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If only D.C. would take author’s advice | Rich Elfers

Have you ever thought about your life as you live it? I have, and I’ve come to the conclusion that each of us struggles to decide what to do with the hundreds of decisions we make each day. Those decisions send us in one direction or the other and make us who we are. Perhaps we can shape the directions of our lives better if we become more aware of these daily decisions.

In that regard, I’ve thought about the decisions of the president and leaders of Congress toward the government shutdown. Both the president and the Republican House leaders have perspectives that differ over the best direction to take the country. Fortunately for the nation and the world, the deadlock ended Oct. 17.

Neither group really knew how the other side would react. We humans are all in the same boat. Time passes and decisions loom, but with all the potential choices before us, none of us is sure which of the many options we should choose. We all take a leap of faith, hoping our decisions are the correct ones.

Those consequences bring new problems and new choices for us to make. And so it goes for all our lives. Often we don’t know the impact of our decisions for 20 or more years. By then our children are grown and the damage has been done, or the benefits reaped. As one person noted, once we have been trained to be good parents, we’re out of a job because our children have grown up and left home.

Wouldn’t it be easier if we had a crystal ball or the gift of prophecy so we could see the end result of our choices before we made them? What if all of us followed the advice of the late author, Steven Covey, who admonished us to, “Plan with the end in mind.”? Perhaps we would make fewer mistakes. Possibly we could change the trajectory of our lives if we incorporated that axiom in our decision-making.

I know I made better decisions in raising my children because I taught high school students and I saw the effects of parents’ choices on teens. I observed the behavior of my students and then asked myself what attitudes and approaches their parents incorporated to make their children act the way they did.

Using that insight, I decided in what direction I should nudge my children to avoid the mistakes and imitate the successes I saw in the students I taught. Steven Covey’s advice really does work, but using it forces us to look to the long term, not the expediency of solving a problem in the short run.

If only the president and the House would use Steven Covey’s advice. If only both could have been a little more humble and more open to what Steven Covey warned: “Seek first to understand, and then be understood.” If only our governmental leaders had asked what motivated their opponent(s) and how did they see the world? That would require real listening and the ability to ask probing questions.

It would also require humility to believe that perhaps someone else’s point of view had some validity.

Perhaps if we all “sought to understand” and “planned with the end in mind” we would make better decisions on a daily and a lifetime basis.

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