How Do We Make the Hard Decisions?

Some decisions are difficult to make. We can be stuck in a quandary of right and wrong, good and bad. Let’s consider tough issues such as whether to purchase and carry a gun. Or, decisions on how to respond to your friend who is a bully. Do you take a stand against bullying, or does your value of loyalty supercede your decision to take a stand? Or, when and how do you respond to racist language when you hear it? These are difficult decisions. Sometimes we need a template to guide our thinking.

Critical thinking is a skill set that helps our life functioning. Without it, we fall prey to our desire of the day. We could conceivably act impulsively on our desires without regard for the consequences of our choices, and fail miserably at creating a stable life. In critical thinking, we take time to reflect, think rationally, and to formulate well-reasoned ideas and solutions. The ability to reflect on our thinking and make adjustments and is a hallmark of maturity.

We can borrow from principles of ethics to help guide our critical thinking. Five principles of ethics are autonomy – the right to make your own decisions, and the right of others to make their own decisions. Beneficence – the aim to do good. Non-maleficence – the aim to do no harm. Fidelity – to be true to your promises. And Justice – to be fair to all parties.

Here’s how it’s done. When we are faced with a hard decision we look at the facts of a situation. Examine the facts as they apply to you and to others. Review our personal standards for ethical behavior. Ask if there is a reason to deviate from those standards. Consider whose needs are being met? Yours or others? And what harm could result from your decision, and to whom?

If you are still unable to make a sound decision, consult with others whom you hold in high regard. Then generate a list of possible actions. Could you live with the consequences of the decision? Would you be proud of your decision and would you want others to act the way you did? Once you enact the decision, evaluate it. Would you do it differently next time?

Life is hard. But life without a guidepost is even harder.

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2 thoughts on “How Do We Make the Hard Decisions?

  1. I hadn’t heard of the 5 pillars of ethics before this post and I am so happy that I stumbled upon it #decision-making on wordpress.com. This is great advice. Going to check out the rest of your site. Thanks for inspiring.

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