” Nemo, and a seemingly endless list of other entertainment classics.

In a sense, those values Roy Disney referred to served as the foundation for the Disney empire’s achievements many of us have enjoyed. But this is true not only for all things Disney, but also for any enterprise, whether a different kind of business or organization, a family, or even individuals. Making major decisions without the guidance of clearly established values typically leads to a murky result at best.

Jesus spoke about the importance of a foundation – the right foundation. “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, because it had the foundation of the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).

He contrasted that with “a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:26-27).

The passage says many who heard these words were amazed, since Jesus spoke with great authority, but surely there were some who dismissed what He had to say. They had no interest in doing what He said or following His teachings. Sadly – according to Jesus – the values they were choosing instead were the equivalent of building sand castles.

I’ve learned – as have many of my friends – that having clear values in fact does ease the decision-making process, especially for challenging matters. Do we dabble in the areas of temptation to which we know we’re susceptible? Do we pursue lofty goals that could prove detrimental to cherished relationships? Do we spend more than we can afford on things we want, resulting in becoming “servant to the lender,” as Proverbs 22:7 describes it? Do we devote time to unproductive diversions, at the expense of more important commitments?

We don’t need to become legalistic, placing a taboo on anything that hints at being fun. But as my friend Oswald Chambers often states in his devotional writings, even good things can be the enemy of things that are best for us.

So as we strive to clarify and then hold true to our values, as Roy E. Disney suggested, we can discover that making key decisions is much easier than we thought.

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