Holistic Decision-Making | A Vital Framework to Achieve Your Goals

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I once asked my Mum when I was a young adult, whether she thought I was decisive. No, was her immediate reply. She was correct. I was terribly indecisive and I ruminated on my concerns (worried) when I had to make decisions. Looking back, I can see this occurred for two reasons. 1) I wasn’t clear on what I wanted to achieve and 2) I didn’t use a framework to support my decision-making.

Clarity creates confidence

Without a clear vision in mind and a straightforward framework for making decisions to support us reach our goals life can occur pretty aimless and create anxiety in us. Not knowing whether to turn right or left, go back or keep moving forward may result in us feeling stuck and frustrated with a lack of progress towards our goal much like walking through a maze. Moreover, without a framework to support our decision, we are more likely to be at the effect and influence of others, “follow me, I know the way forward.” Unfortunately, blindly following others can have negative consequences for us and may leave us feeling dissatisfied, frustrated and without hope or possibility. To avoid this pitfall, first, we need to be crystal clear on what it is that we want to achieve, after all clarity creates confidence. Second, we need a decision-making framework that keeps us on track to reach our goal.

Regenerative leadership is positive for people and the environment?

How do you make decisions? How do you filter the options? Do you only consider the financial factors or do you adopt a more holistic view? For many only the financial factors are taken into consideration. In business, the norm has been to only consider the financial bottom line. When I was a young adult, I mainly made decisions like this thinking about the financial consequences of the decision. Only on rare occasions, such as voting for government or considering a proposed course of action in the workplace, would I consider the social impacts of my choice, – “do I think this is in people’s best interest?”

Regenerative Leadership and Holistic Management take decision making one step further and encourages us to consider economic, social and, importantly, environment factors. The “triple-bottom line” supersedes the single bottom line and takes into account whether it is financially sound but goes further and asks is it good for people and the environment?

The context is decisive

In recent years, I have come to appreciate the importance of both the social and environmental considerations too and routinely practice this. For instance, around our home and front yard farm, my wife and I made the conscious decision not to use chemical herbicides and fertilisers because they are harmful to us, our neighbours and the environment. This was a costly decision for us since in the early days we lost more fruit and vegetables to pests than if we’d opted to use a chemical solution. For us however, the social and environmental costs outweighed the financial. Clearly the context is decisive. For us, our context promotes healthy people and healthy environment. Therefore, anything that is harmful to either, including chemicals are not an option for us. Our context guides our decision making and your context will guide yours.

A Holistic Context powerfully guides holistic decision-making

In Holistic Management we start by considering the whole under management. This could be a farm, a business, the family home, a national park or a school. We identify all the decision makers like family members, business partners, key employees and those with the power of veto, and we bring all of them together to create a holistic context for the whole under management.

Briefly, a holistic context is a statement of what the whole under management will look like into the future. It describes:

1) what the future quality of life is like for the people that includes their relationships and behaviours

2) what the future resource base is and how the environment e.g., the water, plants, animals and people will look. Your holistic context needs to be memorable, easily understood and less than 1-page in length. It is a description of what you want your farm, business, home, or school to look like and it’s not necessarily how it is now.

With your holistic context in hand, you now have a powerful perspective with which to make decisions. Decision-making becomes straightforward thereby reducing your stress and anxiety. In its simplest form, the process distils down to a single question. Will this decision lead me towards or further away from my/our holistic context?

In Holistic Management (Third Edition) by Allan Savory and Jody Butterfield, Savory describes a series of context checking questions to support us through the process of making decisions in line with our holistic context. In the accompanying article – A Guide to Holistic Decision Making – I summarise the checking questions and how we apply them.

Although Holistic Management was originally developed to support farmers and land carers manage and restore land, the framework applies even if you live in an urban environment and manage a small garden or use common space like a local park. Our health and that of our environment is vital and it is worth the time to create our own Holistic Context and then use this to frame our decision-making. Our future depends on it.