When was the last time you had to think hard about making a decision? Often our everyday decisions are easy, and the consequences aren’t likely to be life or death. At other times, decisions can be very difficult and the decision that you make can have life altering effects. Making difficult decisions can be broken down into a specific step-wise process that can help lead to positive outcomes. What is your goal and will your decision help get you to your goal?

When I work in the emergency department, my team is constantly making decisions that affect our patients. We must decide which patient to see first (the sickest usually get priority) and then decide what we need to do to make someone better. Some decisions are hard to make and sometimes we need to do things that may be uncomfortable for our patient, but in the end, we know that our patient will get better, which is our goal. Above all else, we need to make sure that we “do no harm.” We strive to make good decisions so we don’t make our patients worse.

Rich is also constantly making decisions that will allow him to finish the race in the fastest time possible for him. Some of Rich’s top priorities are for his boat and for himself. While he makes hundreds of decisions every day, the first questions he must always answer is what effect will his decision have on his boat or on himself. Will more sail or less sail protect the boat? Should he take a nap or stay awake? Should he go faster and finish sooner or slow down and be safer?

Rich recently encountered a violent weather system and if he had maintained his boat speed, he would have run directly into the worst part of the storm, potentially damaging his boat and maybe himself! Instead, he made the decision to slow down, letting the storm pass in front of him and avoiding very dangerous sailing conditions. In mid-December, another Vendée Globe skipper, Jean-Pierre Dick, took a huge detour passing north of Tasmania and through the Bass Strait to avoid a similar storm. No other skipper had sailed through the Bass Strait during the Vendée Globe- it is far from the shortest route around the world, but these decisions worked to preserve the skipper and the boat.

Remember, without an intact boat and an intact skipper, there can be no successful race- and that is the goal to keep in mind when making decisions in the Vendée Globe!