9 Practices For The Decision-Making Athlete
Make your next move with God’s wisdom
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You’ve barely started high school and are faced with what university you want to attend, the team you want to play for, and the coach you most connect with.
You get a little further down the line and you have to choose a major, or in other words, what you want to do with your entire life. Maybe none of that goes well, and then you’re faced with transferring schools or changing your major. Then you have to pick a career. No pressure.
Decisions are so important and so difficult. We make thousands of mini-decisions a day, and at times it can all get pretty scary and overwhelming.
I want to be totally candid on why I care about decisions to the extent at which I do. You’re not reading from a champion decision maker.
On the contrary, I’ve made some pretty awful choices before, and more than once. Thankfully, though, I’ve learned a little bit along the way that I believe has helped me tremendously in the ongoing tasks we all face of making the right decision.
As if this time of being stuck at home and away from your team isn’t strange enough, some of you are facing major decisions right now. So whether you’re a high school student choosing your college team, an athlete torn up at home trying to decide if you’re going to transfer, or you just graduated and you’re trying to choose a job, I hope these practices can help you wherever you’re at.
CHOOSE FAITH AND WISDOM OVER FAITH AND FOOLISHNESS
If I need to travel over the Grand Canyon, I could try two things. I could show everyone that I have the most faith in all the land by running to the edge of the canyon, jumping as high and far as I can, and trusting God to make me miraculously fly safely to the other side.
Sure, I could do that. That looks a lot more like faith and foolishness though when I could also get in an airplane and trust God to help that plane do what it’s been designed to do, and therefore get safely over the Grand Canyon.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5, ESV).
So ask for wisdom. God gives it generously!
DO YOUR SCOUTING REPORT
I doubt any of you go into your games without knowing something about your opponent. In order to do that, you have to gather the facts. While faith is massively important, part of being wise is getting all the facts you can get your hands on. This allows you the opportunity to make an educated choice.
BRING YOUR TEAM INTO IT
By team, I don’t necessarily mean all of your actual teammates, but your life team. This could be parents, best friends, a coach, etc. We were made to do life in community, and decision making is no exception.
If you can, also bring some people into the process who are distanced from your situation enough that they can help you get a 10,000 foot-high view that’s less affected by potential bias, emotions, or (though usually unintended) personal gain.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
MAKE A PRO/CON LIST
It might feel basic, but I’m telling you. Make that list. Often this alone can have a huge impact on your clarity of mind and your overall understanding of a situation.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT YOU FEEL, ACT ON WHAT YOU KNOW
Sometimes I can be afraid of my emotions, or at least simply lack trust in them. Before I move on, I want to say that your emotions are both good and also a gift from God. So as a recovering professional bottler of my emotions, I’d encourage you to pay attention to them.
That said, facts and feelings don’t necessarily always line up. This happened for me once when I was considering a job. Emotion wise, I was excited and hopeful. The more I interacted with the possibility, the more I thought, “Man, this is really happening. I think this thing is going down!”
So those were my emotions, yet the facts were actually pretty clear. And that pro/con list genuinely helped with my clarity of mind. Unfortunately, the facts said that I’d be making a decision characterized by faith and foolishness, not faith and wisdom. This job essentially would’ve set me up for financial suicide.
Because of that I felt sad, but I also knew it was the right choice.
DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING
Usually, we can’t see years down the road. We can make our plans, but we all know that even the very best game plan needs adjustments during the game. So instead of focusing exclusively on the long term or getting bogged down with all of the answers, sometimes you may need to ask yourself what the single, next right thing for you looks like. Then do that.
ask for wisdom. God gives it generously
KEEP OPEN HANDS AND A WILLING HEART
Jesus Himself did this when He was struggling with His own choice of obedience before going to the cross. “Not My will, but Yours,” He said in the conversation with His Father. This was prior to doing something with an excruciating difficulty we’ll never fully understand, when He sacrificed His own life for ours on the cross.
“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Avoid manufacturing what you alone think is best. As we hold on to our decisions, we’ll be best off holding them loosely, with a heart that’s willing to let God do what He chooses.
DON’T PLAY THE “WHAT IF” GAME
This isn’t a fun game at all. Trust me. Once you’ve made a decision and you continue on, nothing positive will be accomplished by dwelling on whether you’ve made a huge mistake. If anything, the “what if” game is more likely to take away contentment from your current circumstances and rob you of joy God wants to give you where you’re at.
TRUST IN THE LORD
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5,6). Simple one, right? Well, simple to type or to say, but we all know it’s hard to live out.
I can’t tell you how much I hope this last point will be as liberating for you as the reader as it has been for me. There are times where God makes “His will” abundantly clear to us, and it’s up to us to be obedient.
There are other times where you might have three really awesome doors in front of you, and God will go with you and make straight whichever of the three paths you take. Be comforted in the fact that you are not powerful enough to permanently mess up God’s will, blessing or presence over your life, especially while attempting to be obedient to Him. He is much bigger and loving and grace-giving than to turn His back on you after choosing “the wrong door.”
Trust the Holy Spirit’s leading in you, that feeling in your gut, and regardless of the decision you make, God’s still got you.
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