For decades, each new year found me ramping up a new set of resolutions. I was going to lose weight, be more patient... Then it dawned on me -- after countless bouts of late-night snacking and snapping at colleagues -- resolutions were not the answer. I needed wisdom -- the wisdom to make better decisions. As a pastor, my model is Jesus -- the ultimate wise decision maker. But whether you're a believer or not, there are four principles anyone can use to make good decisions. Unlike a fleeting resolution, these keys will guarantee you a Happy New Year.
Recognize that a decision must be made. Everyone in life has challenges. But those who overcome difficulties are those who realize they have a choice -- an opportunity to decide to do things differently. You can sweep the problem under the rug or busy yourself with other issues or activities. But delaying a decision will cost you. Big time. Procrastination will only hold you hostage to the problem. It is a deceptive trap that ensnares by camouflaging urgency and clouding good judgment. Remove the shackles from 2016 by making the much-needed decisions. Jesus did not delay in making decisions. His future depended on it. When the need to choose 12 apostles -- commissioned leaders who could represent him even after his death -- was on him, he chose them after one night of prayer (Luke 6:12-16). In the same way, your decision today opens a doorway to your tomorrow.
Anchor decisions to your core values. If you know your core values -- and live by them -- I believe that 95 percent of your decisions are already made. Core values are the beliefs, values, and ethics your soul is tethered to. Your values may be honesty and love of family or money and gluttony -- whatever they are, they define you. No sound decision can be made apart from them. You will recognize a bad decision, because it will leave you conflicted and feeling hypocritical. Good decisions preserve your conscience. Jesus had to choose who would become apostles, a decision would no doubt cause some adherents to become jealous, offended, or angry that they were not named. Yet, Jesus' commitment to anchor his core value of honesty to this hard decision made it less stressful to make. Think about Tim Tebow -- the former NFL quarterback. According to media reports, his relationship with Olivia Culpo, an actress and former Miss USA, allegedly failed because Culpo was upset that the couple wasn't having sex. As a devout Christian, Tebow's core value of sexual abstinence was allegedly the anchor for the decision to end the relationship.
Don't be afraid to change course to better align with your life's destiny if you recognize your decision is not in alignment with your life's mission.
A wise decision aligns with your life goals. According to the Bible, Jesus' biggest life goal was to die for the sins of the world. His inner circle could not distract him from this. You can't allow your life goals to be thrown off course either. Daily decisions, such as the people with whom you surround yourself, can bring you closer to your end goal or make it totally out of reach. Where do you see yourself, five, 10, or 20 years from now? Television personality and psychologist, Dr. Phil McGraw says: "Sometimes you make the right decision; sometimes you make the decision right." In other words: Don't be afraid to change course to better align with your life's destiny if you recognize your decision is not in alignment with your life's mission. Like Jesus, make decisions from a perspective of destiny and not the short-term or emotional benefit.
Your decision is the product of wise counsel. Great advice can come from two fronts -- prayer and wise human counsel. I refer to both of them as "conferring upward." Even if you don't have a prayer life, you can always seek advice from someone smarter or more experienced in a particular area. Of course, Jesus conferred upward by praying. Before he selected the 12 apostles, he "went to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God" (Luke 6:12-13). The value of prayer was so critical that Jesus dared not select the future leaders of the global church without it. That's what these apostles became. The stakes were too high to ignore wise counsel. Pride or self-reliance were not going to muddy the waters. Why not follow Jesus' practice of praying before making critical decisions? This may sound a tad too vague, but the whole notion of prayer is a soul-cleansing act. Can you pray for someone that you hate or are angry at? No! Praying changes one's attitude, perspective, and even deals with anger, allowing one to make better decisions and receive God's infallible counsel.
Making wise decisions can become a gift that keeps on giving throughout 2016 and years to come. Regardless of your faith, looking to Jesus as an example of how to make wise decisions is, itself, a wise decision.
David D. Ireland is the senior pastor of Christ Church, a multisite church in northern New Jersey with a membership of 8,000. He is a diversity consultant to the NBA and author of some 20 books, including the The Skin You Live In: Building Friendships Across Racial Lines, and the most recent release The Weapon of Prayer. For more information please visit: http://ChristChurchUSA.org and http://davidireland.org