From Confusion to Clarity
There was once a bright young man who was looking for a way to make good decisions - to have more success and less stress in his life.
Although he did not make many poor decisions, when he did, they created problems for him at work and occasionally caused upheavals in his private life.
He felt his poor decisions were costing him too much, and he sensed there must be a better way.
So, he set out for the nearby mountains one day, in the early morning light, to join other businesspeople on The Hike, a renowned weekend experience led by "the guide," an extraordinary businessman and hiker who guided people through the mountains and through their decisions.
The young man heard that people had discovered a reliable system of decision making, and had returned from these weekends able to make better decisions.
But how had they learned to use it so well in such a short time?
Later, as the young man hiked along the trail at the foot of the mountain, he took off his light jacket and tied it around his waist. He was sweating now, not from the morning sunshine, but because he felt anxious. He knew he was late and lost.
Soon after he left home, he realized that he had forgotten the directions to the camp. Now he wished he had gone back for them, but he thought then that it might make him a little late, so he hadn't taken the time. Now very late, he proceeded in the same direction but at a much faster pace.
The young man consoled himself that he was not the only person who needed to make better decisions. He had been a part of several business groups whose decisions were, at best, mediocre.
The results of poor decisions were evident everywhere people made decisions: in corporations, in small businesses, in schools, in government agencies, and, too often, in people's personal lives.
It was as though people made no connection between their own choices and the consequences.
The young man wondered why so many smart people so often made dumb decisions.
He began to criticize himself He didn't always know how to work as a decisive member of a group or team. He knew sometimes he was indecisive. He just didn't want to make mistakes. Then he realized that he, like most people, had never been taught how to make decisions.
At that moment, he stepped on a dry twig and the sharp sound snapped him back to his surroundings. He stopped and looked around.
It was then that he saw the other man.
For a moment, the two men eyed one another cautiously until the young man noticed that the older man's tanned face seemed to radiate clarity. He wondered whether this tall, gray-haired, fit-looking gentleman could be the guide. For some reason, the young man felt safer in the stranger's presence. "I am looking for The Hike," he said.
The older man responded, "I am your guide. You are headed in the wrong direction." Then he turned and the young man followed him.
The guide looked back over his shoulder and said, "You might do well to look at the decisions that made you late today." The embarrassed young man said nothing, but he started to look at his decisions.
Later, the guide asked, "Why have you come on The Hike?"
The young man answered, "I want to learn how to make the best decisions." As he said it, he could feel the familiar pressure of having to figure out what was best. He knew this sometimes made him indecisive because he didn't know what was good enough.
As he walked along, the guide said, "Perhaps you do not always need to make the best decisions. For things to get better, we only need to make better decisions. Perhaps, like the rest of us, you will find that if you just keep making better decisions, eventually you will do well."
The young man felt a sense of relief. "May I ask what you mean by a 'better' decision?"
"A better decision is one that makes us feel better - about how we make it - and that gets better results.
"By 'a better decision,"' the guide said, "I mean a better decision than we would have made if we had not asked ourselves a couple of valuable questions.
"Perhaps, you, at times, like many other people, feel that you are indecisive or that you make half decisions - ones you feel may not be good enough.
"Many of us you will meet on this hike overcame that feeling by using a reliable system of doing two things - using our heads and consulting our hearts - to soon arrive at a better decision. Part of this system consists of asking ourselves two valuable questions, which we answer either 'Yes' or 'No'."
The young man immediately asked, "What are the two questions?"
"Before we get to the questions, shall we start our journey at the beginning?" the guide asked.
When the young man agreed, the guide asked, "As you look ahead to making a better decision, do you know what you need to do first?"
"I'm not sure," the young man said.
"If you don't know what to do," the guide asked, "do you know what not to do?"
Usually, the young man was so busy doing so many things, he didn't think about what not to do.
Suddenly the guide stopped in his tracks.
And the young man stopped next to him.
The guide said, "You must simply stop doing whatever you are doing."
Then the guide pulled a folded piece of paper from his wallet and showed him a part of it.
After the young man read it, he thought about it, and then took out a small red journal from his backpack and wrote a note to himself...