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Saturday, March 23, 2019
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How Do You Choose?

Have you ever thought deeply about how you choose your behaviors? As you consider possibilities, what criteria determine the many choices you make each day?

You’ve made dozens of choices already today. Most are routine, such as what clothes to wear, what to eat for breakfast, whether or not to exercise.

But think with me for a moment. Whether simple or critical, what drives your decision-making process?

I have observed that we humans use two main criteria for making out decisions – and maybe ultimately there is only one. Let’s analyze that one first.

Most people make choices based on their values.

What are values? A value is any concept that a person considers important, desirable, useful or worthy. And not just theoretically, but as evidenced by his or her daily behaviors.

Surprisingly, most people can’t describe their values – even though we all have them! If you ask people to describe what they value, many will stammer, searching to articulate their thoughts. Values operate below the conscious level, influencing everything we do. But being able to describe them is no easy task.

After a little bit of thought, most people will ultimately volunteer a few ideas. It’s usually evident, however, that they’ve not compiled a succinct, clearly identified list.

Yet we can infer what a person’s values are by observing the choices that he or she makes. The behaviors that we decide to pursue are based on what’s important to us. That is, what we do is based on what we value.

The second factor that drives our choices is the set of outcomes that we’d like to create. Every decision carries with it both short-term and long-term effects. We can’t always predict accurately what the outcomes of our actions will be, but we usually choose based on what we think is probable.

On a moment-to-moment basis, we often choose based on what benefits will occur immediately. For example, I know that potato chips are not healthy for me. All that fat is bad for my body. Despite my awareness, I still put the next chip into my mouth.

Why? Because the short-term outcome is so satisfying. I love the crunch, the saltiness and the flavor. And usually, before one chip is gone, the next one is right behind it.

With every choice, however, after the short-term effect has passed, the long-term outcome always hangs around. Regarding my potato chips, the long-term effect goes straight to the spare tire around my middle! I realize the long-term consequences are not good, but I still eat potato chips. So we’re back to personal values. Potato chips give immediate satisfaction – I love ‘em, so I eat ‘em.

We often value the convenient and the comfortable over what requires diligence and discipline. Only if we are deeply committed to the probable long-term benefits will we choose what requires short-term sacrifice. Once again, our values drive our behaviors.

Before I end this column, please think with me about what drives the outcomes of our behaviors. We have control over the actions we take, but once we choose a behavior, we no longer are in control.

What, then, is in control? Is it luck? Is it random chance? Neither. It’s the principles God put into place when He created this world. For example, gravity is a physical principle – we don’t need to understand gravity, agree with it or even like the fact that gravity is with us. Gravity is real. If we try to deny, ignore or pretend gravity doesn’t exist, we will hurt ourselves.

Other principles are evidenced through common sayings such as “You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” and scriptural truths such as “As a man thinks, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). If we desire beneficial outcomes in life, we’ll acknowledge the principles that control the long-term effects of our choices, and we’ll make every choice consistent with those principles.

So here’s the bottom line. Values drive our behaviors; God’s principles drive our outcomes. We make many different choices every day, and we rarely consciously consider these two truths. Yet your subconscious awareness of your values and desired outcomes direct your everyday decisions.

Dennis Hooper is a leadership coach, helping leaders build organizations of excellence and future leaders. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call him at 478-988-0237. His Web site is

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