Practice sound decision making when faced with tough choices

FLTCM John Minyard

U.S. Pacific Fleet

Hello again, shipmates! I have a brand new topic to talk about this month. Before I get started, I wanted to say I hope you all had a great Memorial Day weekend and were able to spend some quality time with your friends and families. It should have been a time to reflect on those who went before us and gave the ultimate sacrifice to our nation.

It’s been a busy year in the Pacific, and we’ve all earned the right to a little fun and relaxation. Isn’t that what summer’s all about, a chance to kick back, soak up some sun, and have a good time with your friends?

That’s right, shipmates, you’ve earned the right to enjoy yourself and unwind a little when the opportunity presents itself, right up to the point where you forget who you are and what you are doing, to the point where you quit making sound decisions and do something that you just might regret later.

Sound decision-making: let’s talk about that for a minute. Every day we are faced with choices. Some of them are simple like what to have for lunch. Others are more serious and can have long-term impact on our lives. In a perfect world, the decisions that could harm us or change the course of our life would be easy to spot, but not all of life’s decisions are as easy as avoiding a dark alley in a bad part of town. All too often the decisions that end up hurting us are the ones that appear harmless, or that we’ve made before without anything bad happening.

So what are these hard-to-spot decisions I’m talking about? Well, they can be as simple as deciding what to do on a Friday night. Let’s say you plan on going out to dinner and then clubbing with a group of people from your command. Your best friend has to work late and won’t be able to join you but, no problem, you’ve gone out with the group before and always had a good time. Besides, you’re not planning to stay out past midnight and you can hang out with your friend tomorrow.

About halfway through the night, a couple people from your group ask if you want to go outside and smoke some Spice. You have heard that some of them smoked Spice before, but that wasn’t your business. Even though you’ve had a few drinks, you decide there’s no way you’re going to risk your career and decline. A couple hours later, you realize you’ve drunk more than you intended and the room is starting to spin a little. When the bar finally closes, one of the guys that’s been talking to you and buying you drinks all night offers to let you crash at his place so you don’t have to stumble your way across the quarterdeck, and you accept… bad decision?

This scenario may not apply to some of you, but situations like it happen regularly in our Navy. Many of them end with no serious consequences, many, but not all. Our shipmate in this scenario started out making sound decisions, including having a liberty buddy and a plan, but didn’t take all of the events into account as the evening wore on. Although she dodged one bullet to her career, she ended up putting herself in a situation that could potentially be worse. Could this situation have been avoided with better planning and decision making? I believe so.

Now, most of us didn’t get to adulthood without making a few decisions along the way. From the time we’re old enough to understand, we are taught right from wrong. It begins with simple lessons like looking both ways before crossing the street, learning not to take something that doesn’t belong to you or borrow it without asking permission. When we’re young, most of our decisions are made for us, but as we grow older we begin to make decisions for ourselves. As teenagers, we face choices about whether to stay out past curfew or take our first drink of alcohol, and the decisions are more complicated as we get older. In the end, though, it always comes down to deciding what’s right and wrong, weighing the gains against the risks.

Now, we are all human and, as a result, we are prone to making mistakes, but there is a clear difference between making a mistake and making a conscious decision to ignore what you know is right. Anyone can misread the instructions on how to perform maintenance on a watertight door, but it takes a conscious decision to gun-deck the check and sign off on the log as complete. Anyone can misinterpret signals from a member of the opposite sex, but it requires a choice to ignore the rules on fraternization or engage in a sexual assault.

It’s the decisions we make that define us, not just who we are, but who we want to be. So before you make one, even one that appears relatively simple, consider all the options and consequences before making a sound decision. You’ll be glad you did.

Until next time shipmates, thanks for all you do.

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Category: News