DECISIONS AS ACTS OF FAITH

When many of us hear the words faith or belief, we think of religion.  We think of a religion’s fundamental requirement that adherents accept most of its relevant orthodoxy, doctrine, and revealed truths without actual verifiable evidence to support them.

I often receive a strange look from managers and friends when I tell them that most of the decisions we make in life are also based on our faith or belief that what we have decided will work out as intended.  “But we’ve thought this through, weighed many options, gathered lots of advice” we often say.  Certainly, our decisions are more than an act of faith?  Well not really.

With experience, we have precedent to rely on.  We know what has worked in the past and what others have tried in like situations.  We are not flying blind.  Yet there is enough randomness, coincidence,  unforeseeable occurrences, and inevitable human unpredictability as a decision unfolds to frustrate even the most carefully thought out plan of action.   And since most of our decisions depend on those individuals we will count on to implement them, how can we be absolutely certain they will fulfill our every desire?

The judgment that we have made the correct, right, or best decision in any given situation will depend upon what happens once we have executed it and assessed the results.  At the time we decide, we believe this is the right thing to do.  Once a decision is implemented, we will be in a better position to pass judgment based on some facts.

Why is thinking of our decisions in this way of value?

First, it relieves some of the pressure we frequently feel to get it right.  If we cannot know with certainty what the right call is in advance, why lose sleep worrying about it?  Why continue to procrastinate hoping a sudden flash of insight will tell us what to do?  Accepting the fact that some of the many decisions we make will not achieve the results we intended, makes us more likely to risk some failures in pursuit of the successes we seek.

Second, accepting a decision’s outcome as an act of faith prepares us for the unforeseen. It affords us a level of calm and balance when something unexpected occurs requiring some rethinking, tinkering, and adjustment to keep the decision’s intent on course.

Third, it encourages an open mind to the reality that we may not have found the right solution or approach as yet and may need to keep looking for answers and ideas in new — often unexpected — places.

Finally, it makes it easier to recognize and admit when something demonstrably isn’t working, Nothing is more ridiculous than someone insisting things are fine when they are not.  Few things look more foolish than a giant ego insisting everything will eventually work out if we only give a failing course of action more time.   When a tooth first begins to ache, an immediate trip to the dentist generally beats waiting until the pain becomes unbearable and the damage far more expensive.

Anything we take simply on faith is susceptible to alteration given undeniable evidence that suggests a need to alter our view.  The best managers and mature adults are quick to make the necessary adjustments when one of their decisions is plainly going awry.

One comment

  1. Isn’t what you say here kinda obvious? And, does it really require that an executive go through your thinking process here in order for him/her to see that an adjustment to an implemented plan is necessary? Finally, can one really teach a process like this, and in a theoretical pedagogic way, to a novice executive, a process that would really just fall into place as he/she naturally adjusts in order to continue to “stick to a basic original plan”? Aren’t executives kinda born, not made? What does Jamie Diamond of JPM think of your work? I’m not criticizing here, just trying to put my finger on a need [or not] here to better understand the needs you seem to create.

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