One of the most important skills we can learn is when and when not to make critical decisions in our lives. By important, I do not mean what shoes to wear (ladies) or what sports game to watch (men). I am talking about decisions that have the potential to set or wreck the direction of your life.
In 2009 I went through a divorce, and the emotional rollercoaster since then has been enormous. Soaring moments of success have been followed by abysmal depths of despair, both personally and professionally.
I went from being the leader of a large worship ministry to a part-time music director. After having worked back up to a full time music pastor position, I needed to move out of state.
After moving I was not doing what I really loved; instead of leading worship and music I was laying stone. Then I transitioned to a part time position playing organ and conducting choir, while continuing to do masonry part time.
In addition to masonry and my role as organist and choir conductor, now I also do copywriting, arranging, and mentoring.
In another post I will talk about how God has used every one of these life changes to radically transform and grow me emotionally and spiritually.
That transformation, however, was accompanied by wild swings in my emotions and in my walk with God.
In the middle of this chaos I have often returned to an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) guideline.
Using the acronym “HALT,” AA teaches men and women to make decisions at appropriate times and to avoid the temptation to return to alcohol. I have found this tool enormously helpful when I have been trying to manage life in difficult times.
Here are four great times not to make a decision.
When I am Hungry. When I am hungry I lose the ability to think creatively, problem solve, and focus. I know that I need a lot of protein to give my mind staying power, so I keep a few relatively healthy snacks on hand like beef sticks (I said relatively), protein bars, and almonds.
Know what your body needs to function properly and keep things on hand to take care of yourself.
When I am Angry. When I am emotionally overwhelmed, worried, angry, or experiencing anxiety, I lose my ability to clearly distinguish how I really feel about an issue. I am learning in confrontational situations to keep my mouth shut and simply say, “I don’t know what to think right now. Can I get back to you on that?” That way the person knows that I heard them, but also that I need time to process what I have heard in order to give them a good and honest answer.
Learn what situations and issues set you off emotionally and decide ahead of time how you are going to respond. When you are in the middle of an emotional situation is not the time to be thinking about how you should respond.
When I am Lonely. Of these four situations loneliness is my biggest trigger. God wired us to be in close loving relationship with him and with others, and when we do not have those relationships we look for something or someone else to fill the void. That “filler” can be alcohol, drugs, porn, ice cream, self-pity, or any number of things.
Loneliness is particularly an issue for those who are single or single again, or who are in an emotionally estranged relationship. Don’t be naïve. Learn your preferred “filler” and decide ahead of time how you are going to deal with it.
When I am Tired. If I am tired mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or physically, I am not at my best. Tired people do stupid things. After 10 pm my mind can go to mush in the simplest discussions.
Know how much sleep you need at night and get it. Take a 20 minute nap at lunch. Take a walk to rest your mind.
By recognizing when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired and by responding wisely you can avoid making costly mistakes and decisions.
As a Christ follower I will also say that just following “HALT” is not enough. I have found that I am much more peaceful and clear-headed when I begin the day by reading Scripture and speaking with God.
When life is complex, God remains simple. He loves me, and that is enough.
How have you avoided making mistakes and bad decisions when you have been Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired?