Making decisions is one of the inescapable factors of life. We all have to make decisions from the time our bodies awaken until they collapse later on at night. Once you’ve opened your eyes and have made the decision that yes, today I will get out of bed and face the world, each step brings yet another decision that must be made. Whether it is simply what should I eat for breakfast or wear to work today, right down to the most important of decisions, how will I conduct myself among my peers?

Making appropriate decisions is not always as easy as it sounds. Your values inform your decision-making process as well as your environment and culture. In addition to which, the way in which you make decisions may conflict with someone else’s decisions and thus a new set of situations and choices arises. Once again, this happens to people on almost a daily basis.

Luckily, founder and president of an executive coaching firm and fellow of the British-American Project and Wharton School’s Executive Education Program in Philadelphia, PA, Timothy Dobbins has written a motivational guidebook that can help anyone, in or out of the business world, make the best decisions, whatever the circumstances may be.

“Stepping Up: Make Decisions That Matter” by Timothy Dobbins is a great book for people whom are seriously looking for guidance, especially in the corporate world. Anyone making the slow, hard, trudge to commute to work every morning knows what I am talking about. We’ve all been placed in a position where a situation arose that made us question our value system in light of a potential monetary or some other gain. Maybe a promotion or raise is at stake or the opportunity to make a move to a different job comes up and now you have to make a decision – whether or not you want to make a move in your life and then, how you are going to make it happen.

Dobbins breaks down all of the possible ways in which we can make a decision which revolve around taking responsibility, being civil to others, taking action and supporting those around you. Dobbins uses a great variety of real life examples (and some fictional ones) to show how each one of these choices can play out and how they matter in a real life scenario.

In the spirit of the book, I will go through each of Dobbins’ chapter using examples from my own life as I have made all of the above choices recently in some form or another.

Dobbins defines standing still as both the physical act of not moving but it can also be and most often is the manifestation of emotional indifference or spiritual apathy. As a social worker and a therapist in a residential treatment center I find myself running the gamut between being overly committed to the children I work with to being apathetic, or as Dobbins puts it, standing still. We recently had a rash of kids run from the program. Three of the kids were brand new and hadn’t given the program a chance. In turn, instead of showing my usual capacity for sympathy and feeling bad that I couldn’t help these kids, I was apathetic. There wasn’t much in the way of physical decisions that I could have made but I at least should have shown that their running from the program mattered in some way. Instead I just went on as if none of it happened and commenced this attitude in front of the others at work. In other words, instead of rallying the troops and providing some sort of positive feeling among people who did care that the three in question had run, I stood still and did nothing.

Stepping aside is all about shirking ones responsibility. Dobbins states that to step aside is to avoid or abdicate ones responsibility. It is to admit out loud that you don’t know what needs to be done or that you simply can’t do it. The on campus school at my job is a mess. It is one classroom for up to 20 kids that range in ability from grade level (10th, 11th, and 12th grade) to kids that can’t do first grade math at 16-years-old. The teacher is no math whiz himself but he spends most of the student’s class time making them do F-CAT packets that in some cases, he himself cannot help them with. He is also having a bevy of personal issues, which he tends to carry with him into the classroom. This volatile mixture has resulted in clients whom were ready for successful discharges from the program being denied because they were alleged to be doing badly in school. I tried to fix the problem by advocating for the clients to my boss and he in turn suggested that I draw up a proposal to make the on campus school more conducive to actual learning, which would in theory, bring down the incidents of behavioral outbursts. Instead of Stepping up and writing this thing, in my head I decided that I wasn’t the one to make such bold suggestions and stood aside while waiting for my immediate supervisor to make the needed changes. The classroom remains a mess and many of said clients have not graduated successfully and instead, opted to sign themselves out of the program out of frustration.

Stepping back is blocking someone else’s progress. Last year, shortly after I took this job one of my co-workers said she was over working for the program and wanted to move on to something else. She suggested that for the money and education level, her best option was to apply to the Sheriffs Department and become a Child Protective Services agent. Instead of encouraging her to seek out her fortunes in another avenue of the social service profession, I stood back and blocked her by saying that being a CPI is an awful job and that it wasn’t for her. A year later I am not only encouraging her to seek out this job, I’ve applied myself and am anxiously waiting to hear from the Sheriffs Department.

Stepping on someone is to attack him or her. Typically this doesn’t mean hitting them over the head but instead it means to insult or commit some sort of modern revenge on them. I’m not the type of guy that steps on too many people as it isn’t in my nature most of the time and my conscience tends to forbid me from being mean to those around me. However, my wife really knows how to push my buttons and in my less sane moments, I tend to step on her whenever we get into fights. She is the same way and what usually starts out as a simple misunderstanding usually devolves into the both of us throwing personal barbs at one another that have zilch to do with the original disagreement. In recent months both of us have been making strides in not stepping on each other whenever problems arise in our marriage.

Lastly, Dobbins says we should all reject all of the above decisions and step up by taking responsibility, being bold, not being brutal to one another and being supportive of those around you. The key to this book is not just to make beneficial career decisions but also to find that elusive meaning of life. Dobbins states that meaning is embedded in our ability to make appropriate decisions. When we step up and do right by one another, we find the meaning of life that gives us the impetus to get out of bed in the morning and face the world.

I’m not a big fan of advice or motivational books but this one was realistic and applicable to everyday life. It’s a great book for those that feel adrift and need some centering. I would highly suggest you read, “Stepping Up,” by Timothy Dobbins.

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