Cognitive Influence: Cultivating Responsible Choices

Official photo for Master Sgt. Monique Harris. (Courtesy photo)

Official photo for Master Sgt. Monique Harris. (Courtesy photo)

DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Responsible choices begin with how we process information. A thought pattern or mindset influenced by wise and trustworthy counsel and teaching can foster a culture of responsible choices individually and corporately.

The Air Force has tasked all of its members to exemplify the characteristics of a leader. People who are leaders stand out. They do not necessarily look or act a certain way until the need for their leadership is required. Among their skills are the ability to speak out, to foresee and make difficult decisions, and take quick action and control. Our core values are the fundamental principles to which each of us can look to when accomplishing the mission.

The question is how can we, as leaders and mentors cultivate responsible choices amongst our fellow Airmen?

Cultivating responsible choices requires situational awareness as it pertains to our surroundings. We must pay attention to what is occurring internally and externally within our work centers. We must increase our awareness. We must immerse ourselves in the lifestyles of our Airmen to create individual mentorship that will help them make choices in alignment with their personal and Air Force values.

There are two key principles to making responsible choices: the knowledge of choice in any situation and the awareness of controllable factors.

The knowledge of choice enables us autonomy to make decisions and the end result will be based upon how we want to conduct ourselves. Awareness of controllable factors allows us to focus on what we can control or influence. Life's dilemmas do not discriminate. For every decision there is an outcome and at the end of the day it all boils down to the choices we make.

As Airmen, we have been given tools to help us in navigating through the multiple factors that can exist in any situation. The same process that we use to assess operational situations can be used to make responsible choices in every aspect of our lives. For example, operational risk management can be applied to every aspect of developing a culture of responsible choices.

Operational risk management is a systematic process that implements the risk of decision making, controls, and mitigating avoidance of risk. We must develop our Airmen to predict risk and make responsible choices. Whether these choices are personal or work-related, we must initiate steps to change the Air Force culture to lead and mentor our fellow Airmen to make the best choices. Re-establishing and reinforcing our culture of responsible choices will enhance the effectiveness of the mission while empowering our Airmen to make educated decisions.