This Simple Question Will Help You Make Better Decisions

Decisions shape our lives. We make decisions and then they “make” us. When we make too many bad decisions (and don’t correct them), our lives become a caricature of what it was meant to be.

The good news is that, with every decision, we have an opportunity to turn things around and incrementally improve our lives. Making better decisions lead to a better life.

Many of our daily decisions can be categorized as “small” decisions. But make no mistake: small doesn’t mean unimportant. They are small in that, taken in isolation, those decisions seemingly have very little immediate consequences. Because of this, it’s easy to disregard the “right” choice and choose the wrong course of action. Yet, they are important because, like habits, the effects of those small decisions accumulate over time and, in the long run, make or break us; the myriad of small daily decisions we make create the fiber of our life.

The question I’m about to share isn’t a decision-making strategy I would recommend for “big” decisions, such as choosing who to marry or where to live–although in some cases, it can help gain greater clarity as to which way to go. The powerful question you are about to learn works like a well-calibrated compass when wrestling with the myriad of small daily decisions we make, such as:

  • Should I (or should I not) go to work this morning?
  • Should I spend time working on my term paper or watching TV shows?
  • Do I buy this new gadget or save the money for next year’s family vacation?
  • Do I go watch my son’s hockey game or do I stay home and work?

The Question

When having to make a choice such as the ones describe above, ask yourself the following question: “What would a great X do?” (where X is the role you play in the situation, i.e. employee, student, father, mother, etc…).
If it’s easier, you can use a blank space instead of “X”: “What would a great ___ do?” (where you fill in the blank with the role you play in the situation). Here are some examples:

  • What would a great husband/wife do?
  • What would a great father/mother do?
  • What would a great friend do?
  • What would a great colleague do?
  • What would a great teacher do?
  • What would a great student do?
  • What would a great pastor do?
  • etc.

When you ask, “What would a great X do?”, the course of action you should take instantly becomes clearer. Plus, you’ll feel motivated to take action.

The Power

Let’s say you wake up one morning and don’t feel like going to work (but you’re not sick), and you’re laying in bed wondering, “Should I (or should I not) go to work?” Now, as you clear your throat and get your “sick” voice tone ready to call your workplace to inform your employer of your absence, you ask yourself this question: “What would a great employee do?” What do you think your answer might be? Most likely, it would become clear that the right choice to make is to get yourself to work—pronto.

This question is powerful. Don’t be deceived by its simplicity. When you begin to use it, you’ll immediately feel the positive impact it has on you: you’ll find that every time you ask this question, the path you should take becomes clear and you will feel inspired to step up your game. After all, who doesn’t want to be a great husband or wife? Who doesn’t want to be a great father or mother? Or a great friend? Or A great teacher? Or A great pastor? etc. Of course, you want to be great at your various roles in life.

Regularly, my wife asks me to do something that really don’t feel like doing. For example, she’ll come to me and say, “We need milk for the kids”. Translation: “You need to go pick up milk and a “few” other things at the grocery store.” I’m thinking to myself, “It’s 8:30 pm. It’s cold. And she wants me to go get “milk”. Really? Why didn’t she tell me earlier? I could have picked it up on my way from work. Now, I’m comfortable inside and don’t want to go out.” That’s when the question pops in my head: What would a great husband do? That’s when I put on my coat and boots and head out to the store…

Question: How do you see yourself using this question to help you make better decisions?