H.A.L.T. – A basic rule of decision making for success


Decision making for success is a paradox. We commonly do it automatically, without stopping to pay attention to our own state of mind and presence while we are trying to make decisions we will not regret later. How many decisions, made in haste, do you wish you could take back?…

Decision making is a leadership skill, a personal mastery skill, a management skill and the key to personal transformation as well as personal success and business success.

Entrepreneurial management, small business growth, effective business consulting, coaching and strategic planning are defined by decision making. Decision making is a number one leadership skill.

Few people realize that decision making is an intellectual capability as well as a psychological and biological capability. It is both innate and learned as a skill. Some come equipped through genetics and circumstances. Some must learn, practice and learn and practice more. Nonetheless, if all these capabilities are not functioning or aligned, then, chances are, you are making a bad decision.

But how do you know? when is the best time? When is it best to leave a decision to another time or another day?

Here are some basic rules – write them down and practice them if you want to transform your life, leadership, management and work life balance. Business decision making is as important as life decision making. These are part of the book of rules. But look for the basic rule after you have written these down,

  • Rule #1: Never make important decisions under the influence of anything – drugs, alcohol, peer pressure, sex, or even family influence. Any really important decision that is asked of you which requires less than 24 hours to think about it is hogwash. ALWAYS be prepared to “sleep on it”.
  • Rule #2: Never make decision when your Needy Person Index is above an 8 (see my paper on decision making). Neediness is a form of temporary insanity that leads to bad decisions. Walk away, write your needs down, examine your options. There are always options. You just may not want to confront them or take these options. But at the time of an important decision, it may well be time to take a different fork in the road than you may have ever considered. If you can’t see options, get help. Reach out to others, not for advice, but for options. Others are happy to offer advice, but you are the ultimate decision maker, and when in a quandary, you need options. Use the pair weigh tool in my free decision making paper to evaluate your options. Learn to be disciplined in your decision making and do NOT take advice from others who have led you to bad decisions in the past. This is your life, your decisions, your results and your consequences.

The Basic Rule – H.A.L.T.

Now that you know that decision making is deeply intertwined with neediness, emotions, influence and other factors, you can drop any notions that you are always in control of your decision making. You are not. It makes no difference whether you are a CEO, a professional, a board member or a mother or father.

The factors involved your ability to be a good decision maker are a combination of aptitudes, learning skills and following some simple rules. One of the most important simple rules of decision making in business or in life is the acronym H.A.L.T.: It is short for; Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. The acronym signals STOP to believing you are making good decisions if any one of these states exist for you.

Stop what you are doing, move to a place where this state or emotion is not dominating you and THEN make a decision:

H: When you are hungry, your mind and metabolism do not work well.
A: When you are angry, your mind is reactive, clouded with irrational emotions.
L: When you are lonely, you are needy and vulnerable.
T: When you are tired, everything doesn’t work well – often coupled with hungry

All of these variables can interconnect to create a danger zone for capable decision making

Upon recognizing any of these symptoms of bad decision making, it is time to HALT, and regroup.


There are three hurdles to following this rule:

  • Recognizing and accepting the symptoms – because when you are in this state, it is very hard to have the mental acuity to actually remember or recognize H.A.L.T. You have to wake up, remember the rule and then apply options. This is hard to overcome conditioning.
  • Taking action to interrupt a negative thinking cycle, momentum or dialogue in order to regroup and reconsider. It is often considered rude or awkward, a social stigma or may be at a time when a “deal is n the line: It could require courage, bucking the momentum or potentially “screwing the deal”.
  • Sometimes making a decision, any decision “feels” good, and many people are conditioned to “feel good” when making bad decisions and to “feel bad” when interrupting this pattern. HALT means breaking the chain to conditioned emotional responses to decision making.

Let’s take a look at your options:

  • Hungry: How simple is it to get a bite to eat and THEN make a decision?
  • Angry: How simple is it to say “Let me take a minute to calm down”, then we can continue our discussions?
  • Lonely: How simple is it to ask for a moment to call a friend or family, for some comfort, before you make a big decision?
  • Tired: How simple is it to say “I’m a bit tired. Let’s reconvene in an hour. (J. Paul Getty, the billionaire, used to take a 30 minute midday nap daily, so he could make good decisions.)

So, take a moment. Write down the word HALT in places you will likely notice it when about to make a decision. Your day-planner, the refrigerator, your car, maybe the palm of you hand in an important meeting.

Learn to practice it. You will see results.

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