One basic principle I have learned over the years from wise mentors and experience is the importance of ADVANCED DECISION MAKING (ADM). The principle of ADM is simple: look ahead at issues and situations coming your way and make advanced decisions about how you handle it.
Most things in life are not predictable… but many things are. The better prepared we are for the predictable (or at least, statistically likely) the more flexible and resilient we will be when the unpredictable comes our way.
This works in both small and big ways in both personal and work life.
EXAMPLE #1: At the Casino. I am heading to the casino with friends. I know that my monthly budget is tight. Wisdom is to make an advanced decision about the total amount of money I am willing to spend on this outing — including food, drink, games, parking, etc. If I wait until I am in the middle of the action, I am far more likely to overspend than if I make the decision — and communicate it — in advance.
EXAMPLE #2: Dating. As a Christ-follower, I believe it is wise to never allow your physical intimacy to out-pace your emotional or spiritual intimacy when dating or in a relationship. When I was a youth minister (and then a campus pastor working with college students) this was one of the major issues I would be asked about, teach upon, etc. The basic principle (physical intimacy should never outpace emotional and spiritual intimacy) is simple enough, but not always easy to live by in the moment. My advice? Simply make an advanced decision — and communicate it — before you get yourself into the situation. If the first time you are having the conversation with your partner about how far you are comfortable going is after you have started making out, a few drinks in, etc, etc… the likelihood of making a wise decision is much less.
By making advanced decisions, we make decisions when we are at our best and sharpest — in our best decision-making mode. By communicating those decisions early, we invite others to hold us accountable and can be sure to clearly communicate to others the decisions I have already made (thus avoiding, hopefully, the pressure from friends to spend more than I want to or by a partner/date to go further than I want to.)
Again, I think this is an important skill in life, especially when we are going through transitions. Starting college, a new job, a new relationship, a new season of life.
I am convinced that one major contributing factor to my moral meltdown/failure as a pastor in 2008-09 was that I failed to prepare adequately (with Advanced Decision Making) for the season I was entering. As the ministry grew, I simply kept adding responsibilities to my schedule and job portfolio (launch of a new campus, building project, two simultaneous zoning board challenges, increase to 5 weekend services, etc etc). As my stress level, anxiety level and responsibility level went up, I did not compensate in any healthy ways in other areas of my life. This both set me up to make bad decisions and to compensate/self-care in unhealthy ways. The results were catastrophic for me personally and the church I was called to lead.
In a few weeks I will once again be starting a new job. This new job will be significantly more challenging and demanding than my current job, or really any professional role I have had since leaving full time ministry. The responsibility, expectations and hours worked will all increase significantly.
This is predictable and known in advance. Much about my new job is unknown (it is new to me, after all) — but much is also predictable.
So I am making a number of advanced decisions in preparation for the new job.
Most of those decisions are about time management and commitments.
As I transition into this new role, I am purposely pulling back from or eliminating certain time commitments in my schedule. I am not waiting to see “how things play out” to make those decisions… I am making advanced decisions. The truth is, I know how things will play out. If I don’t trim my schedule and commitments, three months from now I will be stressed, filled with anxiety, exhausted, feeling over-worked and over-stretched. Totally predictable.
So what are some of the things I won’t be doing?
- I will be blogging less often over the next few months, going from a posting pretty much 5 times a week to probably closer to 1-2 times a week… and sometimes less.
- I am dropping for now the Demo Cooking Dinners I had been doing at a local specialty food store. While fun, it is really a bonus thing and doesn’t directly advance any particular goals for me.
- I am dropping teaching the Cooking Matters class, at least for the fall. While I enjoy it and it fits with my core values, it doesn’t fit my schedule right now.
- I am not taking on any new projects, ministries or major commitments outside work and the two ministries I currently volunteer with.
- I am not taking on any new catering clients… catering is pretty much on hold.
I will continue to focus on church (primarily, being an involved and invested Board member, preaching occasionally and leading an online small group) and MACC Charities (focused on being an effective Board President and long term strategic planning). I will increase my priority on a weekly sabbath, daily time in prayer/scripture, etc. And I will maintain and increase my investment in the people, friends and family God has put in my life.
These are the advanced decisions I am making as I look forward to the coming season. WHAT DECISIONS DO YOU NEED TO MAKE IN ADVANCE?