When possible, it’s almost always better to delay your big decisions until you are at your best.
Dave was having one of those days. Indeed, it was a horrible day. It started out with his alarm clock not waking him in time to make his early morning meeting. He had forgotten to set the alarm. The first signs of anger begin to develop.
As he was rushing to work he hit a rather large object in the road and soon found himself with a flat tire. The roadside assistance service he pays for every month just happened to be extremely busy that hour due to the heavy rain pouring down, so it took over two hours for them to reach his car and assist with the repair. His clothes and hair were soaked. His anger rises higher.
When he stepped out of his car in the office parking lot, his mobile phone fell from his pocket shattering the screen. He’d just upgraded to a new phone two weeks ago. Now the phone’s screen looked like a spider web of cracked glass. His anger is growing and is beginning to compromise his objectivity.
As if he needed more stress, when he arrived at his office Stanley was standing outside his door asking to see him about an urgent matter concerning his pay and benefits, something he did quite regularly. Stanley had the unique talent of being able to make mountains out of small hills, to annoy at such levels of intensity that if this talent was an Olympic sport, he would undoubtedly have won the gold medal many times. After listening to Stanley rant, Dave’s anger is now affecting his body; upset stomach, rapid heartbeat, sweaty brow, he’s highly distracted and unable to focus mentally.
But the biggest problem is that Dave is about to step into a high-stakes meeting where he is expected to conduct a critical negotiation and give an indication of whether or not to commit his firm to a major project with huge corresponding amounts of risk and reward.
What Should Dave Do? HALT!
There are four times you should never make a big decision — and probably more, but without doubt these four should compel you to do whatever you can to delay your decision — to HALT!
Hungry: When you’re hungry, medical science tells us that your body will not perform at its best, especially your brain. Deprived of the proper nutrition not only will you be distracted, but your brain won’t be operating at its best. You may get headaches and feel weak or lethargic.
Angry: When you’re angry, your body can be affected in many ways that can inhibit your ability to think rationally, clearly and with objectivity. You may miss some of the details that might be critical to your choices, and your emotions will most certainly filter any important information or advice.
Lonely: When you’re lonely, you are susceptible to making choices that will somehow relieve you of your loneliness, rather than making decisions based on good analysis and judgment.
Tired: Many studies have been conducted on the effect of fatigue on the body and mind. I recently read that driving an automobile while sleep deprived is similar in risk to driving a car while drunk; your motor skills and decision-making ability are greatly compromised.
The Bottom Line
If you haven’t noticed the acronym yet, it’s H for hungry, A for angry, L for lonely and T for tired — HALT. Next time you face an important personal or professional decision, pause and ask yourself if you’re hungry, angry, lonely or tired. If so, then HALT! When possible, it’s almost always better to delay your big decisions until you are at your best.
By the way, we can also make poor decisions even when we’re at our best. But the risks are even greater when we’re not at our best. Why increase the risk? Find a way to delay that big decision until you are ready.
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