What the Pope Election Teaches Us About Making Good Decisions

We all face important decisions in our lives.  Is it time to look for a new job or even a new career?  What school do I want to attend, or what school will be best for our child? Should I move to a new city? Is this the right relationship for me?  Should I begin training for a marathon? Is it time to think about retirement? I'm looking for a way to volunteer and give back to the community, but I'm not sure where to start.  In many ways our identity is simply the product of all the decisions we have made in our lives.  The decisions we make are that important.A group of men gathered in Rome this past week to make an important decision as they were charged with electing a new pope.  While most of the decisions you and I make do not attract a great deal of public attention, this decision-making process captured the attention of the world.  People worldwide were so interested in the making of this decision that there was even a pope app that millions were using to track the election.  Over five thousand journalists from all corners of the globe were gathered at the Vatican, all watching a small chimney, waiting for the white smoke to appear signifying that a decision had been made. I believe we can learn something important about wellness from following the recent election of a new pope.  Wellness is all about making decisions.  Our physical, spiritual, emotional, relational, and vocational wellness is created by all the little and big decisions we make on a daily basis.  As I watched the cardinals gather to make the decision about who the new pope would be, I saw them demonstrate two essential guidelines for making important decisions--decisions that will lead to greater wellness and wholeness. The first guideline for making good decisions that the conclave of cardinals demonstrated for us is that the best decisions are made when they are made in the context of community.  The collective wisdom of a group is always greater than the wisdom of any one individual.  To apply this to our own lives means that when we have an important decision to make we will be wise to create our own “conclave”, our own community of support.  If you are thinking of making a career change, or if you are thinking of downsizing and simplifying your life, reach out and talk to as many people you know who are currently working on a similar decision or who have already worked through a similar decision.  If you are thinking of running your first marathon, you would greatly benefit from talking to everyone you know who has run a marathon or who is currently training for one.  Such conversations will build a community of support for us that will help us make and implement important decisions in our lives. The second decision-making guideline the conclave of cardinals demonstrated for us is that decisions are always best when they emerge from and are congruent with our core values and beliefs. While this may seem obvious in an explicitly religious decision making process such as the election of a pope, this same guideline applies to the important decision in our lives.  We will greatly benefit from first clarifying our core values and beliefs so that we can be sure that the decision we make emerges from and supports those core values and beliefs.  In our Living Compass program we talk about how the compass of our core beliefs and values needs to be the orienting compass for the decisions we make.  All important decision points are opportunities to clarify and strengthen our core values and beliefs. So the next time you have an important decision to make, call your friends and form a community of support.  Lock yourselves in a room with pieces of paper to write on and a wood-burning stove. Talk amongst yourselves, clarify your core beliefs and values, and when you have made your decision, send up a puff of white smoke to let the world know.  While, of course, you and I won't literally gather friends and vote in this way, the guidelines that underlie the process of electing a pope will serve us well in the important decisions we make in our own lives.