Benjamin Franklin is recognized as one of the wisest men in our nation’s history. He is known for a method of decision making that has been widely used throughout the world. Essentially, Franklin’s process is a matter of drawing a line down the middle of a piece of paper, listing the pros and cons, reflecting on them, and then making a decision.
As we continue on our journey to build and strengthen our character, it is important that we determine what list we bring out when we face difficulties and need to make a decision. These are times when we just can’t take Yogi Berra’s advice; “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” In reality, when we face challenges and need to make a difficult decision, there are two lists we bring out to help guide our decision.
The First List is the one that energizes and encourages us. It reminds us of the times when we actually accomplished something special. The times we received that fortunate break, the positive direction from a close friend, and the help we needed. It reminds us of the blessings of a good start, of being born at a great time, in a land of freedom and opportunity. This list reminds us of the nice things that people say about us. This list speaks to us about our growth and potential.
The Second List is the one that drains and discourages us. It reminds us of those nagging challenges in our lives that we continually face. This list highlights the troubles in our family and the hurtful, personal attacks we have felt in our lives. This list shows the people around us who seem to get all the breaks and live at the corner of “lucky” and “easy” streets. This list reminds us of the times we have been misunderstood and got the short end of the stick. This list speaks to us about our disappointments and regrets.
The reality for all of us is that at every decision point, family challenge, or workplace event, we have a choice as to which list we review. We will read it, review it, ponder over it, and we will rely on it to decide what to do next. The choice is ours to make and whether we acknowledge it or not, we make this decision all the time.
Here are a few reasons why the First List should be the only one that matters:
(1) There is a ton of scientific research and practical life experience that would recommend “count your blessings, name them one by one” really does work in elevating our level of performance, maintaining mental and emotional health, and reaching our goals. There is too much proof to disregard the importance of reminding ourselves of the list of blessings in our lives when we face difficult and challenging situations.
(2) We cast a shadow on those around us, whether we accept it or not. When we choose from the Second List, we often drag that attitude around for a while and it has the potential to bring down those around us who we care about most. We all are in a position of influence and it is not a kind thing to do when we bring a dark cloud over others based on our reliance on the Second List.
Every point of transition and decision are clear opportunities to learn and grow. They are not dead-ends to remind us that we have limits. We are not mice running in the proverbial walled box looking for cheese and no chance for freedom. Each fork in the road opens up a new opportunity to learn, grow, and reach our potential.
As we read from the First List and crumple up the Second List, we choose hope, courage, and opportunity. When we base our decisions on the First List, we build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® for us to reach our potential and have a positive impact on those around us.