My wife will be traveling once again. Upon seeing her possible return flight schedules, an interesting, but uninspiring dilemma surfaced: would she take an earlier flight, but will be forced to face Friday night traffic from the airport to our house; or leave a day later to avoid the Friday congestion, but will not be able to spend Saturday with our kids? Such a dilemma, or some other more critical version of it, faces us constantly.
In our everyday lives, including in our careers, there are decisions that are not always lopsided in terms of being favorable to the one who is making the decision. I distinctly remember when we, as a couple, seriously considered moving to a different country to pursue our careers and establish our family. In those moments, we unanimously decided to stay in the Philippines for multiple reasons: our careers, our core and extended families, our values, and where we think we are being led by God to do His work on this Earth. I would be lying if I say that I have never doubted whether we made the correct call. When I was driving once again through the horrendous 5:30 a.m. traffic in Metro Manila (after spending a few days in Singapore), I asked myself once again: is this really where we need to be? Nevertheless, I still do not regret staying in my homeland; that was just the frustration talking.
Living in a volatile and unpredictable environment does not only affect corporations. It also affects individuals such as us. During these times, it becomes imperative for us to be more deliberate in the decisions we make. However, being deliberate connotes the use of a longer time prior to reaching a decision; and time, despite still having the same 24 hours in a day, seems a lot shorter nowadays.
For every significant and life-changing decision, maybe even for minor choices that we would be facing, what am I suggesting to be our objective? First, our decision should not be something we would regret; and, second, that it would take us faster than usual to decide.
Regretting a decision is a feeling of sadness or disappointment over something we had decided in the past. Regretting a decision made is not dependent on whether it resulted in achieving the desired results. Hence, when one says that there are no regrets, it normally means that the decision did not have a payoff in the end.
The amount of time one needs to arrive at a decision depends on a lot of factors. The availability of information, the urgency of the matter, and a person’s risk appetite are just some examples of these factors. What we want to achieve in this fast-paced environment is to decrease the time for us to reach a decision.
One way to achieve both of these objectives is to come up and be clear with your personal mission statement. Such a personal mission statement should encompass all your values and principles. If you have a family, your personal mission statement should be aligned with your family’s mission statement.
As a certified public accountant (CPA), I often look at my personal mission statement as something similar to the accounting standards. If there are any accounting issues, we look into the accounting standards to aid us in determining the appropriate accounting treatment. Similarly, if I am facing a decision, I would assess my options using my personal mission statement. It essentially serves as the foundational basis or the framework in guiding my decision-making process. By having this framework as part of the process, it allows me to be confident that, regardless of the outcome, I will have no regrets. Likewise, it makes the decision making process a lot quicker.
Have you ever reached a point where you are choosing option A, while your heart says otherwise? I know I did. Prior to having a personal mission statement, I flip-flop between choosing what I think and what I feel. Such an internal debate is, more often than not, one of the reasons it takes us longer than usual to decide. It is also the reason regret comes at some future date, which eventually affects our future decisions.
Should our personal mission statement be something that changes? It may, but I strongly believe that changes should be rare. If it is anchored on your values, principles, beliefs and world view; and you are clear what those are, then your personal mission statement should not drastically change. It might be tweaked or improved, but it should not change often.
My wife asked me for my opinion on her dilemma. I knew, by the sound of her voice, that she already knew the answer to her own question. So I simply answered “You know the trade-offs: deal with the traffic or miss the kids. I think you already know the answer.” I knew that she already has the answer, because I know that she knows our family mission statement, the short form of which is “Love God and love others.”
Anton Ng is a Partner in the audit and assurance division of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading audit, tax, advisory and outsourcing firms in the Philippines, with 23 partners and more than 900 staff members. We’d like to hear from you! Tweet us: @PAGrantThornton, like us on Facebook: P&A Grant Thornton, and email your comments to [email protected] or [email protected] For more information, visit our website: www.grantthornton.com.ph.