I’ve always loved the original version of Dr. Seuss’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas. For 53 years the Grinch had put up with packages, boxes, bows, trees, singing, jing-tinglers, and roast beast from all those happy Whos down in Whoville. After 53 years the Grinch had had enough. He stood there on Christmas Eve hating the Whos. We are told that the most likely reason for this was that the Grinch’s heart was two sizes too small.
While the Grinch was alone with his thoughts later that evening, he got an idea. He got a wonderful idea. He got an awful idea. The Grinch got a wonderful awful idea. As it turned out, his wonderful, awful idea failed miserably.
How do you know when the decision you are about to make it a wonderful one? An awful one? A wonderful, awful one?
I’m not sure there is a formula for answering that, but I’m confident that there are times when your decisions are much more likely to be awful, even if they feel wonderful in the moment. I want to talk about those times.
I’d like to believe my heart is right-sized and perhaps slightly larger than average. But there are times when my heart is two sizes too small to make good decisions. Whenever possible, I avoid making important decision in those times. Here they are:
I simply don’t make good decisions when I’m in a hurry. Whenever my timeline is now, or worse yet, yesterday, I know that I’m not in a great position for great decision making. I’m going to end up running over people and making those “wonderful, awful” decisions that I want to avoid.
My judgment is almost always clouded when I am fatigued and tired. I think I’m thinking straight and that my perceptions are on point, but they are not. For me I am freshest and clearest in the morning. If I can wait to make a decision the next morning, I will. Know when you are at your most rested, and make decisions as much as possible when your mind is clearest. I’m probably reading into the story too much, but the Grinch got his wonderful, awful idea later in the evening—the very time I know I’m at my worst in making decisions due to end-of-the-day fatigue.
Let’s face it, we all have times, sometimes a lot of the time, when we are juggling many things. When I have many things calling for my attention and cannot give something important the consideration it deserves (which almost always are people-related decisions), I do all I can to wait until I am better focused.
Sometimes I make wonderful, awful decisions because I just want the mental relief of having the decision over. I’m frustrated by thinking about it and if I make the decision, I gain the temporary relief of not having to noodle on it any more. Temporarily it feels wonderful to have a decision behind me. The results are often awful.
The Grinch stood there on Christmas Eve hating the Whos. And then he made a decision out of bitterness. If you recall, it wasn’t such a great experience for his dog Max either! I’ve learned that when I am really angry with someone, I need to do the hard work of releasing that anger before I make decisions related to that person.
The reality is that we often HAVE TO make decisions when the timing isn’t perfect. But whenever possible, we need to avoid making decisions at these inopportune times. Making decisions at the best time is an important part of being a leader worth following.
Speaking of inopportune times, perhaps you’ve heard the advice I was given when I first started grocery shopping for myself. I was told never to go grocery shopping when I was hungry. Your hunger, I was told, would have an impact on what you bought, how much of it you bought, and even how much you were willing to pay for it. I’ve found that advice to be true—though I’ve often been seen stopping by the grocery store right before dinner to pick something up last minute! There are times when I make better decisions about what is going in my grocery cart and on to my pantry. And there are times when I make better decisions as a leader.
It all comes down to knowing yourself and being honest with yourself. If you are faced with an important decision and you find that in the moment you’re feeling impatient, exhausted, distracted, frustrated, or bitter, do yourself and everyone else a favor: delay that decision if possible, to a moment when you are your best you.