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  • Writer's pictureD. Randall Faro

Make Up Your Mind

In 1965 The Lovin’ Spoonful released a song with the lyrics: “Did you ever have to make up your mind? / Pick up on one and leave the other one behind / It's not often easy, and not often kind / Did you ever have to make up your mind?” In that same year the Guidebook for Marines (USMC) was published. In the section on Marine Corps Leadership, DECISIVE-NESS is one of the cardinal qualities, and defined as the ability to get all the facts, weigh them against each other, and make good decisions without delay.

In W.E.B. Griffin’s novel, Black Ops, one of the protagonist’s personal dictums was that “as soon as you have decided what to do and put the decision into action, stop thinking about it and think of something else.” Meaning, the task at hand is to think about how to effectively implement the decision . . . not continually revisit whether or not it was the right one.

Many people spend too much of life in helicopter mode: six feet up and hovering while going nowhere. That choice (and to not make a decision is certainly a choice) always supports the status quo. If one is okay with the status quo, fine and dandy. But if not, a decision that leads to change is in order.

The three steps in any decision-making are: 1) Recognize that a decision needs to be made. 2) Do the homework, i.e. gather all the facts, perhaps even discussing them with trusted mentors. 3) Put the pros and cons on your mental teetertotter to see which side goes down. In the huge majority of cases, one side of the scale WILL go down . . . sometimes with a crash-boom and sometimes just a little. But when the tipping is felt, then go with it without reservation.

To be sure, there will be times when we look back and wish we had made other decisions. That’s life . . . the proverbial 20-20 vision of hindsight. But to not make a decision because of a fear that it might be a wrong one is to be reduced to catatonia. Generally, not much good results from such inaction.

What the Lovin’ Spoonful was singing about might take a while to decide. In combat, the Marine often has mere minutes to make a life or death decision. In any event, part of life is making decisions. Do the homework and then boldly stride out as if it’s the best decision in the world.

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