Mark Kelly

Stories of faith and life

Decisions can be really hard. And the odd thing about decision making is that sometimes the longer it takes to make a decision, the harder it can actually be to make the decision!

It’s true.

Try sitting down in front of Netflix, or Amazon Video or the other gazillion streaming services that have come online in recent years, and choosing what you might watch. You think you have a good idea when you open up the service what you might be looking forward to watching, but the longer you scroll, the more time you take, the more you become convinced that the next move down the list will present you with that programme you really, really want to watch. On so it goes on.

Or is this just me?

If you’re British, we seem to be stuck with a peculiar problem of making a decision when we are with a group of people. Maybe you’re at dinner together, and you’re presented with several dessert options, but there’s only one left of a particularly tasty dessert and two, or maybe three of the party, including yourself, want it. Out of some sense of charity, we can spend quite a while insisting that the other person takes it, and they reciprocate with a no, you take it. All the while, that inner voice inside you is screaming for you just to grab it!

Say you’re shopping on the high street, and you find the perfect pair of jeans, but something inside you encourages you not to buy. You find yourself thinking that the next shop might have an identical pair at a fraction of the price, or sometimes not even a fraction, just a few pounds – but it’s oh, so worth it, right? You spend the afternoon, walking from shop to shop and end up not buying anything at all. All you’ve got to show for your endeavours are sore feet and a sense of frustration.

So there are lots times, when making a decision can be a bit of a chore, but these do tend to be, like those scenarios I’ve just mentioned, not quite life or death situations. When faced with a decision that needs to be made in the moment, with very little time to think about it, we quite often make it. It doesn’t always mean it’s the correct decision, but at least we’ve made a decision, and we go with it. In the aftermath of such a pressured, decision-making moment, we often reflect, and we consider the choice we made. In our minds, we even retrospectively make different choices, and we try to figure out where those other options would have taken us.

When I was a teenager, I went through a period of where, as I’ve just described, I would take every decision I was presented with and try and take each path of possible action to its conclusion. I found this period of my life incredibly debilitating and frustrating. Decision making came at a snail’s pace, and people around me probably didn’t appreciate the wait.

There came a day where I’d just had enough and made the decision – somewhat ironically – to go ‘cold turkey’ in my thinking. I purposefully made myself not think and ‘just do’ when presented with choices. This is who I am today, someone who can evaluate and make decisions quite quickly. I’m not suggesting things always turn out for the best, but I’d rather be moving, and sometimes needing to backtrack a little, rather than stall and stagnate.

I know that some of you might be screaming at me right now, shouting, “No, Mark, that’s not how you do it. You take your time, you think carefully, you consider the alternatives, and most importantly you pray.” And you know what, I get this – as a Christian, I especially understand the praying bit. In any decision, I would always want to involve God in it.

But as I look around, I see a culture of extremes. One that is stuck far too often in introspection – there’s undoubtedly no prayer to God – only thinking on how decisions might affect oneself. On the flip slide of that, there’s a desperate desire to try and please everyone. And so ultimately, nothing of any real consequence, ever really happens at all.

So, my challenge to you is to be confident in your decision-making process, but make sure it’s a process. This means it’s going from point A to point B, there is momentum and movement. Maybe, there’s a decision you need to make today, that you’ve been putting off from working through for years and you’ve gone back and forth with how it might work out. Do something about it in the next 24 hours, see what happens and enjoy the adventure. If you’re a Christian, give the decision you’re facing to God and stop giving it to everyone around you, seeking their advice. Some of this will probably be wise, but your first and last stop should always be God.

In the Book of Proverbs, from the Bible, chapter 3 from verse 5 says for you to “5 Trust in the Lord completely, and do not rely on your own opinions. With all your heart rely on Him to guide you, and He will lead you in every decision you make. 6 Become intimate with Him in whatever you do, and He will lead you wherever you go.”

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