3109-2547839501_e24ed54c42_m.jpgLast week, Olivier Blanchard, inspired by a post from Amber Nasuland, posted a great piece on ‘What Won’t You Compromise On‘. Having written about the same thing myself last week with practically the same title, it was very pertinent as the ideas were fresh in my head and I was still molding my thoughts into some kind of written model.

Suffice to say Olivier has motivated me to take something that has been in my drawer for a few weeks and map it out.

Let me begin by saying that life has inherent value, and no matter how a person chooses to live their life, they are still valuable and precious. The person who drives themselves to be as much as they desire to be, and the person who happily goes through life in simplicity, are both equal in their inherent worth. One may add more value to others (and I’m not saying which one, because driven people often live for themselves), but this does not diminish their worth, and if someone is content to live where they are living at then this also does not diminish their worth. Of course, the issue of opportunity and exposure is another thing altogether that I will address at another time.

Where are you heading?

It is the case that an individual is like a ship on the seas of life, and if they do not purposefully use their rudder and manipulate the natural conditions to move in a decided direction, or use the anchor to stay fixed in their current position, they will be subject to the wind and waves of life and end up wherever they take them.

I have long lived by making what I call ‘quality decisions based on personal convictions’. In other words, I make decisions about what I will do and won’t do, and where I will go and won’t go, long before I ever have the opportunity to enact my decision. I am of the opinion that if one does not decide in advance that they will not compromise an area of their life that they have made a quality decision about, then when the time comes, your emotions will make the decision for you and generally you will find it hard to stand up to your inner conviction. Quality decisions are like boundaries that mark out our land and make intangible convictions into tangible and measurable markers

Amber asked the question, “what won’t you compromise“, and whilst Olivier gave a very eloquent and thought-through answer, I want to examine the process that we go through in order to establish the compromisbables and uncompromisable – in other words, how do we make quality decisions?

The 5 Steps

1. We begin with content. Any decision we make is based on the available content, not necessarily our desire. With many decisions in life, our desires often bow to our knowledge. As a child at school I had no desire to learn maths but the repetition of the lessons gave me content to at least know how much I could spend on penny sweets at the end of every school day. In order to secure not only more knowledge in our content-base, but also experience, we need exposure.

2. Content, however, is not enough for a quality decision. Clarity makes content relevant by realising requirements, responsibilities and return. Lack of clarity produces ignorance; there is an understanding of content but it has not been fleshed out with reality. When I, in arrogant ignorance, made decisions about my ability to perform Shakespeare, I had content, but no clarity. I vastly overestimated my own ability, basing my perceived capacity to perform solely on a pound of knowledge, where an ounce of experience would’ve faired me far better. Graduates face this problem all the time; whilst they may have astounding content, they often lack the reality of clarity in comparison to their peers who have work experience.

3. The next step is conviction. This is far deeper than feeling or emotion, both of which change over time, in accordance to circumstance, and also depending on what mood you are in and how under-caffeinated your are. The conviction to love my wife runs deeper than the emotions of anger and frustration, which if they had their way by themselves, would ruin the marriage. A conviction, then, may take years to build. But it also may take seconds. What I do know is I have experienced both. The love I have towards my wife has grown over 8 years, whilst my conviction regarding the relevancy of the experience economy happened over the course of 20 minutes as I watched Joe Pine at TED communicate his thoughts with crystal clarity. Of course the former is a greater conviction than the later. As in the instance of a fight in a marriage, a conviction runs deeper than temporal emotions, but it also is a highly emotive thing and can inspire you to great things. When I consider all the great people I look up to, they were filled with conviction. Thomas Edison said he tested no fewer than 6,000 combinations to create the lightbulb – I bet he had depressed days, but his conviction was stronger than those temporary emotions.

4. In order for conviction to be sealed, a quality decision must be made. A quality decision takes the intangible conviction and makes it tangible. My conviction that I love my wife informs a quality decision I have to consciously not turn my head to look at an attractive woman. My conviction and belief in Jesus informs a decision to pray, read my bible, and write down notes in my diary everyday. My conviction that people are precious results in my conviction to spend time pastoring and mentoring certain people every week without fail – as I have done with hundreds of people over the last 9 years. Decisions that are made without conviction are fine for everyday activity where no conviction is needed. But life decisions that are not based on this process lack a spine and will gleefully change when the circumstances or emotions do. A businessman with passion but without conviction is a dangerous thing, because passion will fade, but conviction runs deeper.

5. Finally, a quality decision enables that most precious human resource, action. Not only does action solidify the decision, but also assists in the negotiating and tweaking of your decisions. Action, then, acts as a review tool. The reality is that we will compromise on most things, not necessarily because we weaken in our conviction, but because we learn about ourselves as we act and therefore can adjust our decisions to be more effective and efficient. It is better to act upon our decisions and adjust them, than wait for the perfect set of convictions and decisions.

So to wrap it up:

Content –> Clarity –> Conviction –> Quality Decision –> Action

This isn’t just something I’ve pulled from other bloggers onto a page. I have lived this message for over 12 years and tested its worth. It has served me well and I hope it does the same for you.

Photo credit Kyknoord